Hard Eight

By Slade Ham


Las Vegas would probably make my head explode.  I’ve been hiding in my hotel room as much as possible, huddled away safely distant from the blinking lights and the clanging bells of the casino floor beneath me.  I walked to the showroom earlier to see the layout, and then out to the pool to avoid the mile wide marketing ploys of my temporary employers, but now I have to go back down there.  I have a show tonight at one of the Choctaw Nation’s properties in Oklahoma.  The flashing neon flytrap I have to walk through to get to that show brings me mixed emotions.

Despite my own penchant for risky behavior, I am not a big gambler.  Blackjack amuses me because it offers the most control but poker is my only real temptation.  Even then, I prefer to stay out of the casino poker rooms and would much rather shuffle my chips amongst a group of friends.  It’s just such obviously orchestrated bullshit, the casino experience as a whole.  My job tonight is to make no bets at all.  Tell jokes, collect a check, soak in the hot tub, and go home.

It’s hard though.

Maddening patterns on the carpet floors keep your head up and moving.  Just when you focus on one thing, another thing blinks or pops out of the corner of your eye.  Look at this!  No this!  No that! Ancient, wrinkled women and men lie propped up, possibly deceased, against rows of slot machines.  The bars spin and stop, another loser.  Occasionally a distant bell signals a big winner, prolonging the myth of victory and encouraging the living dead to feed another twenty into the slot.  Somewhere a grandchild goes without college.

A man and woman pass me in hallway.  He is furious.  She is staring blankly ahead.  There aren’t enough lights in the world to distract her now, and even if they could, she has just cleaned out their bank account.  I know this because the man just said, “You realize that you cleaned out our entire motherfucking bank account, right?”  This poor guy.  God, have I been there.

He must be new at this.  He obviously hasn’t gone through it enough times yet to keep a separate, hidden account.  She still has access to his money.  You’re dating an obsessive gambler, I want to tell him.  You can’t share finances with her.  You have to hide your cash like Anne Frank at Oktoberfest, you dummy.  Believe me.  I know.

* * *

My ex was the queen of the casino.  Beaumont, Texas is a little city thirty minutes west of the Louisiana border.  Louisiana law makes it easy to gamble.  As long as a casino isn’t on actually land the government allows it so, scattered throughout the state are riverboats, perched inches away from shore and welcoming anyone that wants to lose a few dollars inside.

Table games are forced into the waterways but video poker is allowed everywhere.  There’s not a gas station or restaurant in the state that doesn’t have a series of eight-liners against one wall or another.  Brittany found them all.  She bet just to bet.  It was a compulsion.  She had VIP player’s cards at every one of the major casinos and the pit bosses all knew her by name.

I went with her for a while in the beginning, before I realized she had a problem.  I quit going the first time she bit me.  She had run out of money and thought she could somehow win back the six hundred dollars she had just blown – if I would only give her a twenty.  When I refused she leaned in and bit me, violently, then pickpocketed me while I inspected the wound.  She went on her own after that.

She would walk past security like the cast of Ocean’s Eleven.  I don’t remember if that ever happened in the movie or not, but I imagine it did, and encourage you to imagine it as well so my comparison will make sense.  Guards waved at her when she sauntered by and you could actually see wind blow through her hair in slow motion, even indoors.  Music played.  Employees greeted her by name.  She strode past the patrons at the five and ten dollar tables.  The common folk.  The riff raff.  Back to the high roller room, the casino staff practically carried her on their shoulders.  She wasn’t there to lose small amounts, dammit.  She was there to lose it all.

And this wasn’t a girl with a trust fund to squander or someone with a lawyer’s salary and a pricey vice.  Brittany was a waitress.  She took a week’s worth of tips and spun it into gold… before spinning it right back into nothing again.  It’s the gambler’s dilemma, not knowing when to stop.  Brittany was good.  Very good.  She just couldn’t quit while she was ahead.

My cell phone rang one morning at 8:00 am.  She had been gone for two days and was finally calling.  “I’m coming home,” she said.  “And you’re not going to believe this.”

She pulled up to the apartment in a shiny new black Chrysler Sebring.  “What happened to the Escort?” I asked.

“I left it at the dealership when I bought this one.’

“You bought a car?  At 8:00 am?”

“Yep.  Told the guy I’d give him a hundred bucks if he’d unlock the door and sell it to me.”

“So you won then?”

“Thirty-five thousand.  Blackjack.  It took a while and I’m tired.  I’m going to bed.  ‘Night.”

