I got out of work on Friday night at 11:30pm. I had been working as a fabricator at an Aerospace company a little South of San Diego (Yes, you can go South of San Diego and not be in Mexico, although some parts do look like Mexico). Anyway, I decide to go for a drive after work. Just a drive. I like driving. Unfortunately there's not a whole lot of choice on directions to go unless you actually like driving in Mexico. It's mostly a choice between the hills and deserts to the East or to L.A. which is like going from a baby elephant to an adult elephant... it's just bigger, more dangerous, and smells worse. So I avoid either and head up the I-15. After a while I spot the first sign that lists the mileage to Las Vegas. After a little calculating of the time it would take I decide to give it a shot. BTW, I'm just over 21 years old at this point! I don't remember much about the drive and I don't remember seeing many bright lights on the way in to Vegas. I was mostly looking for a cheap motel to get some sleep, thinking that the fancy casino-hotels would be way too expensive. You could definitely say I was on a limited budget, since I was limited strictly to the money in my pocket, less than $100. I had no credit card and no checking account. Eventually I came upon an only somewhat sleazy looking motel with a vacancy sign lit up in standard neon form. I rang the bell, which apparently woke up the attendant, and asked how much for a room. I don't remember how much it was but I do know I was very surprised at how much it would cost. I know it would have left me with very little money to do any gambling at all. So I politely excused myself and left, suddenly having a great realization that I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I drove off, thinking there was no way I could find a place to sleep at any reasonable rate, not that I would even know what a reasonable rate was since I had never had to pay for a hotel/motel room before. Time for plan B. I found a shopping mall to pull into and quickly fell asleep in my car. Not many hours later I was awaken by the rather bright sun shining in on me. I moved the car so I wasn't facing the sun and fell right back asleep. Not much later I awoke to find myself laying in a pool of my sweat. I thought OMG, it's HOT! Oh... wait... this was 1986... I thought Oh My God, it's HOT! I opened the car door to let some of the heat out only to find that I was actually letting hotter air in! I'm wearing my heavy work jeans and a t-shirt. So I'm thinking that nobody could be walking around in this heat wearing jeans. I have to get some shorts to wear and it just so happens I'm at a shopping mall. I wait for the mall to open and go into the nearest department store and right in the middle of the isle is a clearance bin with shorts in it. What luck! I rummage around and find what I think would be an appropriate pair of shorts for this climate. Now remember, I'm 21 years old... I'm not gay (no fashion sense)... no girlfriend keeping me from dressing like an idiot... and absolutely no concept of color coordination. The shorts I picked out were later labeled by my friends as my Hawaiian Nightmare Shorts. The pattern was a mish-mash of palm trees, surfboards, and other tropical scenery, randomly thrown together with various bright splotches of vibrant color. But my biggest concern at the time was that they made a very minor dent in my limited finances. After changing into my new shorts in my car, I was off to explore the world of gambling. I drove down the strip and was struck by how far apart the casinos were. For some reason I had imagined them as being all lumped together. They were more like individual islands. Desolate islands because few people were walking around in the mid-morning July heat. After driving the strip, I picked a casino to check out, but I really can't remember which one it was. I know it was one of the larger ones, and I thought it had some kind of tropical name (maybe my shorts thought they would fit in and directed me there, after all, don't most 21 year old males think from below the waist?), but I can't remember which casino it was. So I stroll into the casino wearing my sneakers, Hawaiian nightmare shorts, and a t-shirt. Everywhere I see bright lights, flashy signs, and people wearing suits! I may lack fashion sense, but I don't lack a sense of not fitting in. I felt like a half-eaten walnut tossed into a bowl of macadamia nuts. I wander around looking for some form of gambling I could try. I really hadn't given much thought to how you actually go about gambling. I knew how poker and blackjack was played but not how you would go about betting real money. I remembered trying to play blackjack with a friend using poker chips to bet but neither of us could figure out how exactly it was done. Slot machines, the standard “gateway drug” to gambling was not even on my radar. I guess that Twilight Zone with the slot machine in it had far too much impact on my young brain. I can still hear that machine saying “Fraaaankliiin... Fraaankliin... Franklin!”. So here's a young kid with no gambling knowledge, no desire to play a slot machine, and way too shy to sit down at a regular table game. Where would such a person end up? Maybe you guessed it... The Wheel! Using the advanced cleverness of all my accumulated years of knowledge, I quickly devised a betting strategy to beat the wheel! I would observe the spins and when I felt it had been a long time since one of the numbers had hit I would start betting on that number! Genius! Nobody has ever thought of this before, right? Amazingly, it worked okay for a significant amount of time. I would lose some and win some, never going far in either direction. Of course I was only betting $1 each time. Eventually I set a loss limit on myself and quit while I was only down about $20. I slowly came to the realization that this wasn't really the gambling I though of as gambling. So I wandered around the tables, being way too intimidated to even ask how to play. I eventually wound up at what is probably the second simplest form of gambling at the tables. Roulette it was. But roulette is still pretty complicated with all those numbers and sections and stuff, let alone the fact that the payoffs for the various bets were a complete mystery to me. But... we have the nice, simple, and easy bets that you don't even have to know how to count! All you have to do is know the difference between black and red! So... after noticing that players were allowed to put real cash down on these simple colors and then win or lose, I saw my clear way to take advantage of this game. Applying the same “logic” as the wheel, I concluded that if it hit one color numerous times in a row, I could simply bet on the opposite color since it was obviously due to hit, right! Gawd I'm smart! Once again, I go a surprisingly long time without losing but without winning either. But eventually the real odds of the game starts to kick in and I slowly decline. I keep a close eye on my remaining cash, keenly aware that I need to keep enough cash in my pocket to buy enough gas to get me home, meaning I had to have enough for a full tank of gas... 8 dollars (did I mention this was in 1986?). The long streak of one color eventually comes and my big gambling day is over. It's late afternoon, I'm dead tired, haven't eaten since the night before, and I've only got enough cash for the gas to get home. The drive home is mostly a blur... I get home and eat one of my standard meals (microwave burrito or PBJ sandwich) and crash with visions in my head of beating the casino on my next trip. All I need is a little more money to start with... yeah, right. Luckily, a girlfriend got in the way of such plans... although, a serious gambling habit probably would have been cheaper.