All I wanted to do… Or: Departure day! (Being part of my impromptu holiday travels series)

January 9, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 9, 2019 2020

The plan was simple enough: Leave my parent’s home in the greater New York metropolitan area around 9 the morning of Friday, Jan. 3, 2020; drive about 105 minutes to the Wind Creek casino (formerly a Sands property) in Bethlehem, Pa.; play poker for roughly three hours, until 2 p.m.; and then drive another three and a half hours for dinner and a night’s stay with my friends in Northern Virginia. If I timed things nicely and got a bit of luck, I would avoid heavy rush-hour traffic — especially around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital — and have a little extra cash in my pocket.

All I wanted to do was play some poker on the last full day of my trip, and I was getting grief from this, that and the other.

Actually, most of the grief was coming from my parent’s computer, which had been the focus of many of my information technology efforts over the course of the past 10 or so days. In an effort to improve the speed of a seven-year-old basic 21-inch iMac, I’d installed CleanMyMac X and used it to delete some cruft. The machine seemed to be operating a bit better. (Your mileage may vary; not a paid or otherwise compensated endorsement.)

Unfortunately, over the holidays, I’d decided to uninstall the antivirus software on Parental Unit’s iMac because it wasn’t working the way I expected it to. On that last night, I realized that I still needed to install it again. I did so with vexing effects. The computer had trouble connecting to the Internet, rendering it effectively useless for my parent’s purposes. If worse came to worst, I decided, I would once more remove the antivirus software and leave things like that.

I tinkered with the machine intermittently over the course of the evening before throwing in the towel and heading to bed. I hated to leave something important to do in the morning, but it seemed the best approach to take.

Friday’s departure prep went pretty smoothly — except for the computer part. My parent had turned off the iMac because it seemed to have locked up. When I turned it on, it took forever to boot. I dreaded the prospect of rebooting from a backup disk and installing an earlier edition of the hard drive. I supposed I’d be able to initiate the recovery process and then take off.

When the machine finally — finally! — got going, it… seemed to be fine. I tried a few things and thought the iMac was behaving properly. Whatever the problem was, I guessed that it had worked itself out.

My parent had gone for a morning walk with the family dog when my car was fully packed and ready to go. After toying with the thought of taking off without a proper goodbye, I went after them and intercepted the duo on their return to the house. A hug or two later and I was off.

It was a little after 9:30 — not too bad considering everything. But while I was on the move, I still wasn’t quite ready to jump on the highway. My car was on its last gallon of gas, and I still needed to stop by an ATM to extract the cash I planned to use at the poker table.

I got the money quickly and started driving to a conveniently located New Jersey station. Alas, as I made my way there, my car’s driving range indicator dropped from around 10 miles to 0. I was still, I estimated, about five miles away from the gas station that had the best combination of low prices and minimal added travel time.

Well, I didn’t relish the prospect of running out of fuel on the highway, so I changed my destination to what had initially seemed to be a less optimal gas station. I pumped a few gallons, hopped back behind the wheel and got going to the casino.

Some 90 minutes later, I exited Interstate 78 and took local roads to the casino. It was a cool gray day, but I parked outside and walked through the outdoor lot and the covered bus terminal to the nearest casino entrance.

After perusing the floor diagram in the foyer, I walked into the establishment, turned left and got my brand-spanking-new card from the player services counter in the course of about two minutes. Then I walked past the entrance to the poker room and asked to play in a $1–$2 game. In around 10 minutes, nine players and a dealer settled in around a table. There was no cashier in or even near the poker room, so the dealer took cash from all the players and handed out chips. I started out with $220 in seat five, directly across from the dealer.


…or was it?

When the dealer swiped my brand-spanking-new player’s card, the computer refused to accept it. She handed it to a floor manager, who came back a short while later and told me that my card didn’t work because it didn’t start with the right numeric sequence, 5751.

I just got this card! I announced indignantly, to no avail. I was advised to go to player services to straighten things out.

But I just got this card! I protested. No joy.

They should send someone over to player services for you to take of it, the man to my left muttered. I grunted in agreement but didn’t request that this be done on my behalf.

I waited an orbit or two. I wasn’t getting good cards, so I got up and walked to player services with my useless brand-spanking-new card.

There was, naturally, now a line. And it wasn’t moving.

My first Wind Creek Rewards player’s card.
My brand-spanking-new Wind Creek Rewards player’s card, which the Wind Creek Bethlehem poker room computers refused to accept about 10 minutes after I had acquired it from the Wind Creek Bethlehem player services counter. I took a picture for posterity as I waited in line to replace the dang thing.

After 10 minutes (maybe more!), I went to a station at the broad marble counter. When I explained the issue to a sympathetic young woman, she immediately told me that she’d noticed that my card had a strange number.

We never discussed it explicitly, but the problem seems to have been that on Thursday evening I’d gone online to sign up for a player’s account. Instead of saving me time, as I’d anticipated, this act of advance preparation resulted in my wasting at least 15 minutes of my life.

The casino employee, who was very nice, eventually handed me a new card. I walked back to the table, gave it to the dealer — a new one — who, after a moment, swiped the card. It worked!

Why, you may ask, would the Wind Creek family of gambling houses issue player cards (brand new ones!) that can’t be used at one of their casinos — indeed, at the very casino that had created the card? I dunno. It seems like a failure in their system.

But here I was, ready to settle in for a bout of poker.

Well, almost ready. I declined to “buy the button,” instead waiting a few minutes for the big blind to naturally progress to my seat. I hoped to pick up on some tells or tendencies, although I don’t think I was successful.

A few minutes later — it must have been 12:15 p.m. — the button came. And that’s when the fun began…

Sort of. More to come!

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