Trip on a Tank: Foxwoods from a beginner's point of view

By Sarah M. Corigliano

Assistant Managing Editor

LEDYARD, CONN. Before last Thursday, I had never gambled. I never played the Lottery and rarely purchased scratch tickets. My 401K has been enough of a gamble for me.

My philosophy has always been that I work very hard for my money and I just can't justify spending it on something that has no guarantee of a positive outcome like a new pair of shoes, or an ice cream cone, for example.

But I recently got the urge to get away for the day, and I didn't want to drive so far that most of my time would be wasted in the car. And I wanted to try something new.

So my boyfriend, David, and I hopped in the Corolla and headed down to Foxwoods Resort & Casino to see where our combined $200 could get us. I know, that amount is peanuts for big shot high rollers but for a first- timer and someone who isn't big on gambling, we felt that was a big enough risk.

To get to Foxwoods in Ledyard, Connecticut, we had to take Route 91 South to Route 84 East, to Route 2 East. Then it was a straight shot to "The Wonder of It All" which is, coincidentally, just past Norwich.

The first thing on the agenda was dinner because we had been stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour on Route 2 as the result of a tractor trailer rollover.

After surveying a few choices, we found a restaurant that had a menu we both agreed on. One appetizer, one soft drink and two grilled chicken dinners and $50 later, we were fueled up and I was ready to try the slots.

In retrospect, I should have tried to get my gambling legs on a lower-denomination machine before moving up to the $1 slots but I was feeling lucky. I went through $40 like nothing. At the mall, with that amount of money, I could have easily had a cute pair of sandals, or most of an outfit if I was a smart shopper, but I tried not to put it in that perspective. Gambling is all about possibilities. David then suggested I try the nickel slots, since it would take me longer to lose my money and would allow me to learn how these little devilish machines worked.

We had a system worked out he kept all the money in his pocket so, when I spent it, I didn't feel like I was spending any of my own. That was nice. And I found that I liked the real slots not those video screen ones. I felt like something could really happen on the machines where you could hear the real whirring and see the actual symbols line up.

David watched my behavior change from confused to passionate and, after spending $120 with very little benefit (I think I made $30, which I then put back into the machine) we decided to take a break. So, having been to the casino before, David walked me around the floor and showed me the various games at green felt- lined tables.

I have to admit I was too intimidated to try my hand at any table games, and was quite repelled after I saw one young man lick his chip before placing it on the table. I hoped it was a one-time behavior for good luck ... but I really didn't want to touch any chips after that.

At that point, I realized that visiting the casino was more than taking my chances at blowing my spending budget or hitting it big it was great people watching.

From old dingy sweat outfits to three piece suits and evening wear, the casino drew all kinds of fashion and behavior. Many gamblers had their "Wampum Cards" with them and even had them attached to their shirts by a springy neon cord so they would not forget them in a machine. Some people played two slot machines at once. And it seemed like everybody was smoking (just an FYI Foxwoods offers smoke-free casino rooms, as well).

One woman I observed had hit the jackpot the little light and siren were going off on her machine and everything and she didn't even look excited while she kept putting quarters into the machine beside the one she had just hit on. I would have been jumping for joy, even if it was only $2,500. That would have been $2,500 I didn't have two minutes earlier.

Needless to say, the money went fast. My approximation is that we actually started gambling at 6 or 6:30 p.m. and I was ready to go at 10:30. We left with $45 out of the $200 we started with, so I guess it wasn't a total loss. And I might have to go again sometime to try my luck ... just not anytime soon.