An Associated Students Inc. worker swiped my student I.D. card through the machine and then handed it back to me.
“Wacky tulip,” I whispered to her, a secret password posted by ASI that would get me extra tickets and through a secret entrance.
She nodded with a smile and handed me three extra raffle tickets on top of the five regular tickets everyone gets. She indicated to me to go through an opening covered by black streamers.
The person at the entrance waited for me to repeat the password before she parted the streamers leading to a small hallway filled with red and black balloons on the ground.
Someone stood by a table full of apple cider in plastic champagne glasses. She handed me one as I entered a side door into the University Student Union Ballroom. It wasn’t Vegas and I was only dealing with fake money, but I was ready to try gambling.
“I really want it to be an experience,” said Cory Coogan, Beach Pride Events’ Program Assistant. “The second you walk in through the door, it’s like a time travel.”
Live jazz music filled the room, with the singer sporting a flashy flapper costume on stage transporting me to a time of radios and black and white screens. Coogan described the Amanda Castro Band as “postmodern jukebox” as they sang modern music in 1920s, vintage jazz covers.
Gambling? I walked to the free food first. One side of the table had macaroni and cheese while the other had mashed potatoes. Both of which could be decorated with toppings including jalapenos, bacon bits and hot cheetos from the toppings bar. After indulging in both, I was ready to play. Although I didn’t know anything about roulette, poker, craps or blackjack, and have always had a bad luck streak, I was ready to try my hand.
“There are so many different students — graduates, undergraduates. I love the music [and] the people dealing have good energy, really give a run for my tickets,” Long Beach State’s homecoming king, Louis Williams, said. “I played blackjack and the dealer knew who was going to bust and who was going to win. He must’ve liked me because he let me win.”
I take his positive winning gusto with me as I tried out roulette. The dealer from L.A. Night Casino, a company that caters casino games, was kind enough to teach me the rules which basically summed down to this: bet anywhere on the table and good luck.
I shrugged out my shoulders, gave the dealer a raffle ticket and timidly placed a chip on the red diamond indicating that if the clear ball rolls and landed in a number that is red, I would win. It landed in a black number. Again, I put one chip, this time where it says “ODD” for odd numbers. I don’t see the clear ball from where I am standing.
“One,” the dealer calls out.
I cheered on the inside, maybe I don’t have bad luck after all. I spoke too soon because rounds after that, the numbers were the total opposite of where I bet. I put down “EVEN,” it’s an odd; I put down for numbers 19 to 36 and it goes to number one to 12. After the last roll was done, I had four chips while the lucky fellow next to me had a stack of grey chips comparable to the Empire State Building.
He got three white raffle tickets for winning, second place got two and third place got one.
“I’ll give you a ticket because this is your first time,” the dealers said and passed me a white ticket.
“Thanks,” I replied, as I pocketed my pity ticket win.
Graduate student Laylita Day, watched a blackjack game from outside the circle of six people crowded around the table.
“I’ve never done any of this type of thing so I was just checking it out,” Day said. “[I’m] watching to see how to play [blackjack]. It looks like that’s the easiest one play.”
I walked over to the blackjack table behind the one she was observing to try out my luck. The dealer told me the rules: get as close to 21 as you can. Okay, simple enough.
I bet down a red chip as he dealt out the cards to the other four people. Each person got two cards and from there, you have to add the numbers and try to get closer to 21. If you think the next card he gives you will get you closer to 21 you say hit.
The dealer slid a king card to me on top of my seven of diamonds — that made it a total of 17.
“Stay,” I said.
The goal is to beat the house by either having a higher number than him or having the saying number in order to earn more chips. He flipped over his downward facing card and had 17 too, so I got an extra chip. Other people got their bid chip taken away.
I felt risky and put in a green chip which is $25 versus a red chip which is $5, in fake money currency, of course. That round got me and other green chip. And the next round got me another red chip. But then, my bad luck came around and I “bust,” meaning I go over 21.
I slowly gambled through my chips before I stepped away from the table with no chips left and plenty of regret. Any remaining raffle tickets left could be put into small buckets coordinating to different prizes where students can win prizes including a $30 Target gift card, Amazon Echo Dot or $100 Southwest airfare which could take you to Las Vegas round trip for the real deal.
I didn’t win anything. Out of luck and now out of tickets, I leave. Walking back to my car, I found a white ticket left in my pocket that I didn’t put into the raffling. I touched it and chuckled to myself; I guess my bad luck wasn’t going anywhere.
This story has been updated to correct the number at the Casino Night event from “over 30” to “81.”