silver sevens | Nevada Public Radio
Revisiting the place where I learned that Vegas friendships, like casinos, come and go
On our first visit to Silver Sevens we went for bingo. It was 2012 and the casino was called Terrible’s. A cartoon sheriff in a red vest and a mustache as long as a rattlesnake adorned the marquee outside. We traded dollars for Dobber at the vending machines, weaved past old women with cigarettes and paper rainbow packs, and found a table that fit all 10 of us. Our accidental “bingos!” and laughter were unwelcome among the regulars, but two of us, including myself, won. We were there for the novelty, not the money. Just a group of graduate students looking for things to do in our new, unfamiliar city on a Friday night.
We soon reached the casino floor on the first floor. We tried our hand at craps and blackjack. The pit was bigger then. It pulsed in the center of the casino like an open heart on an operating table. As we waited our turn for the live action, we turned to the dealers for answers: Will we pull it off, Doc? Back then, everyone had to wait to gamble because the $3 minimum lured us all: locals, tourists, addicts, and budget conscious alike. On good nights we turned $20 into $40 at the roulette table. Bad nights made us grumble, but our wallets were still well stocked. When we told Jimmy, our favorite dealer, that we were writers, he told us a few little things about Terrible: We used to have poetry night! That knowledge and the line of pass made us believe we belonged there, that the casino was built for us.
There was no better place to get bored and broken in Vegas. But when we graduated from school, the minimum became too rich for us. We drove downtown to El Cortez, where we stayed for a few months before gentrification pushed us back to our homes on Flamingo and Paradise. During our hiatus, a $7 million renovation had transformed Terrible’s into the Silver Sevens. Our sheriff was put behind bars at the Neon Museum. Metallic numbers cut precisely through the new logo, promising us bigger sums of money than we had ever won. We parted from the double doors to find our beloved bingo room replaced with slot machines, our three-dollar tables increased to five, and Jimmy adjusting the accessories of his new uniform: a winged collar tuxedo, bow tie, and satin cummerbund.
It was a worthy ending. Many of us were on our way out anyway. Our Vegas stints had ended with diplomas and out-of-state job offers, so amidst the slot machines we said our goodbyes, dizzy from our tears, free drinks and the swirling pattern of the casino carpet. Only me and my then boyfriend stayed behind to survive in Las Vegas. Although we invited new students to our casino excursions the following semester, the price was too high. They were serious writers who had come to town to thrive. Besides, we were graduates, alumni, and the Silver Sevens would never be Terribles again. When we returned it was a couple enjoying a date night. We remembered our past wins and our new old friends.
Reduced to two players, we discovered that 1-2 Texas Hold’em was a game we could afford. Within a few months we became poker sharks on opposite sides of the table, eventually devouring each other. In the summer after our split, we still met at the Silver Sevens, but we often fought. Then this friendship, too, died out on the hot pavement in the parking lot.
In 2018, Silver Sevens removed the roulette table. They downsized to a smaller, bouncier craps table. The changes forced me to go where I know they always wanted me: slots. I tried Buffalo, Wheel of Fortune and Video Poker and spent more time and my twenties with no one reminding me that I wasn’t there for the money. Terrible’s had been a place of refuge, but Silver Sevens was where people I loved left me. One night, on a walk to the parking garage, I finally accepted that life in Las Vegas meant that friends, like casinos, came and went. I was the only one who could save me. I stopped going to Silver Sevens altogether.
A few months ago I stepped onto the Silver Sevens for the first time in three years. Jimmy recognized me. He hugged me over the craps table. “I haven’t seen you for a while,” he said, and I replied, “Because I’m good.” I didn’t tell him I had new friends. A new job. A new lover. A new favorite casino for Friday nights. I noticed that there were far fewer tables to rotate between despite being in the same uniform. But we’ve caught up. He gave me dice. I tipped him often and well. When I finally climbed onto a heater, our playful banter returned as if I had never left it. “Does your arm get tired?” he asked me. “No,” I told him. “It’s getting stronger.”