“Goodnight?  It’s morning,” I started to say, but she was already inside.

No wonder they loved her there.  She partied with reckless abandon, flinging hundred dollar chips around like quarters and almost certainly out-drinking and out-cussing everyone else at the table.  When she was on, she was on.  She never played it safe.  Blackjack, three card poker, craps, it didn’t matter.  Pass line?  No thanks.  Put it all on hard eight.

She fell asleep for a few hours and was back on the road to Louisiana almost immediately.  She shouldn’t have gone.  She should have quit.  Forever.  She had thirty-five thousand reasons to stop, yet twenty-four hours after her nap, she had not only lost every dollar from the day before, but an additional twenty thousand that the casino had given her as a marker.  She threw the money away like a crack head mother tossing out an unwanted baby.  It couldn’t have been gone faster if she’d put it directly into a dumpster.  It was staggering.

Casinos put signs up displaying a phone number to call if you have a gambling problem, but no one ever calls them.  It’s a drug, that feeling of victory.  Doubling down and getting your ten.  Splitting aces and watching them both hit.  Seeing the dealer draw to a bust.  It’s an incredible endorphin rush.  But it is still a drug.

Brittany would bet on just about anything.  That was almost the only way to get her to not go gambling – to bet her that she wouldn’t stay home.

* * *

So yes.  As I pass this girl in the hallway, I recognize the look.  The empty stare painted on the face of this now penniless zombie scares me a little bit.  It sends a ripple of goose bumps up my arm as I walk past.

“What are we going to do about Tommy?” she asks the pissed off guy walking ahead of her.

I don’t know who Tommy is, but I’m guessing he was relying on a portion of their bank account for something important.  He might be their son or her brother or a loan shark with an itchy trigger finger.

“Fuck Tommy,” says the man.  “We don’t even have enough gas to get home.”

As the two of them make their way down the hall to the exit, I turn my gaze to follow them.  Are they really just going to go stand outside by the car?  Maybe they’re going to walk home.  Maybe he will sell her into slavery for gas money.  I want to be sympathetic, but that guy has to learn his lesson sometime, doesn’t he?

Right now, I have my own set of problems.  I have to go into a room full of shattered financial dreams and empty wallets.  I have to stare at seats filled with broken souls taking advantage of a free show, probably the only thing they can still afford, and somehow figure out a way to make them laugh.

The casino wants the show clean, too.  I don’t work that dirty to begin with, but I still hate having the limitation thrown on my shoulders.  “Our customers have high moral values,” the manager tells me.  “They don’t use language like that.”  I laugh on the inside.

I can see them through the curtain from backstage.  The disappointment drips silently down their faces like frustrated molasses.  Arms crossed, they sit in the showroom, waiting.  We’re out of cash, their eyes tell me.  We’re beaten and we’re broke.  Now make us laugh, Chuckle Monkey.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that even the holiest of these people have uttered the word “fuck” once or twice in the last few hours.

I don’t particularly want to walk out there right now but I have to.  My opening act just said goodnight and I’m about to be introduced.  The music is playing.  They can’t be that bad, right?  This show is going to be fine, I tell myself.

And then my subconscious answers me.  “Wanna bet?”

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

SLADE HAM is a stand up comedian. He has performed in 52 countries on six continents, a journey that can be followed in his book, Until All the Dragons Are Dead. One day he hopes to host a travel show and continue to trick the world into paying him to do the things he loves to do. Slade is also an Editor for The Nervous Breakdown's Arts and Culture section. He keeps a very expensive storage unit in Houston, TX.

129 responses to “Hard Eight”

  1. Derek Knight says:

    HA! “chuckle monkey.” As per usual, great story.

  2. Lorna says:

    “Ancient, wrinkled women and men lie propped up, possibly deceased, against rows of slot machines.”

    Slade, I wish I would have snapped a picture of a lady my husband and I saw strolling through the Wynn Casino a few weeks ago. She was this ancient wrinkled lady in her early 70’s, I would guess, wearing a little black dress. Short, short and boobs sagging down to her belly, but she was strolling proudly through the casino with her bolo tied cowboy.

    Okay back later. I need to work.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Those women mesmerize me. It’s the best place to people watch – or watch people slowly die. It’s a totally unique culture. Quarter after quarter, dressed like rodeo clowns…

  3. Matt says:

    You know, I’ve never thought about presenting a show in Vegas in those terms: a room full of people who’ve likely just broken the bank, drunk on the free booze and possibly cooking up a mad-on at a slow but steady simmer. Yeesh.

