The other day I went over to the Mandalay Bay Casino to buy some tickets to The Lion King for myself, my sister and her two kids.  I scored some great seats but they were expensive — very expensive.  I felt a tinge of guilt — surely it would have been more responsible to settle for cheaper seats further back.

Now here's where the genius of the modern casino shows itself most clearly.  The Lion King box office is located right next to the Mandalay Bay's card room.  I looked over at it after I bought the tickets and saw that there were several games in progress, even though it was just after 10 in the morning.

I was seized with an irresistible thought — if I bought in to one of those games, got some good cards and played them well, I could win back all the money I just spent on the tickets in a matter of hours.  The alternate possibility, that I could lose my buy-in in a matter of minutes and walk out of the casino even poorer than I already was, hardly figured into my thinking.

I bought in to a game, got some good cards, played them well and started making money.  I was very selective about the hands I stayed in with, didn't chase long-shot draws and got some invaluable help from a few players at the table who just couldn't bring themselves to fold what were obviously second-best hands.

I played for about three hours and only won four or five pots, but three of them were monsters.  I looked down at a certain point and saw that I was up about the amount I paid for the tickets.  I racked my chips, cashed them in and walked out into the grueling heat of the valet parking pick-up stand.

Back home I popped open a beer — it was the end of the day for me — sat back in an armchair and felt just fine.  I'll be seeing The Lion King for free.  Acuna matata.