Sunday, November 4, 2007

Keeping Up With the Vernons

Friday night marked my first weekend here in Memphis, and as he is such a gracious host, Verno was kind enough to offer up his evening so that I wouldn't be stuck in my new, furniture-less apartment watching my worn-out West Wing DVDs (the cable people are coming in next week).

So where does he take me? Southland Greyhound Park.

I loved this place.

I arrived before Verno and Mrs. Verno, and I was not there more than 5 minutes before I saw some poor fellow getting an earful from his pregnant wife/girlfriend. Great start to the evening - I thought it couldn't get any better. I was wrong.

Keep in mind, I'm new to the area, and I wasn't aware that they had the electronic gambling machines. I have never trusted anything that allows a computer to choose what my next card would be, but Friday night, I just assumed the role of "When in Rome..."

I had just secured my rewards card where they gave me a generous $25 starter amount (still not sure if my mention of Chris Vernon at the counter gave me anything extra...), so it was off to the video poker machine. My game: Deuces Wild.

You have to put your rewards card into the machine in order to use the free plays. It took me about 4 tries to just enter in the information so I could start playing. I haven't even started playing, and I'm already poised as the night's big patsy.

I play for a few minutes with less than stellar success, and so I kind of zone out while I wait for the Vernons to arrive. All of a sudden the machine starts making some noise, but I'm not paying attention and keep hitting the 'Deal' button. The next thing I know, my credits are over 220. Right as this happens, Verno and The Wife see me and walk up. I tell them I think I've won like 200 dollars. This is great news.

Then, Mrs. Vernon points out to me that I'm wrong - I haven't won 200 dollars. Immediately, I think it's because I'm still playing off of the 'free play' $25 from my rewards card, so I must not be eligible. She then goes on to tell me that I must have hit the $2/credit option, and that I have actually won over $400. This is even better news. I had not been there more than 15 minutes, and I was already up $400. Conventional wisdom would tell a person that they should have left right then. But what would I do with the rest of my night? And besides, I was on a hot streak. I couldn't lose - not tonight...

Off to the track!!

The Vernons and I head over to the greyhound track, and in my head, I had pictured it being like 500 Bert Sugars all running up and down the concourse like it was 5 minutes to the bell on the NYSE. But it was surprisingly low-key.

While Verno studied the greyhound racing program (apparently he's a big fan of any dog with 'Silver' in the name), the wife and I discussed the better places to go out in Memphis. Verno decides that the #7 is our dog of choice for the race.

After a few races, I believe that the excitement of my earlier winnings pulled us back downstairs to the poker floor. Either that or the fact that Verno was shooting 0 for everything on the dogs. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Even with my disastrous encounter with the dogtrack, I was still in the black for the evening. Even better, The Dempseys were playing downstairs. Now, I had no idea who they were, but Verno sure was excited about it. They were this rockabilly-style band that played just about everything, and apparently they were even in Walk the Line. I thought they were really good, and Mrs. Verno concurred. Highly recommend.

After a couple of hours playing video poker (and redepositing some of Southland Park's money back into their pocket), Verno draws me over to the blackjack table. Great. I love blackjack. I even have a strange blackjack strategy regarding double-downs that would take way too long to explain here. But trust me, it works.

Problem is, I've never seen a blackjack table like this before. There's a table, there's chairs, even a dealer - just NO CARDS. It seems that the cards are just dealt electronically, and you have to assume that everything is on the up and up. After already giving back almost half my winnings, I normally wouldn't have taken such a leap of faith. But tonight I was a winner. Let's play.

I started out ON FIRE. I employed my crazy double-down strategy - which drew the ire of a few of the other players at the table. And I've never understood this - these folks down at the third base position get all pissy when I draw a card that could have potentially helped. Excuse me, but my understanding is that I'm playing for me to win. Not the guy on third base. Or any other base for that matter. They won't be giving me any of their winnings at the end of the night. So screw 'em.

After quickly doubling up my money, a dealer switch is made. You know what happened next.

30 minutes later, Verno and I had given it all back. And that was enough of a clue for us to shut it down.

Fortunately, I was at least sensible to store off some of my winnings in the "don't touch" area of the wallet, so I did actually end up a winner for the night. Sometimes I even surprise myself.

But here's the moral(s) of the story:
1) The Southland Greyhound Park is a lot of fun, I'm glad I got to go, and I'll probably go again soon.
2) Looking back on it, it seems that whenever Verno was around - I lost. I might go back to Southland, but I may not let Verno know about it.