    Every time I go to a casino I only take money I can afford to lose, and once that’s it, that’s it. My rule, whatever the game, is to only play with the money I sat down with. If I sit at the black jack table with $20, and I happen to winm I set the winnings aside and continute gambling only with that first $20. It doesn’t lead to the Big Win – or sometimes, even winning at all – but it’s a fun way to play without blowing it all in one shot, either. The last time I was in Vegas (for my Kick in the Head piece), I used this strategy to turn my last $5 (of the $50 I’d set aside for gambling) into $200, at which point I promptly called it quits on the gaming table for the rest of the weekend.

    Also, dude: easy to say in retrospect, but I think the biting incident might have been an indicator that you had a stabbing waiting for you somewhere down the line.

  4. Ofelia says:

    “The bars spin and stop, another loser.” This line alone was gold, the depth of it astounding. So simple yet so elegant. I guess everyone has a vice, has something that they just can’t control. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, blogging, drama. It all has its euphoria that someone out there just cannot resist.

    Oh, and I can’t believe she bit you! I’m amazed you didn’t hit her, I wouldn’t have blamed you at all.

    • Slade Ham says:

      My personality is highly addictive, obviously, from my prior three-pack-a-day smoking habit. I know me now though, and am careful with what I give myself access to. Know your enemy, I suppose. Gambling never posed that much of a threat, but then again, I don’t do it often enough. Most of the other vices have been kicked. And new ones will certainly surface, hahaha.

  5. Dana says:

    “The disappointment drips silently down their faces like frustrated molasses. Arms crossed, they sit in the showroom, waiting. We’re out of cash, their eyes tell me. We’re beaten and we’re broke. Now make us laugh, Chuckle Monkey.”


    Glad you made it out alive Slade. Of the casino, and the relationship. Phew.

    • Slade Ham says:

      It is the strangest group to stand in front of. Of course, some people haven’t blown their money yet, but they’re rare. Casinos pay well, but they are never the greatest shows. I always find it a bit funny that I get to walk out with money.

      And yeah, I suppose I’m happy to be on the other side of both 🙂

  6. Joe Daly says:

    Going into one of your pieces, I know I’m about to get right hooked with something awesome in the first few paragraphs. Here it is:

    Somewhere a grandchild goes without college.

    I totally agree with your assessment of casino culture. Whether it’s on a riverboat or on the Vegas strip, the bells, whistles, and scantily-clad women don’t quite overcome the air of desperation that pervades the scene. It’s like everything needs to be so over-the-top because the bottom is so fucking deep that people can barely breathe in there. If it weren’t for all the glitz, Vegas would be about as appealing as methadone clinic.

    In a fit of gigantic douchebaggery, some years ago, I carted myself and a one hundred dollar bill over to the nickel roulette table, where people were alternately agonizing and slapping high fives over two dollar swings of fortune. I placed the bill on black, which silenced the five cent punters, all of whom most certainly began rooting against me. Black hit, the guy gave me a black chip, and I turned around and said, “Good luck everybody!” and walked away. I thought it was funny then, but I’m pretty embarrassed by it now.

    I’m headed to Vegas in a couple of weeks for a wedding and I’m already planning on spending the lion’s share of my time by the pool.

    • Dana says:



      • Joe Daly says:


        You should know that what brought me to the table was that Stinky was sitting there and Bob Duffey (don’t know if you know him) insisted that we go over and eff with everyone. So I was one of two douchebags in the incident.

        • Dana says:

          The first time you and I talked on the phone, you mentioned that Bob Duffey was an asshole. Good to know your estimation of him hasn’t changed throughout the years.

          Poor Stinky.


    • Slade Ham says:

      I’ve had those nights before. Not with roulette though. I’ve thrown a black chip on a hand of blackjack on my way out the door more than once. I kind of resign myself to losing it before I play it, and if I win it’s a happy bonus.

      I do bet that the nickle players were a bit taken aback, hahaha. I can’t handle those people.

      • Joe Daly says:

        I do bet that the nickle players were a bit taken aback, hahaha. I can’t handle those people.

        You’ll never know how hard it’s been to not reply with a crack about Oklahoma right now, in deference to our beloved Coxy.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Ah, but Rich knows he’s a Texan at heart. I’m not sure how vigorously he’ll defend all of OK, but I know how he can be about Tulsa… and for good reason. As I’ve recently learned, that place is not typical Oklahoma.

