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Viva Las Vegas

By Scott Roeben

I think I might have Vegas fever. Well, let's just say that I have a nasty rash, and I'm really, really hoping that it's Vegas fever.

I've only been to Las Vegas a couple of times, personally. But I understand that lots of people go all the time. The first thing you notice about Las Vegas (or just "Vegas" to those of us who frequent her) is that you are not there yet, especially if you try to drive there on a weekend. The traffic on the route to Las Vegas (or just "Las" to the people who have no idea what they are talking about) is horrendous. Why? First, no carpooling. Second, there's only one road to get there. Third, people are idiots. That's right. How smart is it to try driving to Las Vegas at the exact same time that everyone else in the Northern hemisphere is driving there? Yet it apparently happens week after week.

That's because Vegas is a hoot. Gambling, entertainment, spectacle...and women perfectly willing to dress up like Mary Poppins for money. What more could you ask for in a town?

Sure, Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert, which means that its average temperature is slightly less than that experienced in a kiln. Sure the town has its tackier moments, mainly the entire time you are there. Sure Las Vegas has a large transient population, many of whom have nothing better to do than expel viscous substances onto the sidewalk in front of visitors. But those things don't matter.

Las Vegas has an allure. A mystique. And perhaps most important, large quantities of free alcohol.

More than anything else, Vegas is known for the gambling. This was what got me hooked. Sure, it's not the only hooking going on in the city, but it is surely the least likely to result in persistent, open lesions.

Here is a quick overview of the most popular games in Las Vegas.

Craps. Dice. Chips. Action. Seven is the number you want, but only sometimes. Frankly, no one understands the rules except for the fat guy with the greasy hair at each table who works for the hotel or casino. All you need to know to succeed at craps is that it's important to scream and get excited when everyone else does. Otherwise, you may be tagged as a jinx and subject to scorn if not actual dismemberment by your fellow gamblers.

Professional gamblers state that craps has the best odds of any game in Las Vegas. Then again, professional gamblers are also the same group of people who have been known to utter things like: "Bet you a week's pay I can eat these glass shards without crying."

Jargon: Pass, they're coming out, new shooter, how much will you give me for my watch, snake eyes, hard way.

Blackjack. Also known as "Twenty-One." Slower pace than craps, but in blackjack skill can actually help. For example, the most skilled blackjack players lose much less money than the unskilled ones.

Jargon: Double down, hit me, stay, speak, roll over, fetch.

Roulette. French in origin. Hence, this game wants nothing to do with you if you are American. There are various strategies for winning at roulette, the most effective being not going to Las Vegas in the first place.

The roulette wheel has thirty-eight numbered spaces on it, each trained to repel a small ball if you have placed a bet that it will land there.

Jargon: Outside bet, nosebleed, nausea, dry heaves.

Slot machines. Perhaps the most popular Las Vegas game--particularly among casino owners, for some reason.

To play slot machines, one must master the art of "inserting a coin" and "pulling a lever." These complicated techniques are passed down from generation to generation of chain smoking, elderly women wearing polyester and too much jewelry.

Jargon: C'mon, you sonofabitch.

These are just a few of the reasons I have Vegas fever. If only life could be more like life in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, people live for the moment. They throw caution, and often their entire life's savings, to the wind. No guilt. No regret.

Perhaps we could all learn something from Las Vegas. Especially the people in charge of Euro Disney.

Not that having Minnie Mouse change her costume to include tassels would increase the number of visitors to Euro Disney, of course. Now, maybe if she dressed up as Mary Poppins...


Scott Roeben, 2000. All rights reserved.