Confessions of a mid-gamer: The social cost of drinking for free

Sit at a slot machine, and the drinks will flow… so will the irritated looks from the ladies.
Rick Lax

Pre-gaming, n., a bonding ritual in which college students drink large quantities of cheap alcohol before hitting up the bars (e.g., “We were low on cash, so we pre-gamed until midnight. Then we headed to McFadden’s and had another round there.”).

Mid-gaming, n., a penurious, miserly method of drinking for free while visiting Vegas nightclubs (e.g., “I would never date a mid-gamer; I have standards.”).

This is one of those clubs that has a bar in every corridor. There’s a bar when you enter, a bar by the dance floor and a bar by the stage. Spending a night here—let’s not mention which club—without buying a drink is kind of like spending the day at Disney World without going on any of the rides.

Here’s how I did it: When my date—we’ll call her “S.”—asked me if we should order some drinks, I replied, “Sure, but can we step out of the club for some fresh air first?” Now, if S. had been here before, she might have known that the place has outside access. She might have suggested that we go up there, order drinks and kill two birds with one stone. But S. is from Chicago, and she didn’t know, so she followed me out of the club without protest.

I found a penny slot machine, fed it a dollar, and started betting the minimum: 1 cent. Before long, a cocktail waitress came by and asked if we wanted drinks.

“Should we just order our first round here?” I asked, as if I hadn’t been planning on doing precisely that from the moment S. and I had parked.

“Why not?” S. replied.

When our raspberry vodka and soda and gin martini had arrived, I tipped the waitress, cashed out my 65-cent ticket and slipped it into my wallet. S. and I strolled back to the club, and by the time we arrived, we’d finished our drinks. (Total amount spent: $2.35.)

I walked S. to the dance floor, and after 30 grinding minutes, I sensed that S. was about to ask for another cocktail, so I preempted her request by suggesting we “go back and play the slots for a few more minutes.”

And that’s how we got our second round of drinks.

S. didn’t say anything about our coming and going, so I assumed she didn’t process what was going on. I further assumed that if she did pick up on it, she’d be secretly impressed by my cleverness and economic savvy, by my technique for beating the system and fighting the Man and all that. I assumed that she’d reward my cleverness later on that evening in one way or another …

I was wrong.

The following day S. revealed to me that she knew exactly what I was doing. Turns out she wasn’t thrilled about it: “[Women] want to feel like someone is trying to impress us—especially at the beginning. We want to feel like we’re worth a $10 drink at the least, you know?”

“But the drinks cost more than $10,” I suavely pointed out.

“I started to wonder if you were even having fun with me or if you wanted to be drinking and gambling by yourself.”

“Of course I was having fun with you!”

“Well, you didn’t show it. You weren’t very considerate last night. All that walking back and forth and back and forth … did you even notice how high my heels were? Five inches, Ricky.”

“I …”

I didn’t know how to finish that sentence, but I do now: I’m sorry, S.

One could argue that mid-gaming is no different from pre-gaming. One could point out that it’s not technically illegal. But I can’t imagine that any major moral philosopher (aside from Nietzsche) would give mid-gaming his stamp of ethical approval. No matter how you slice it, mid-gaming is a grifter move.

Still, if you’re not concerned with impressing the person you’re with, and if you’re confident that your friends can keep a secret, perhaps mid-gaming is for you. Desperate times call for desperate measures. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.


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