A member writes, 'Dear Geno. You always seem to come up with the answers to players who send you their questions. I am not trying to stump you, but I am interested in finding out how you would answer the following question. My college roommate and I have never been to Las Vegas. In fact, outside of penny ante bets, we have never done much gambling. We have been thinking about spending a week in Las Vegas during our next college break and we would like to ask you, Sir, what are the best games we can play? We want to have fun and we want to minimalize our loss if that is possible. Do you have a legitimate answer to my question? Ronald P., Las Cruces, N.M.'
Ronald comes from a city where I used to work as a reporter. I covered the Deming Bureau for the Las Cruces Sun-News and even competed in a 20-mile donkey race as part of the Pancho Villa Days Celebration in nearby Columbus, N.M.
Let's see if Ronald's question can stump me.
First, he and his roommate are not serious gamblers. I like that. This means they are out for fun and Las Vegas can give you fun until it is coming out of your ears.
People can win at any gambling game.
I don't care if it's keno, slots, blackjack, roulette, dice, poker, or baccarat, you have a chance at winning. How much you can win is another question.
The odds are long against you when it comes to keno. I have tried to devise a strategy for this lounge game and finally gave up. The game is fun to play if you are eating and having a drink and just want to take a fling at making big money for a small investment. But don't go into the game expecting to win because it probably won't happen.
If I were in Ronald's shoes, I would play a different game each day and take what fate has to offer.
Why not? Luck may be traveling with you and who is to say whether certain symbols will line up on a slot machine to give you and your friend the big jackpot?
I once stood next to a woman who had just arrived in Las Vegas with her husband. While he was registering them for their room at Sam's Town on the Boulder Highway, she was feeding dollar bills into a nickel slot machine that featured Nicklemania.
Suddenly bells and lights went off. The machine began ringing. The poor woman almost had a heart attack. She didn't know what was going on. A security guard rushed to her side. His face was wreathed in a smile.
'Lacy, congratulations,' he almost shouted. 'You just won $285,000.'
'No, darlin'. Dollars!'
Spend your first day playing select slot machines. Don't budget too much of your money for the slots, just enough to be interesting.
The second day, try blackjack. Find a copy of 'Beat The Dealer' by Edward O. Thorp and read it from cover to cover. Your library or a good used book store should have it in stock. Then put aside a certain amount of money and go for broke at a blackjack table. Try to find a dealer who doesn't remind you of the sadist in Chevy Chase's movie about vacationing in Las Vegas.
On your third day, play the dice tables. Put aside $100 or so, make a 'come' bet, and when you have thrown a number, place bets on five, six, eight and nine. Craps is a game where you can win or lose money fast. It's fun, it's exciting, and it's winnable. What more could you want out of gambling?
Your fourth day should be a fun day. I would either recommend a roulette wheel or sports. Do you have a favorite baseball team? Who are they playing and are they the favorite or the underdog? You probably know something about the team's ability to win. Use that knowledge and make your choice wisely. Then order a drink, sit back and watch the results.
The fifth day should be reserved for poker. Play your best game and tell yourself, 'I have the best seat in the house.' Say it over and over. Just don't take the game or the other players too seriously.
Your sixth day should be reserved for wandering around the casino and playing any game that looks good or challenging to you. Again, do not go over your budget. Just do it for fun. Don't expect to win...but if you do, count your blessings and go on to another game.
If you follow my instructions, you will either be up several hundred dollars, or you will be a loser by that amount. Big deal. You came to Las Vegas for fun and you found it. Congratulations. Have a nice trip back to Las Cruces.