Yes, I was gambling while I slept. I was winning and winning big. It was beautiful. I should close my eyes and revisit the beauty for a few minutes longer...
Saturday in Cleveland started out a little dreary. Overcast skys with a slight rain. My friend and I, coffee in hand, took the dogs down to the metro parks to let them run and exercise off some of the excess treats. Suddenly the sun came out, so we headed down to the beach to read and soak up some rays.
As we were sitting on the beach listening to the sound of the waves, the music of children laughing, we started contemplating how to spend the rest of this wonderful day. How do you top it off? It's been grand up to this point, what to do come evening? Some of the typical, ordinary ideas bounced around in my head....and then it hit me. Roadtrip!
We quickly packed up, ran home and threw some belongings into an overnight bag. Gassed up the car, set the GPS for our destination and pointed the vehicle in the southwest direction. 117 miles later; we are crossing the rickety steel bridge into West Virginia.
Newell, West Virginia is home to the Mountaineer Casino and Racetrack. There's a sliver of West Virgina that juts up between the Ohio River and Ohio on the west and Pennsylvania on the east side. It's an area that doesn't have much...except for the casino. Fact is, once you cross the bridge the GPS doesn't even show a map any longer. It's 'uncharted' territory. In West Virginia...
The Mountaineer is a clean place. The rooms are well appointed. The staff friendly and polite. And the food, at least at Le Bonne Vie (the Good Life), is superb. But Monte Carlo it is not. Nor Vegas for that matter. No Dean Martin types or girls dressed to the nines, this is 'where you break your piggy bank and head to the slot machines' country. In a non-iron shirt and walking shorts, I was the best dressed person in the whole damn place.
There's some mighty fine people watching to be had at the Mountaineer. West Virginia is a state that does not have a law against smoking inside public buildings. It's an odd to see most of the areas catering to smokers. Even in the casual restaurants people were enjoying their smoke with their waffles. There are more cigarette machines than ATM's. But I do commend them on a fine job of ventilation. Although the air feels 'stagnant' it isn't like you are walking through clouds of putrid smoke. And I must admit, the fact that they do allow smoking seems to make the people watching all that much better.
The mental picture of the chinless, ashen gray skin tone, elderly woman with a Marlboro 100 hanging lit from her mouth while she methodically pulls the lever on her slot machine...yeah, that happens. About every 3 feet you see the same silhouette. Just slightly different dress and hair, but they could all be related. And perhaps maybe they all are.
Not to say that there aren't nice people to talk to while playing. My game of choice is blackjack. I'm pretty good at it, because I'm patient. I play by the rules. I know when to hit, when to stand, when to double down. I don't play impulsively (normally), so I can stay at a table for awhile. And if you are consistent, then your odds improve drastically.
I sat down at a table and since it was a Saturday night the minimum bids were a little higher. $15 and $25 tables were the norm. There's a high roller area, but I'm definitely not a high roller; it makes me anxious to place a bet too big. I like to have a number in my head of what I'm going to play with and if that number comes and goes, then I stop playing. If I'm winning, I take the chips won and put them away. That way I play with the casinos money and everything becomes that much more fun for me! Smart, I know.
Annette was the name of the lady sitting to my right and there was Juan in the first seat. Two gentlemen sat to my left. They both informed me when I sat down that if I got a Blackjack the rules at the table were I would have to remove my shirt. Nice. Thanks guys, I'll keep that in mind.
Juan turned out to be an impulsive player. Some bets he play the minimum, others he'd play a stack. You never knew if he was going to pull a card on 16 or double down on 8's. I became positive that he needed to leave the table. Annette kept pulling extra money in $5 increments out of her purse to keep buying chips. She would buy enough to just keep her in the game. I learned it was her birthday, so I gave her a couple chips so she could play one more hand. She didn't win, so she got up and left. Nice lady, over permed hair and all. The guy holding down the end of the table was the best player at the table. He was playing with higher stakes than the rest of us. He had a nice stack. And yes, I was looking...
But after about an hour I decided to move on. I was up, so it was all good.
Next table, Roulette. I don't understand this all that well. But it's fun to watch. I kept feeling green 0 or double 00's were going to come up. Or a red 36. Those never did. This little Filipino woman would put down about 40 or so chips with each roll. It was mesmerizing.
"No more bets", and away the ball would go. Round and round and round and round....
It seems to me that the best bet at the table is to bet either red or black. It pays double. But then you got to walk away. That table can and will take all your cash in a matter of moments. Which it did, so I was gone.
But if you ever go to the Mountaineer, make sure to stop and have dinner at Le Bonne Vie; and when you are there...that is exactly what it is. Eric is the manager and he's good. Really good. He calls you by name and makes you feel as if we just left a barbecue together and he's married to your sister. Kevin has been our waiter the last two times we've had the opportunity to imbibe...and he makes fine dining fun.
I ordered a rib-eye. For all you vegetarians, you may want to skip to the next paragraph. But this steak was the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on. 1 1/2 inches thick, juicy, rare, fantastic. My mouth was watering as he set the plate down. There was no possible way to eat the whole thing, but I was going to give it a try. It truly was the most amazing piece of beef I have ever in my entire life eaten. It was incredible. And when I say it was an full inch and a half, it truly was all that. I know. I pulled out my measuring tape, just to make sure.
Nice bottle of wine, check. Huge ass steak, check. 12 dollar side potato, check. Check please, Kevin....holy shit!
It definitely isn't cheap, but it was well worth every penny. Now, back out to the tables. Maybe I'll go to the craps table, slide up to someone with a nice big stack of chips that knows the game. I'll just play the same bets as them, but in smaller amounts, I'm sure. Maybe I'll play just a little bit longer. The casino is open 24/7, you know. Why should I continue to play? Because I can.
And because momma needs a new pair of shoes...