          The rest of the state is all nickel players though 🙂

    • Lorna says:

      “If it weren’t for all the glitz, Vegas would be about as appealing as methadone clinic.”

      The one thing about Vegas that we don’t take advantage of nearly enough is the entertainment.

      If we play anything it’s the Megabucks and we limit ourselves to $21. The most I’ve ever won at a machine is a couple thousand dollars. Hardly worth tempting fate with an addiction and a broke bank account.

      However, I would play you and Slade under the table in a game of poker. Just sayin’

      • Slade Ham says:

        A TNB poker tournament? I’m so in.

        And I, of all the places I have been, have never been to Vegas. It’s ridiculous. I have no idea why not. I would stay holed up at the pools though. I’m a fan of pools.

        • Lorna says:

          I hear they have a topless pool in Vegas. You could start a whole new addiction.

          I better start shopping for my dark sunglasses and hat to wear at the TNB Poker tournament.

        • Joe Daly says:

          I’ll get in on that action as well! Although I wouldn’t last long at the table. I’d be the first one out of the game and off to the pool. I’m a lousy poker player. But I tan well. 🙂

        • Slade Ham says:

          That’s three seats full. Who else plays around here, I wonder?

        • Dana says:

          All the people that told me that I HAD to go to Vegas “at least once” were so full of shit. At least I don’t have to wonder anymore, but yeeech. Hold out until Wayne Brady is opening for you for a 30 day run at Bellagio.

          The place gives me the heebie jeebies. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I prefer Atlantic City. You know going in it’s skanky!

          We once went to a casino on a reservation in the mountains of North Carolina. We didn’t find out until we scaled the mountain (via car, but helloooo carsickness!!) that 1.) there was only one way in and out (Skyline Drive) and 2.) It was a dry reservation and 3.) no tables, just slots. Good times. We each dumped $10 bucks into slot machines and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Unfortunately, I was so wound up from the drive up, there was no way I could have made the drive down the mountain without hanging my head out the window. So goodbye charming B&B at the foot of the mountain and hello crappy hotel on DRY reservation. Also, 6 channels on the tv. yay. Surreal.

        • Slade Ham says:

          That’s me, you, Joe, Lorna, and Cynthia then.

          Ante up.

        • Dana says:

          I’ll deal. Deuces, fours, the man with the ax and red ladies are wild.

          Go fish.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Wait- what beats a straight? And do the cards in a straight all have to be the same color?

        • Lorna says:

          You’re bluffing, Joe!

        • Dana says:

          Joe, if you’re dealt the Old Maid there’s a $50 bonus! Where’s Cynthia with her cheat sheet? What’s better – 6 of a kind or an extra special Royal Flush?

        • Slade Ham says:


        • Matt says:

          If this is any indication, I’m going to clean you guys OUT.

          And I’m not very good at all.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’ll play.

          You want me to play.

          I’ll play really well until about my 3rd beer, at which point I’ll start getting bored with the slow pace. Eventually, I’ll go all in on a pair of 2s just to get away from the table.

        • Slade Ham says:

          That sounds like a bluff…. are you placing little mental landmines just in case we really do play one day?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I guarantee you this story will be corroborated by anyone and everyone who has ever played poker with me. Ever. They will also corroborate that I once nearly cleaned out an entire game of players going all-in on a pair of fours and winning the pot. I was pissed. Gave up my seat and commanded that the chips be split among survivors.

          I don’t really LIKE gambling, remember? I only do it if the sum is small enough that I don’t care. And if I don’t care…well…who cares?

          Why’d I sit there all bored-like when I don’t have to?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Something just dawned on me.

          I don’t think it’s the control issues that make gambling unpalatable.

          I think it’s commitment issues.

        • kittenpants says:

          I am so in on a poker game… next time I come home to TX, that is.

        • Lorna says:

          Oh, now we’ve gotta make this happen. I want to see Becky get pissed at winning the pot with a bluffed hand and then divy up her winnings. Sounds too good to be true…….

        • Slade Ham says:

          @ Darci – And Texas will happily take your money when you return.

        • Slade Ham says:

          @ Becky – Commitment issues? How so?

          And god, are these comments seeding weird. Sorry for all the strangely placed replies.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Gambling is a commitment.

          You have to walk up to the betting window or table or slot machine, and you put the money in, and no matter what happens, it’s committed.

          There’s no taking it back, there’s no repairing the damage. If some shit goes wrong, it’s GONE.

          The finality of it.

          No negotiating. No reparations. Final. Money gone.

