Earlier this month I went on a guys trip to Las Vegas. We usually go once a year and try our hand at the blackjack tables. This may be an interesting statement coming from a finance blogger, but let me explain…
Las Vegas And The Culture
There are many things I like about Las Vegas. Each time I am there, I’m amazed by all the lights, the shows, and the spirit of the “City That Never Sleeps.” The vast amount of people walking around have smiles on their faces, and you can tell there is excitement in the air.
As you walk down the strip, it’s apparent that there are people of all cultures, creeds, income levels, and motives there. There are a section of people that are fascinated with the idea of becoming rich quick. The idea of pulling a slot machine lever and coming home with a million dollars keeps them up at night. These people fantasize about winning it big, and this may be the year it finally happens!
There are other groups of people that are there for many other purposes – most of which may not be for the most moral of reasons. However, for this post, I am going to focus on the people I spend my time with in Vegas – those who fantasize about winning big.
If you walk through any casino in Las Vegas, you will be blinded by all the flashing lights of the slot machines, each vying for your money. You will see groups of people huddled around CRAPS tables and often you will hear shouts of joy and excitement from these groups of people. You will also see blackjack tables (my favorite) with people sitting in a semi-circle around a dealer.
The shouts of joy from random places in the casino is contagious – it adds to the feeling that if other people are winning, you are sure to be next. The added oxygen they pump into the casino to keep you awake and the lack of clocks, keep you unaware of the amount of time you have been there. With such an exciting environment, how could you go wrong?
The Quiet Side Of Vegas
The most excited people are the most vocal. In the casino, attention is drawn to those who are winning. However, if you look around the casino, you will see a much darker side. You will see a grandmother pumping quarters into a slot machine. You can tell by her face that she has lost much more than she has won, and she is getting desperate. She sits there alone, smoking like a chimney in an attempt to relieve her stress as she continues to blow through all her social security for the month. After she loses everything she has brought, she will quietly sulk away and leave without drawing attention to herself.
Next you look at the CRAPS tables. The one that was noisy a few moments ago suddenly gets quiet. The hot roller rolled a “7” and everyone lost their money. Some people will continue playing, but others will quickly pick up their drink and quietly walk away – with nothing.
Finally there is the blackjack tables where you will find my friends and I. Next to us there is a man who has had too much to drink and continues to make big bets. It’s apparent he hasn’t won in a while and he is tired of losing money. This next hand has to be his. He bets big and the dealer flips the cards over to him. The dealer draws an ace, and the man turns down the insurance as the dealer flips over a ten. Blackjack. The dealer reaches over and takes the remainder of his chips.
Refusing to give up, he requests a marker from the dealer for $2,000. A marker is a loan from the casino. Within a few moments, the pit boss walks over with a piece of paper for him to sign. He scribbles his signature down and they hand him another $2,000 in chips. You can see where this is going. Spoiler alert – he didn’t win his money back…
So How Do You Win?
So what is a finance blogger doing at a blackjack table in Vegas? I’m losing all my money – that’s what I’m doing. While I’m losing my money at the tables, I’m actually winning. An odd viewpoint I know, but hear me out.
As discussed earlier, my wife and I each have a specific amount of “fun money” that we can spend on whatever we want, guilt free. (Fun Money) In order to do these Vegas trips, I save up my fun money so that I can use it in Vegas. I completely agree that any money spent in Vegas is essentially “wasted,” (no pun intended) but for me it has entertainment value. I bring a certain amount to gamble with (in cash) and I don’t spend a penny more. Going to the blackjack table is no different than going to the movies – money spent is money spent, as long as it was budgeted.
The way to “Win” in Vegas is the same way you win any other day with your finances. You budget for expenses and you refuse to spend more. I went to Vegas with a certain amount of expendable cash – and I spent it all. I didn’t spend a penny more than I had budgeted, which makes me a winner. In fact, I actually came home with $30 bucks budgeted for food that I didn’t end up using – so I came back ahead!
Win With Money In Vegas, And Everyday Life
The lesson I have for you today is to be intentional with your money and responsible with what God has given you. The woman at the slot machines and the man at the blackjack table that I described earlier were obviously not ready to lose everything. They never should have stepped foot in the casino in the first place. Casinos rarely make people rich – the people make the casino rich. By understanding the bigger picture with your finances, you can make better choices with your money and your planning.
I went to Vegas for friendship and camaraderie, and for the small chance to get lucky and come home with more money than I went with. You just certainly can’t expect it. In life and finances, you get what you put into it. If you want to increase your income, you have to work for it. Very few get rich quick schemes (casinos) ever work out in the end. Make a plan for your money and stick to it. Don’t take shortcuts in life trying to get ahead. Chances are you will fall flat on your face and quietly sulk away.
I wish no ill will on those people who were gambling that night and lost a substantial amount. It’s a terrible thing to see and I feel sympathy for them. It’s very possible, even probable, that most of those I saw sulking away had gambling problems and they are spiraling out of control financially. It breaks my heart to see that, which is why I spend so much time on this blog.
If you are spiraling out of control with your finances, whether it be a gambling problem, a spending problem, or a vice such as cigarettes making you broke – I encourage you to get help. Our financial lives are one of the few things we can actually take control of in this life. It’s your money and you decide where it goes. Make it work for you so in the end you do not have to work for it.
If you have a gambling problem, please reach out to the National Council on Problem Gambling website or hotline. National Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700)
Keep it up my friends and please do not hesitate to reach out for help or support. You can do this – get on a budget and stick to it. Please subscribe by email below so you don’t miss any of my future posts and I look forward to talking to you. You work too hard to be this broke!