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Academy Awards themed night of gambling, competition

casino night

Casino Night is an annual “night out” for St. Olaf students. Whether they have previously gambled at the tables in Vegas or have only ever played the card game “Go Fish,” this is a night of fun, competition and just a little risk.

Inter-Hall Council themed this year’s Casino Night in honor of the 90th Academy Awards. They cleverly named the event STOcademy Awards and decorated the Black and Gold Ballrooms with a (paper) red carpet, (plastic) Oscar Statuette and movie-star worthy decor. At 7 p.m. on March 5, St. Olaf students arrived in their red carpet attire, ready for a night of gambling.

Casino Night began in Stav Hall with streamers, an array of posh desserts and a high end turkey meal. However, the food served at Casino Night didn’t live up to the standard Bon Appetit set; by the time I arrived, all that remained was a half-eaten, over-sugared birthday-type cake, warm guacamole and the remnants of a vegetable platter. There was not enough food provided for the 200 or so gamblers present at the event and what was provided was simply sub-par. However, having food catered at all elevated the status of the event to just below Oscar-worthy.

This was my second Casino Night experience. Last year, I was a card dealer at a Poker table. It was at that table that I realized that St. Olaf students are not always “Minnesota Nice.” In fact, I was berated many times last year for shuffling the deck incompletely or dealing the cards incorrectly. It’s true, my dealing skills may not have been up to par with the Vegas golden standard, but these St. Olaf students … man, they can be competitive. This year, I decided to take a more passive approach to Casino Night. I took off my dealer hat and put on my Poker face.

The main ballroom was packed with students playing Blackjack, Texas Holdem, Poker and even Russian Roulette. Some students took the gambling casually. Others took the more cut-throat approach, valuing the poker chips in their hands as real money and their peer opponents as their enemies.

I realized that I also have a competitive edge that could only resurface through a fast-paced game of Bingo. There exists a certain stereotype around Bingo, usually referencing old, retired folks on a Wednesday night. When I suggested playing Bingo to my fellow gamblers, they all groaned. They too were thinking of that stereotypical Bingo room where the caller would trudge, slow-paced, low-energied through a Bingo game until some old chap stood up and called out “Bingo!” But this was not the case with Casino Night Bingo. The Bingo Caller, Assistant Director of Resident Life Joshua Lee, quickly listed off numbers. Lee called out nicknames like “Knock at the door” in which case the room of students would call back “Twenty-four!” He would call out “B4” and the players would gleefully respond “And after!” All the while, I was still scrambling to find the last number called. It was so fast-paced, in fact, that I had to demote myself from a two card Bingo player to just a one card player. I admit to angrily flipping my Bingo card as someone across the room yelled “Bingo!” I was one chip away from winning.

At the end of the night, all the players rounded up their chips. Twenty-five chips exchanged for one raffle ticket which could go into the small, medium or large prize draws. Among the prizes were gift cards, a giant teddy bear, Beats Headphones, candy and Mall of America amusement park tickets. Although I didn’t win anything, it was satisfying enough watching my peers leap out of their chairs with excitement upon hearing they had won cupcake knee-high socks.

Highs of the night include the enthusiastic Bingo Caller, the prestige of the decor, the Roulette table and theJazz bands which played all night, playing radio tunes like “Havana” by Camila Cabello as well as beloved Jazz oldies. Lows of the night include the lack of fresh food and the lack of winning on my part. But, not everyone is a winner, and that last one is just part of the fun of the gamble. Overall, Casino Night was a success.