It’s amazing how small the world can seem when you make an effort to connect with those around you. In the heart of Sin City, around a quiet roulette table in the Linq Casino, I was reminded that finding commonalities with strangers isn’t just a coincidence: we simply forget how alike we really are.

Approaching an empty casino table might seem intimidating with the pressure to act like you “know what you’re doing”. Winning becomes an afterthought. I sat down to an empty table and a smiling dealer. Her English wasn’t the strongest, coming from China a few years ago, but she loved making conversation. We talked about everything from our families to our favorite movies. A little win or loss here and there didn’t distract us from building a surprisingly close connection. “I love the romantic movies! I love the romantic. Devon Barbarbarbar! Devon… Bar bar..” she enthusiastically tried to recall an actor’s name. She struggled to remember and I was at a loss, so the conversation faltered. To this day I still have no clue who she was referring to, and sadly, I’ll never know. The dealers rotated soon after, and I never saw her again.

With the new dealer came new players. A few kids (well, young adults to be fair) enthusiastically sat down, expressing their excitement and lack of experience. Following a brief string of lucky spins, one girl decided to cash out. She jarringly proclaimed to a confused table that she was ready to “money up”. Following an awkward silence, she apologetically clarified. “Oh sorry, I wanted to cash out”, she said to the dealer, “I’m from Connecticut, it’s what we call it there. Right? I’m not crazy!”

“I live it Connecticut and I’ve never heard that!” I jokingly replied. Normally, I would have kept my head down and thoughts to myself, but their positive energy gave me that little impulse to start a conversation. What’s the worst that could happen?

Making Friends in Unlikely Places

Despite our difference in terminology, we quickly became friendly and made small talk for several minutes. The three traveled 2,500 miles to Vegas, but amazingly, live only 25 minutes away from me! We were able to naturally jump between aspects of Connecticut life as if we’ve known one another for years. While we crossed paths a couple times after they left the table, it was a reminder of how naturally we find similarities with complete strangers, how quickly we develop a sense of camaraderie, and how fleeting these connections can be. The next time you visit somewhere new, make a friend. Even if it’s only for a few hours, running into a friendly face in an unfamiliar area makes a world of difference.

During these friendly exchanges and lucky spins, our table grew a sizable crowd. Many came and went, which perpetuated the cycle of finding similarities, building connections, and simply having more fun. Ronnie lost $6,000 earlier in the week and always bet $20 on 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. Two women just got off the plane from my favorite city in Norway. Lucy was betting nickels ($5 chips) while she waited for her husband, a physical therapist who used to work at the hospital where I had my placements.

We’re Not So Different, You and I

Given enough time, everyone began to cheer for the spots we all had chips on. We never changed our betting strategies, but we shared our birthdays and lucky numbers. Even things as insignificant as being born in the same month was enough to build a fleeting friendship, as new players came and went. We all wanted to win, but when a spin only awarded one of us, it was almost more disappointing than when nobody won at all. Playing together, and winning together, became the objective when the table got along. Those who lost it all were given genuine consolation, and those hitting it big would share high-fives and fist bumps. We would order the same drinks, tip together, and greet new players with the same ice breakers. New friends came and went, I wound up winning a few bucks, but the memories of a night well spent have stuck with me more vividly than any of the lights and sounds of the Vegas strip.

A final thought from one wanderer to another: make friends, step out of your comfort zone, and always leave a chip on the zeroes!

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