When I graduated from college, my girlfriends and I celebrated by going to Las Vegas, where I promptly gambled away $250. Beginner’s luck? Never heard of it. It’s been six years, and I still shudder at the memory. When one of our favorite couple-friends invited my boyfriend and me to a weekend at Lake Charles casinos, I hesitated. Flashbacks of a 7-7-cherry emoji on a slot machine replayed in my mind. But I was wiser now; I could handle the slot machine handles. And you know what? They owed me.
Back with a vengeance
A cacophony of bings, rings, and ka-chings surrounds us as our group busts through the doors of Lake Charles’ Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino. I decide to exact my revenge on the slot machines, poker hands, and roulette tables that had wronged me so long ago. My friends, Regina and Ben, were surprised by the hostility I held, but $250 is $250.
The gaming area sparkles from drop-down and inset lighting in addition to the neon glow of the machines. I narrow in on my target: a jolly pink-and-purple unicorn slot machine that mocked my pain. As I began my march toward it, I heard, “Whoa there, Terminator” from Danny, my boyfriend. “Don’t you think we should drop off our suitcases, first?”
I pull back the curtains in our contemporary, sleek room—complete with a lake and pool view—and I gaze across Lake Charles as sunlight radiates with what I’m sure is winning energy. The pool is surrounded by modern cabanas and dotted with lounge beds like lily pads throughout. By the time we meet back up with Regina and Ben on the casino floor, they’ve already cashed in a ticket with the first win of the trip. Dan heads over to the tables to get in on the action—and the fun—but I’ve got a battle to wage first. The lights on the unicorn slot machine twinkle and blink.
I pull: a win!
I pull: a loss.
I pull: another loss, followed by three small wins.
I spend $15 and leave the machine with around $10; ultimately a loss, but not too bad. I know what “too bad” is, after all. The cheers from Danny, Regina, and Ben’s roulette table lead me away. Danny’s up by $100, and he needs the ball to land on black. Spin, spin, spin, red. The group gives a collective “Aww,” and Danny’s smile spreads from ear to ear. “My wallet’s still in the black. I think I’ll take my winnings and run.”
He takes the voucher and turns to me. “Wouldn’t want to lose $250 or anything,” Danny says with a wink.
That’s called adding insult to injury.
“Dinner’s on you tonight, Dan,” I reply.
And that’s called a #win.
Hell hath no fury
The Golden Nugget has about a dozen restaurants to choose from. We end up at Lillie’s Asian Cuisine because the menu is chock full of sushi rolls and other favorites, like potstickers (I’ll take a potsticker any day). The atmosphere at Lillie’s is totally chic, and we feel like high rollers while we take our taste buds on an exotic tour of the Far East.
The night is young, so Ben suggests that we keep it rolling. “Let’s try our luck elsewhere,” Regina says. We hop aboard the casino-to-casino shuttle for a roll or two at the stately white and glass L’Auberge’s Casino Resort next door. Perfectly trimmed palm trees and elegant water fountains welcome us in. Ben and Danny decide to put on their poker faces and try their hand at Texas Hold ’Em. They head into the half-open den lined with flat screens featuring a variety of sports while Regina and I look to give the roulette tables a whirl.
Here, revenge is sweet. Our heads are spinning from watching the wheel. I love to gather ’round when someone is on a streak, and from the looks of it, others do too. We’ve amassed a small crowd, and I hardly notice Ben and Danny joining us. As I place another bet on black, I can feel excitement, anticipation, and nervousness radiating from the group around me.
Spin, spin, spin. Black! “Yes!” I shout.
Taking a cue from Danny’s book, we leave while the bankroll is up and take our drinks back to the Golden Nugget’s private beach.
The night feels like it’s still teeming with life as the waves crash on the shore before us, but on a more subdued scale. Sipping and cozying up to the fire pit, I begin to wind down from the alluring buzz of the casino that held my attention all evening. I’m ultimately up by about $200; almost there, but not quite.
Joy of the journey
I come to life the next morning after sipping a cup of coffee out on our balcony. Dan asks if I won my $250 back yet. I’m nearly there, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll make it. “We could hit up the tables or the slot machine again?” he offers. Should I risk losing it all, and suffering a similar fate again? Or do I stop while I’m ahead?
“I’ve got a better idea,” I respond.
We meet up with Regina and Ben and head to The Cottage Shop District. Here, I buy each member of the group a small Louisiana souvenir. This time, the money I spend doesn’t feel like a loss, it feels like sharing the love.
When it’s time for us to pack the car for home, a part of me is still riding the high from our weekend here. The group’s already making plans for a return trip. “We have to go to the Isle of Capri Casino, too,” I hear Danny tell Regina. “It’s celebrating 20 years this year—should be quite the party.”
Future plans continue as we buckle up. We pass the Delta Downs Racetrack, which features Quarter and Thoroughbred horse races, on our drive out of town.
“Horserace betting,” Danny says. “You game?”
Next time we return to Lake Charles, the chances I take will be with no objective other than fun—but watch your back, unicorn slot machine.