        • Slade Ham says:

          See, I view it the other way. It’s my total lack of commitment that makes me want to play. Lack of commitment to my bills and my lifestyle and my money…

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, yeah.

          Semantics. If you place that bet, you commit to a potential win/loss. An X factor. Not ONLY is it out of your control, it’s committing to something outside of your control.

          It’s a double-whammy. It’s monstrous.

          Totally unacceptable.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I’m so going to own all you bit- uh… bit players.

  7. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Oh, I play poker! But I have to have a cheat sheet, and I only play with pennies. I’m like a three-year-old.

    So many great images here. My grandparents and their friends (all over 80) regularly drive across the Missouri/Oklahoma border to eat at the casino buffets. They don’t even gamble (against their religion!). So I’m glad you kept it clean just in case they were there.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Clean is certainly not my forte, hahaha.

      It is really amazing how many old people frequent those places. Old people make me smile though 🙂 The buffets are worthy of a piece all on their own, really. It’s obnoxious. Seriously. People gorging.

  8. Becky Palapala says:

    For all my addictive tendencies, gambling doesn’t appeal.

    I have no real explanation for this.

    I can go into the casino and play $20 worth of nickles, get up, walk away.

    I can go to the horse track, spend all day there, and never leave up or down more than $30. Though I did win $25 on the most recent Preakness. On a 5 dollar bet to-win. That’s high-rolling for me. I was such a nervous wreck about this “huge” bet that even after I won, I immediately returned to my $2-to-show, “hey look at me, I bet on a horse race!” bets.

    The only thing I can figure is that gambling is chance, and I am a control freak. It’s just totally repellent to me beyond any sum more than chump change.

    • Slade Ham says:

      That may very well be what it is for me, too. I have the same control-freak tendencies. I know for a fact that that is why I quit smoking. It became a bit like slavery and my mind freaked out over the realization.


      Now the wheels are turning. It’s also probably why, when I do play, it’s poker or blackjack, where I have at least some semblance of control.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Here’s the question, though: Do you gamble at pool?

        Theoretically, a win there is determined by your own skill.

        Even when I was good at it, though, I refused to play for more than a few bucks, just for fun, very rarely.

        I had a boyfriend who was an actual shark, but I didn’t contribute any of my own money, even when it was a team mark and I was his “handicap.”

        Makes me nervous as hell.

  9. Dan says:

    I used to play a lot of poker. Hell I used to be able to pay my rent if I found enough games. Then it got real popular and every jackass had to play. I got so fed up with the people playing I’ve pretty much stopped. Every game there was that guy. The one that ruined the fun of playing. He was always loud, smoking a cigar, and a piss poor player. The guy who had to tell everybody that played great poker how they got lucky he didn’t suck out on the pocket king he’d been clinging to. Every hand he won was a reason no one else deserved to be at the table with him.

    I still enjoy a few $1 keno bets when I’m at a bar to pass some time. They opened table games at the horse track about 20 minutes from my home. I haven’t even bothered to go. Outside from the occasional lottery ticket or scratch off I really don’t gamble anymore. Poker wasn’t about the gambling or the money for me. It was about the competition. If I’m going to lose or win money I just don’t to do it with “that guy”.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Yeah, there are a lot of “those guys”, especially now that it’s the cool thing to do. They know everything don’t they? Guys that buy the blinds, and push all in every other hand….

      It’s made me stop playing even the ten dollar buy in games. Now, if I do play, it’s with a bunch of comics on the road. Then, win or lose, it’s always fun.

      We’ll have to add poker to the list of stuff we have to do if we ever manage to end up in the same place.

  10. Slade Ham says:

    I don’t, but it’s because I’m not that confident in my own game. I’ll play friends for drinks, but that’s about it.

    The ex though? She was a shark. I can’t even begin to count the dollars she hustled. Of course, she took those winnings and shot straight out to the casino…

  11. Riverboat gambling… Sounds fantastic!

    Casinos freak me out. I know I’d lose a lot of money. Also, like you, Vegas would make my head explode. The carpets… god, always make me think of F&L in Las Vegas. In fact, the only reason I’d ever go would be to drop acid and run around trying to channel HST.

    Fuck, I actually did that in Pennsylvania somewhere last month. Wasn’t as fun as it sounds. Too many old people.

    “Chuckle Monkey”… Hah! Love it!

