All bets are off

The Lizard of Fun is sitting in front of my computer, clicking away like a debt-plagued doctoral student practicing for a stint on "Jeopardy."

"You’re not surfing that voyeur Web site again, are you?" I ask, wandering over to see what’s so engaging. "You haven’t blinked in an hour."

"We lizards can do stuff like that," it says, dealing another round of solitaire. "Damn. Try again."

I watch as the Lizard clicks and drags, clicks and drags. Ten minutes pass, then 15. "Didn’t I erase this game from the hard drive after I wasted an entire 24 hours playing it?" I say, riffling through the casino guide that was once a daily newspaper. "You gotta be careful — it’s like gambling. Gets addictive."

"I can stop anytime," says the Lizard. "Just one more hand … say, what time is it, anyway?"

Before I can look at my watch, the Lizard’s clicked on the TV news, which shows a throng of people lined up along Michigan Avenue.

"I knew it!" it shouts. "The casino’s grand opening! We can’t miss that — it’s the weekend’s epicenter of fun. Besides, I hear there are babes without pants there."

The Lizard leaps into action. It whips out its glitziest tie and rifles through my wallet for a handful of credit cards. "Whooo-hoo, I’m feeling lucky already!"

When we arrive at the casino, the lineup stretches around the block. "Isn’t this like waiting to get into a 7-Eleven?" I ask. "If it’s going to be open 24 hours a day, what’s the rush?"

"You really don’t get it, do you?" says the Lizard. "This is the most fun thing that’s happened here since maybe ever. Besides, people like to wait in line. Adds to the fun. Think how awful that new Star Wars movie would’ve been if people hadn’t been bonding over Yoda impressions and Darth Vader conspiracy theories for weeks beforehand?"


Finally, after waiting in the heat for what feels like forever, we’re granted access to the gambling pleasuredome. The Lizard falls on its knees in the air-conditioned lobby and kisses the ground.

"You’re kidding, I hope."

"No way," it says, running a paw over the floor’s garish red, orange, yellow and blue geometric swirls. "I’m gonna marry this carpet. Or at least ask it to live with me. It clearly knows how to have fun."

We wander around the casino, dazzled by blinking lights and shiny things and the sheer overblown cheesiness of it all.

"Correction," says the Lizard. "One of us is dazzled. The other one is trying to figure out the best way to score big."

"With the games? Or the carpet?"

"No, with a Grandette," says the Lizard sarcastically. "Of course with the games — what do you think I am, some Woodstock mosh pit creep? Puh-leeeze."

We cruise past the crowds of people trying their luck at roulette and Pai Gow poker, craps and blackjack.

"How do people know how to play these games?" I ask. "Is there some kind of course you can take, like Blackjack 101?"

"Yeah," says the Lizard. "There’s a book: Losing Money for Dummies."

"I’m never gonna get addicted to gambling," I say. "I’ll run out of money before I figure out whether I should be doubling down or anteing up or looking sideways …"

"It’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose. All you need to know."

"I guess that’s why so many people play the slots. Just keep putting your money into the machine."

The Lizard nods. "Exactly. Much easier to understand."

"Is it?"

"Yeah," says the Lizard dreamily, watching as a row of gamblers deposit money into the slot machines like kids feeding piggy banks. Its eyes begin to glaze over with little dollar signs.

"Which one do you think has the best odds?" it asks. "The Elvis ones? The Monopoly ones? Mmmmm."

"Are there any with lightning strikes? Maybe lottery tickets? Shark attacks?"

The Lizard begins to look impatient. "Come on, freak girl! We’ve been here for minutes already, and we still haven’t spent any money! It’s time to get gaming!"

"Gaming? What happened to the ‘b’ and ‘l’?"

"They took them out," explains the Lizard. "I think they stood for ‘big loser.’ Or possibly ‘bad luck.’"

The Lizard drags me into a quickly moving line. "Okay, let’s check this game out," it says. "If this many people are waiting, it must be a good one."

When it gets to the front of the line, the Lizard pops my credit card into the machine and presses a few buttons. There are some beeping noises and a quick whir. "Jackpot!" shouts the Lizard, scooping up a pawful of 20-dollar bills. "Let’s go celebrate at the Brown Derby!"

It tries again, and more cash comes out. And again. It waves the money under my nose, hopping up and down with excitement. "See, I told you I was one lucky reptile!"

"You’re lucky, all right," I say. "That’s an ATM."