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Crazy game of poker

So last week I decided to do it. I mean, I’ve watched over a 1,000 hands on ESPN and I’ve played close to 100,000 hands online, but now I’m ready.

I’m going to enter the degenerate world of professional poker.

I figured I’d take a hundred bucks and convinced myself that all I needed to join the professional ranks was a pair of sunglasses and a nickname, so I donned my aviator shades and gave myself a new nickname, “The Aviator,” and headed out to the Hard Rock Casino.

For those who have visited this establishment, it quickly becomes painfully obvious that the Hard Rock people completely missed the boat.

First of all, there are televisions, clocks and easily accessible exits, all things that go against rule 34-b of the National Handbook for Casino Construction.

Secondly, it features no table games — blackjack, baccarat or craps — and it has about 10 acres of the scourge of the casino business — slot machines.

Lastly, and most importantly, they charge for drinks! I should have left immediately when I ordered my usual gaming drink (seven-and-seven) and the waitress came back asking for four dollars.

But I ignored all these signs and began (down $5, after the tip) building “The Aviator’s” empire.

12:38 p.m. Drinks: one, Stack: $95 — I decided to document this because of the clock in view. I’ve got all day and night, and this way I can see how long it takes me to at least double up. I’m a seasoned pro, and even though I’m only playing $1-$2, I should be able to clean up on these guys.

1:50 p.m. Drinks: three, Stack: $125 — Taking home two big pots in the first hour, I could not be stopped. A nice old woman to my right insists on showing me her cards almost every hand in between the puffs of smoke she blows in my face. The blue hairs are out in full force, and I’m making my move nicely.

4:10 p.m. Drinks: eight, but nine better get here soon, Stack: $140 — I should have sensed him when I smelled his cigar from far away. He sat across the table with two racks of chips. He was about 50 years old, wearing a blue Oxford and suspenders. He nodded at me when he sat down, then threw the same nod when he raked the pot in after he flopped a set of jacks on my pair of aces. Only a minor setback.

5:00 p.m. Drinks: 11, Stack: $98 — I’m on a string of bad flops and the old man’s stack couldn’t get any bigger. Other players at the table are now voluntarily handing their chips over to the cigar-wielding poker genius. My next move was a brush — a table change — for a change of scenery.

5:15 p.m. Drinks: 12, Stack: $93 — The new table is just what I needed. The dealer was a cheap green plastic visor away from the quintessential casino dealer, and he dealt quietly and quickly. On my right was a middle-aged biker who was a dead ringer for Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. Next to him was a woman, over 40 years of age, with too much lipstick and an eternally lit cigarette in her mouth. To my left sat a trio of young guys who couldn’t shut up and also couldn’t stop throwing money in every hand. A perfect cast of characters for my comeback story. All was well until the leader of the bunch asked my name. I immediately regretted naming myself “The Aviator,” because after I replied I could sense that everyone at the table was questioning my sexuality.

6:30 p.m. Drinks: 14, Stack: $51 — Suddenly, I can’t stand anyone at my table. Jesus keeps reminding me of my “hard luck,” and the endless giggling of the three kids, who have each individually stolen a pot from me, is driving me insane. Even the stoic dealer is on my nerves. I take a step back and realize those 14 drinks are finally kicking in. Though I know something the rest of the table does not, I’m a professional, and if it takes all night, I’m going to take each and every one of them down.

8:00 p.m. Drinks: 16, Stack: $18 — All right, I’m done. Let’s see, I started with $100, 16 drinks times five dollars is $90, and I have $18. That comes to a net gain of eight dollars. Eight bucks in eight hours. Wow, that’s like … a dollar an hour.

As I walked to the exit I tried to think of a way of un-tipping the waitress and getting some of my money back. I took a look back at the tables and pondered my failed poker career. I thought I was ready to make the jump to the pros. Now I know what Harold Miner feels like; it just wasn’t my time.

Maybe I’ll try some slots.