    • Slade Ham says:

      I have to do Vegas. Have to. I need a really good excuse to go though. If I go solo, I’ll just get drunk and lose money. Drinking makes me much more likely to gamble. Acid would, well, it’s been a while. I won’t speculate 🙂

  12. ChrisNeri says:

    See, this is my fear when it comes to gambling. I’d lose all my money. Or worse, I’d win a bunch of money and then lose it. I’d have better luck fighting in the Kumite then I would gambling in Vegas.

    And they make you keep it clean in Vegas? You’d think for a state that legalizes gambling and prostitution they’d be a little hipper to the potty words.

    • Slade Ham says:

      I’ve never played Vegas so I can’t say of sure, but most of the casinos that I have played have pushed for a cleaner show. It doesn’t make much sense, does it?

      It’s way worse to win, btw. Losing keeps you scared.

  13. Zara Potts says:

    You write this very well, Slade. Weaving between past and present in a lovely cinematic way. Your descriptions are spot on and I can almost smell the mix of stale cigarettes, desperation and pumped in oxygen that hangs over the casino, in this piece. Nice work!

    I am not a gambler by nature, not a casino gambler anyway…. Having said that – when Simon and I went to Vegas (and I went to the casino in my pyjamas – that’s me, classy!) I did win sixteen dollars which I cashed out immediately! But I never get that pull to keep spending money. I just don’t enjoy it. Feeding dollars into slot machines just makes me feel sad. All those blank eyed people sitting in rows pressing buttons and waiting for a jackpot that will never come – is depressing.

    Isn’t it enough that we gamble on everything else in our everyday lives? People, relationships, jobs and even driving to work? They’re high enough odds for me…

    • Lorna says:

      “Isn’t it enough that we gamble on everything else in our everyday lives? People, relationships, jobs and even driving to work? They’re high enough odds for me…”

      Amen to that, Zara!

    • Slade Ham says:

      Ugh. How is it that my internet went down the DAY I finally posted something new?

      You quit at sixteen dollars? Z… that’s way too early. Multiples of $20. My slight OCD would never allow me to stop at $16.

      If you guys come back to Vegas, I’ll come and hang out. We missed you terrrrrribly this weekend. We had so much fun with your package though. You would have enjoyed it 🙂

      And yes. Yes, we do gamble too much already.

  14. Heather green bateman says:

    Good stuff!
    I wasn’t ready to quit reading! What happens next?!

  15. Natalia says:

    Yet again you took the words out of my mouth, which means I really need to get faster at my replies… So I guess I agree with the people watching comment said earlier:/ especially with a few cocktails.

    Vegas as a tourist can be fun if you go with the right people. My experience would have sucked if it was not for the last night. The last night could have been a movie, a little reckless on my part but totally worth the risk:)

    I guess I am a gambler after all.

  16. Natalia says:

    And what goes on the internet stays on the internet;)

  17. Adam Komar says:

    I bet you $1000 you won’t give me $2000.

  18. Alana says:

    It was good. 🙂

  19. Kimberly says:

    Oh man, oh man, oh man!

    I’ll try and make my comment quick, but I encapsulate best in list form. Forgive me.

    1. Only time I was in Vegas I was 11. Granny was a one-armed bandit, Gramps was a Black Jack player. Piscopo opened for Goulet and to all the girls he loved before, Julio Iglesias sang alone. Not sure if I actually want new memories of Vegas, actually. 😉

    2. 15 years later, I accompanied an admitted gambling addict to the riverboat casinos on the Indiana side of the Illinois border. He took $2,000 from his wallet and then handed it to me. “Do not, under ANY circumstances, give this back to me”, he said. Within 10 minutes, he had not only lost the cash, but the boat, which we thought would remain docked, had been set adrift for a two-hour cruise. He begged and pleaded, but I wouldn’t give him his wallet back. Then the animal emerged. “Give me my motherfucking wallet right this goddman minute.” I think I would have been less frightened if he had pulled a knife out of his pocket and put it at my throat. (I know you know that look.) I flung his wallet across the other side of the room, made him fetch it like a dog and after two hours and who knows how many thousands of additional dollars lost, we never spoke of that afternoon again.

    Thanks for the memories. Good times.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Ah, its never the good memories that I bring up in people. Well, except for Vegas. I like your Vegas. But the second part washes it out. That scene… I shuddered when I read it. It’s like PTSD.

      That’s a dick move, when they take the boat out and leave you stuck. Some of the LA boats used to go out for FOUR hours. Fucking FOUR.

      • Kimberly says:

        Yeah. I like my Vegas too. We stayed at Ceasar’s, played at Circus Circus (the only spot for kids in 1984), and saw Sigfried and Roy pre-face lifts.

