That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run
Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump)
August 2012, enter perfect storm. My girlfriend and I just broke up, I had lots of vacation time left with a use it or lose it vacation policy and had a new found discovery that visiting casinos isn’t necessarily an across the country proposition.
The one casino specific takeaway I got from my State Capitols trip with my daughters is that casinos are everywhere. My semi-dormant not-ready-for-prime-time hobby hadn’t had that bit of information until then. I suppose I wasn’t completely ignorant to it, but sometimes you have to stick the chocolate bar directly into the peanut butter to realize how good they are together.
So with a little help from the internet, I discovered that Pennsylvania had a bunch of casinos that just in the past two years had table games. You can’t collect a chip unless they have table games.
Location of Pennsylvania Casinos
So the plan was to head towards southeast PA first and visit those new casinos that I just learned about (new to me, anyway). I had nine casinos on my itinerary, with four being along 1-95 in the greater Philadelphia area and another just north-west of Philly. I had three days and two nights planned for this.
Knowing how many casinos I planned on visiting is (and would become) a good way to manage a bankroll. Having an addictive personality (which I do) mixed with this type of perpetual activity can and should be a bit dangerous. I have found that discipline and staying away from the habit of chasing losses are critical to maintain pleasure in this type of hobby. My budget for this trip was $250 for gambling. I approached a run like this by taking my bankroll and dividing by the number of casinos I planned on visiting, in this case that became about $25 a casino. After I leave each casino I take my adjusted bank roll (win, lose or draw) and reapply the same math with my updated bankroll and the remaining casinos in my trip.
Unfortunately for me on this trip, that methodology kept me away from the craps tables (at least early on). I have done it, but it’s hard to play craps and win with just $25 to start. I’d have to wait a few casinos (with winning outcomes) before I shot any craps. So it was roulette as the prime game for this trip.
First stop Parx Casino in Bensalem, PA. A town about halfway between Trenton, NJ and Philadelphia, roughly 150 miles from my home in Bethel CT. My plan was to get to Parx around dinner time, play for a bit and then drive 30 miles west to King of Prussia to the Valley Forge Casino and spend the night locally after I played. Interesting, the Valley Forge Casino is the first (and even until now only) casino that has an entrance fee (They give it back to you on a players card to gamble with) but a fee nevertheless. I think it’s a way to keep the North Philly riff-raff off the casino floor.
As mentioned, with a small bankroll the name of the game is to play conservatively. In roulette the odds of hitting any one number is 37 to 1, numbers 1 through 36, plus 0 and 00. The payout on hitting a number is 35 to 1. Sure a five dollar wager on a single number can give you $170 back, but betting one number is a long shot and I needed this money to last and wanted to try to win something. So I’d play even money bets, like any Black or any odd number. For those wagers it’s five will get you ten, and it’s about a 47% chance of hitting (Casinos always have an edge). Sometimes I’d play even more cautiously. I’d try covering more of the board, play one dollar each on 27 different numbers. If I hit (71% likelihood) I’d win $35 plus keep my single dollar I’d won on, that’s 9 bucks! Now, generally, I don’t go whooping and hollering through a casino over a 9 dollar win, but at the start of this trip I had to preserve and even hopefully grow a modest bankroll. Longer odd bets and/or a chance at the craps table were hopefully in my future if I stayed cautious. Lessons learned here would be crucial to keep this hobby going.
By the time I was done at Valley Forge it was late (after 10:00) and I was tired. I had driven almost two hundred miles that day already and had gambled at two casinos. I had planned on getting a hotel in King of Prussia and start fresh the next morning, but considering I hadn’t booked it yet, I felt I had enough energy to at least drive to my next destination and then sleep so I wouldn’t have to drive in the AM . I drove the next 30 miles or so to downtown Philly to the only casino in Philadelphia proper, The Sugarhouse Casino. By the time I got there I had enough of a second wind that I decided to visit the Casino and play instead of getting a room to sleep.
You’ll notice a pattern of this internal debate, deciding whether to drive to the next place to sleep to start the next morning early or arriving then winding up playing that night only to have the debate again once I was done. It is a double edged sword. Driving at night is usually traffic free, but you sometimes don’t realize how tired you are (or how late it’s getting) until about twenty minutes into an hour drive.
I was a little nervous about going to an alien location of a downtown metropolis not knowing what sort of element I may meet. But as I have found out, Casinos and their parking lots, regardless of where they are, are extremely safe with a sufficient guard presence, lots of lights and people. In all my travels I have been fortunate enough to have never had an altercation of any kind in or around a casino.
So into the Sugarhouse to play some roulette.
With most casinos I have visited each roulette table would be designated by a separate number, or letter. You might be playing at table 3 or 4 and that would be apparent by table number being stamped on the roulette chip. Each table would have a series of colors of their chips to distinguish bets between players but they’d all share the same designation. But at the Sugarhouse instead of numbers or letters they used symbols. And they symbols they used were indicative of the History of Philadelphia. Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross Flag, Love (as in brotherly love) and Independence Hall. My collection will grow exponentially if all casinos are like this.
Sugarhouse Roulette Chips
After having relative success at Sugarhouse I, again, had the debate of whether to stay local or drive towards next destination, which was southwest towards Philly airport. It was late, but I decided I had enough gas in the tank to drive the half hour to Chester, PA. This time the sensible side won the debate and I crashed at a local motel not far from my destination.
I have combined many casino trips into sightseeing adventures with opportunity’s to see both crowded and hidden gems. This trip was not one of those times. This was a nose down, drive and play excursion.
I started the day at Harrah’s in Chester Pa. This was the first time I had been to a second of a series of Casinos (I had played at Harrah’s in LV). This was also my first glimpse at an isolated casino in the AM (Casinos in Las Vegas have people at their tables 24/7) but here at Harrah’s where the closest Casino is 30 miles or so away, its eerily quiet at 9:00 AM. But it was open and happily accepted my business.
The next twelve hours was a whirlwind of driving, playing, occasionally eating, driving some more and playing. Started in Chester PA, drove to Wilmington, DE to Delaware Park Casino, then back into PA and west to Grantville Pa. The Hollywood Casino in Grantville is a stone’s throw from Hershey Park, where I was less than two months before. I do recall seeing signs, but it wasn’t about Casinos then, it was now.
The last three Casinos took me to and through the Pennsylvania Poconos. Never thought about it before, but the Poconos were a resort destination that advertised heavily in New York as I grew up. The Casinos only showed up in 2010, but I imagine that the circus of Casinos will be further draw from the Greater NYC Area. I recall specifically Mount Airy Lodge commercials on TV and I was now gambling there. Finished the evening at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, the sister of the original Mohegan Sun in CT. I did fare well with my Roulette and got the opportunity to shoot some craps along the way.
I had planned on staying one more night, but Pocono Downs was under 3 hours’ drive from home and it was just about 8:00 PM. I decide to burn a little more midnight oil and save a night’s hotel.
Good luck is dangerous, it can sometimes convince you there is relative predictability to your gambling patterns, which is quite far from the truth. But, this time I wound up winning almost enough money to pay the one night’s hotel and gas. I had to eat anyway, so I called the trip a wash.
Nine more casinos under my belt and a fourth state of gambling. I was now the proud owner of a new hobby. Up to this point I was sort of just passing time. But, now, I had the Madness, I needed to work on some methods. They wouldn’t come all at once, but as I mentioned in an earlier blog, there is an evolution (and sometimes de-evolution) in my rules and do’s and don’ts.
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