There wasn't much left of our trip to Oz. We'd gotten back from Fraser Island, we'd caught up on the year's worth of missed stories, and we didn't have anything else special planned. Yet, a quote I always loved was "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” by Martin Buber. Well, Mr. Buber, you don't know how right you were.
It appeared to be a normal night. Nothing too special. During the day we did some things around Sydney, tried to go to the zoo, but the ticket salesman said it was too late in the day, and we could enjoy it more fully tomorrow. We took his word (gladly because the zoo was cool, and needs ample time to visit) and we returned home. While walking through the door of Jimmy's apartment it was said as almost an afterthought, "Do we wanna go to the casino tonight?"
After that nothing more needed to be said. Considering we're a group of old friends that got together once a week throughout high school to play cards, and once a week to gamble on bowling (Oh Wacky Wednesday, I will never forget your two for one deal), we all knew we'd be up for the casino on a whim. We changed our clothes into our lucky shorts, sandals, and button down shirts, and we were off to take down the house. And I'm sure we would have, had we not been stopped at the door. Apparently the Sydney Casino is a bit more classy than any other casino that we had been to because they dropped the bombshell of "sorry, no sandals are allowed inside." We were discouraged to say the least. A thirty dollar cab ride there, followed by a thirty dollar trip back home to put on some shoes, and then a second thirty dollar trip to the casino and we were already in dept to the house big. We were all pretty pissed off about the whole incident, and it just seemed like it might ruin the night. Either that or it was a huge karmic misstep by the gambling gods throwing our luck so far down a hole that the only way out of it was to shoot directly up. And that is exactly what happened.
We sat at a 10$ blackjack table, the smallest denomination of money at all of the blackjack tables, and we just lit it up. This was my first time really gambling at a casino table, but I experienced something on this night that I'm sure even veteran gamblers have never been a part of. We started winning. Well, not me, being the rookie I lost my money in about half an hour but Joe, Jim, and Chris all starting rolling it in, and I loved watching it. As you can imagine, with every dealer bust, or blackjack dealt, we were cheering, clapping, and throwing around high fives like it was 1989. A few hours into the table they were all up about a hundred dollars and I didn't think it could get any better, but when gambling, it can also turn for the worse without a moments notice.
It was about here when the table dynamics were forced into a change because Joe had to use the little boys room. He asked the table dealer for a marker to hold his seat until he returned from his tinkle, to which the dealer replied "marker? you mean like a felt pen?" Apparently Australian gamblers don't pee because from the confused/disgusted looks we got, neither our dealer nor his pit boss had ever heard such an outrageous request. This was the second karmic misstep by the gambling gods; relieving oneself should never be a punishable act, and so instead of losing his seat to some Aussie, he decided to give it to me. "You take it Pauly, I'm up, I'm happy, play for me as you would," that's what he said. Now in the karmic battle between good and evil that had been going on in the backgrounds of our night, this was the deciding blow. A friend lending his seat, and money to another friend who hadn't gotten to sit, and lost his money quickly. The karma gods smiled on this act of generosity, and so did I, from ear to ear.
By the time Joe returned from the bathroom I had turned his one stack of chips into nearly three of the equal size. "What the hell did you do?" he asked, to which I replied, "I dunno, I just started winning." I felt like Forrest Gump. Joe knows you don't mess with a good thing when it comes to gambling, so he had me cash in some of the chips I had won, considered himself out (up $400) and told me the rest was mine to play with. This is when things really got out of hand. It seemed as if every move we made was right. I was winning, Jimmy was winning, and Chris was winning too. Every hand started going the right way for all of us. I've never seen a dealer bust so much, and so many times in a row: 22, 25, 26, it was unheard of. One hand after the next, he would bust, or we would get dealt 21. Things started getting so crazy, the luck seemed to be so much in our favor we couldn't sit back and play it normal anymore. We started taking chances.
I was the first to begin adding increments to my bets per hand. If I won the hand, I'd bet $10 more on the next, and then 10$ more on the next if I won that one, and so on. It seemed innocent enough until I won eight hands in a row and was betting $80 a hand at a $10 minimum table. Jimmy liked the excitement and we were already up big, storing hundred dollar chips in "don't touch" pockets, so he decided to jump on board. It wasn't long until we were both betting HUGE hands simultaneously, but that wasn't all, more than ever it seemed like we were being dealt cards that were screaming to be double downed on, or split (in escence doubling our already over sized beginning bets). We decided we had to play the hands the same way we would as if there was only ten dollars on the line, but when we doubled down, or split now, it payed off big time.
Such a crowd gathered around us that it felt like this little, unimportant, ten dollar blackjack table was the main focus of an enormous casino. Something I thought was unheard of. People came over just to ride our wave of luck. They started betting Jimmy's hands, and mine too. We'd still win. There were people throwing $50 chips on our hands, and we'd get blackjack. At one point there were so many people betting on Jimmy's hand that the dealer wouldn't allow it. They set a three person maximum to bet on our hands. When the pile of chips in front of Jimmy was it's biggest, with a hundred dollars of his on the line, and hundreds of three other people's, he turned a blackjack. Jimmy nearly jumped out of his chair, and did a kind of Tiger Woods celebratory fist pump, but with both hands, while letting out a giant roar too, but even that was hard to hear amongst the cheering around him. For the first time in the history of a casino the pit boss was called over to watch a $10 minimum table.
One night, 4 old friends, one blackjack table, and $2,500 won. We were all able to pay Jimmy for the Fraser Island trip, and the car rental after one night of fun together gambling. There was a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow on our trip to Oz, and it was full of Australian dollars. As Jimmy so perfectly put it while walking out of the Casino, "Money won is a hundred times sweeter than money earned." So while the trip to Australia was awesome, and the weather was the best weather of anywhere I've ever been to, and the city was beautiful, and Fraser Island was like no other place I've ever seen, and catching up with old friends was better than words can express..."All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” and for the rest of my life I will never forget the on the whim decision to go to the Sydney Casino in our sandals because I was unaware of it at the time, but this was our secret destination and I believe everything happened for a reason.