        So that was nice.

        FOUR HOURS? Super dick move.

        • Kimberly says:

          Also – I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone from Beaumont that I’ve liked. What’s in the water over there?

        • Slade Ham says:

          I don’t know exactly, but I’m kinda with you. You know me though, so the trend is broken 🙂

          Of course, I had a Britta filter.

        • Kimberly says:

          Well raise my rent! I’d have never guessed!!

          But alles ist klar, Der Hamissar as to how you’ve collected so many (ahem) “good” stories along the way. Every nut job I met in Houston, seemed like, hailed from Beaumont.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Der Hamissar,. Awesome 🙂

          And yes, I’m afraid I was only one glass of tap water away from being insufferable.

  20. J.M. Blaine says:

    Just read Repeat Until Rich
    wasn’t about Ferguson
    but rather some dude
    who made a fortune counting cards
    & wasted it online poker addiction.
    Excellent writer, this guy
    crazy story.

    Ah Lake Charles.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Card counting stories always make me want to learn. Of course, every day I find myself inching closer and closer to giving in to my desire to be a white collar criminal. Perhaps counting cards and taking all that money in a pseudo-legal way would be a better alternative.

  21. So much going on. Show anxiety. Casino lights. Memories of crazy gamblers.

    Reminds me of an idiot I knew who blew around 30,000 at a casino after he and some dudes stole the money to begin with. Nuts.

    • Slade Ham says:

      I imagine losing 30K would be hard to swallow regardless of how you got it. If I lost thirty grand, I would say “fuck” a LOT.

  22. Jude says:

    Another Vegas story… so many of them and all usually have sad endings. They should rename the place Misery. There’s a Vegas in every city – the one we have here was recently found to be acting as an unofficial money laundering venue for the local drug ring.

    I remember the day Zara rang me just after she’d arrived in Vegas, and all she could say was “this place is stupid!”. Repeatedly…

    • Slade Ham says:

      I Again, I have to remedy my Vegas-less life, if only for the understanding. It seems like it is excessive in all regards, and absurdly so. It will probably make me mad, and then I will get amused and just people watch. I should have gone with Z and Simon.

      • Dana says:

        The most shocking thing to us? All the children. Newborns, infants and toddlers being dragged through what must be hell for them. All the flashing lights and loud beeps and crazy noises and GAMES yet they’re not allowed to play any of them.

        • Slade Ham says:

          They’re only not allowed to because they can’t reach. The parents are usually so distracted that if a baby did in fact start slipping quarters into the slot at the machine next to them, the mom probably wouldn’t even notice.

  23. Richard Cox says:

    I’ve never understood the allure of gambling. If you understand simple probability, you know you are going to lose your money. What the fuck do you think they use to build $5 billion casinos?

    That being said, I go to Vegas every year or two with my buddies. They enjoy gambling and don’t lose very much money, and we play golf and drink, and it’s a pretty good time. And the last two times I’ve played craps I’ve won nearly $2K, which is quite a bit considering how cheap I am when it comes to gambling.

    But a friend of mine has a gambling problem and took his family down with him and he’ll likely never fully recover. When you have the addiction I think you must not be able to see anything else.

    Interesting you mentioned one of the shittiest places in Oklahoma after we just got done talking to everyone about how great Tulsa is. Hahahahaha.

  24. Erika Rae says:

    Vegas. I’ve really only been for real once. I went with my sister-in-law for her bachelorette party and really we ended up spending more time in a tranny bar than in the casinos, which by the way, I can’t even begin to comprehend the allure of. Now the tranny bar, that was interesting to me. Not so much the trannies themselves, but the fact that the audience was mostly comprised of “bachelorettes”. Women out celebrating with friends on the cusp of tying the knot. Really? A tranny bar? I mean, I get that it’s sort of dirty or something, but is it really the right kind of dirty? Something’s off there, that’s what. And still, tables full of women dressed up all sexy-like throwing back cosmos and hooting at a scantily dressed sex-changed man dressed in a silver lame evening gown lip-syncing “Loosen Up My Buttons” and sliding up and down a pole in a way you just know is causing him pain.

    Slade, I don’t know where you found the time to write this masterpiece. I know what you’ve been up to and I’m ridiculously impressed. Dipped in awesome sauce and rolled in chocolate chips. Love the picture of the couple walking down the hall. So spot-on perfect.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Hahaha, I slipped it in. If you’re gonna roll me in chocolate chips though, can we get some new ones? I’m pretty sure the ones Rich keeps on the counter have gone stale.

      As for the allure of tranny bars, that one escapes me as well. To each his own, but that’s not on my sexual bucket list. Of course, some people dig midget porn too, but that’s another story altogether. Your description of the man and the pole and the dress and the song has just blinded my mind’s eye btw. Sweet baby jesus…

      • Erika Rae says:

        Hahaha – those chocolate chips were my fault. I bought them THAT MORNING from the store down the street. Megan and I opened them up excitedly to taste them and nearly retched. Soooo stale. Blah. So yes. We’ll have to improve the chips for rolling purposes.

        I’m still impressed.


  25. Simon Smithson says:

    The more I think about the more I can’t get over it.

    That chick fucking stabbed you, man. Holy shit. I don’t know anyone else who has been stabbed by a partner.

    I can’t believe she had a gambling problem to. Clearly, the odds were on, but not in a good way. Like, a girl that was going to stab you in the future, by rights, should have had no other issues. That one’s enough.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Oh, but it was such an entertaining whirlpool of craziness, measured and portioned, like a KFC secret blend of insanity. You never knew which way she was going to hit you next. What is bizarre, and something I definitely need to explore in the future, is how accustomed to it you become. The stabbing – which really was quite minor as stabbings go – didn’t even really surprise. I was just kind of like “of course she did.”

  26. Tawni says:

    I’m not a gambler either. My parents have always gone to Vegas a few times a year. Now that they’re retired, they go every month. They love it. As a kid, I spent a week of every summer wandering around Circus Circus. I always thought I’d like gambling when I got old enough to do it, but discovered that it kind of freaks me out, maybe for the same “loss of control” reasons you and Becky discuss above. The sad people and palpable desperation in the air of casinos always depresses me too.

    Your ex-girlfriend sounds like a trip. When you wrote: “She shouldn’t have gone. She should have quit. Forever.” I thought you were going to say that she died in a car crash on the way back to the casino. Do you know how she’s doing today?

    Great writing, Slade.

    P.S. Sorry to have missed you in Tulsa. You kids give me more than a day’s notice to organize a babysitter and I won’t miss the next chance to hang out with you, I promise. xoxo.

    • Slade Ham says:

      This is what’s scary. It’s another story for another time, but the black car she bought on the way back? She did total it out a week later. Drunk, and if I remember correctly, coming back from the casino. She lost control on a curve and took it through a strand of trees, getting ejected through the windshield and spending a week in ICU.

      Or was that the red car? No, the night she flipped the red Saturn she was definitely coming back from the casino.

      She and I actually probably twice a year. I would only be speculating about any sort of details in her life, but we are very friendly on the phone. She’s a cool chick when you remove the weapons, drugs, and tendency to double down 🙂

      PS – We’re super sorry we didn’t get to see you either. Sorry about the short notice. Next time though, for sure.

  27. Maybe you’ve already posted a bunch of this stuff, but i think the story of the working comedian, the hotels, the pre-show, the negotiation for the door, the agents, the venues, the crowds, is fascinating. There’s a novel in the backstage book, not the routine, you know? How you put together a set, hone it, take out the dogs, add the unexpected laughs. The way removing one word turns a shit joke into a winner.

    • Slade Ham says:

      I’d be lying if I said that the concept hasn’t been bounced around in my brain. Writing a novel however, seems to interest me less than any other writing endeavor. Regardless, I should be toying with some of the stories and the insight into how little of the comedy world actually happens on stage. Thanks for replanting the seed.

      And oh, how one word can make or break a bit. There’s a story of Dangerfield buying a joke form a guy that was thirteen words long, and meticulously chopping it down to twelve. It’s the little things.

  28. D.R. Haney says:

    The only gambling I ever did was small-stakes gambling — that is, if I don’t count my life. I was sure, as a teenager, that the risks I was undertaking in my chosen profession(s) would pay off, and I remember very well going out with a beautiful girl when I was a teenager, and said girl was horrified to hear me speak of moving to New York, as I did a few months later.

    “But what will you do if it doesn’t work out?” she asked.

    “It will,” I assured her.

    It didn’t, of course, in the sense that I didn’t, and don’t, have a safety net. Youthful hubris, meet the unpaid gas bill.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Ah, but don’t the people with safety nets always seem to use them? You fall a lot less when you can’t afford to. Plus, money makes a shitty measuring stick for victory. An overdue gas bill vs your name on the spine of a book? I mean, lots of people have paid their gas bills…

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