SAC's annual Casino Night

A group of Wetsminster students at SAC's Casino Night on Nov. 4 at the Draw. The night was a success, brought in over 150 people and was a low-stakes way for students to flex their gambling prowess. Photos courtesy Westminster SAC. 

A group of Wetsminster students at SAC's Casino Night on Nov. 4 at the Draw. The night was a success, brought in over 150 people and was a low-stakes way for students to flex their gambling prowess. Photos courtesy Westminster SAC. 

Westminster students Elle Fisher, Skye Galley, and Danika Kimball at SAC's annual Casino Night. Westminster's women dressed to the nines in daring high heels and shapely black dresses for the event. 

Westminster students Elle Fisher, Skye Galley, and Danika Kimball at SAC's annual Casino Night. Westminster's women dressed to the nines in daring high heels and shapely black dresses for the event. 

Westminster students tested their card-counting prowess and luck with the dice at “Casino Night,” one of SAC’s largest annual events, which was hosted Nov. 4 at the Draw.

They called, raised and folded at Texas Hold’em, split stacks at Blackjack and shot craps with outsized exuberance—all the while knowing that they might win big or win nothing at all, but knowing foremost they had nothing to lose.

SAC’s Casino Night is part of an ongoing trend on college campuses where student committees seek to satisfy cravings for casino-style games without running afoul the law. They’ve found an ingenious way to create the thrill of chance-taking without, strictly speaking, risking a loss.

“I make the mistake of saying ‘raffle,’ but [for legal reasons] I should refer to it as an ‘opportunity drawing,’” said Sarah Hirning, SAC president. “Students give nothing of value to participate in the evening, so it is technically not considered gambling in the sense that would violate restrictions.”

The organizers gave each student a starting sum of chips to play with, but the players were allowed to exchange further winnings for extra tickets in the drawing. The better they played the odds on the board, the better their odds at a prize.

Westminster women dressed to the nines in daring high heels and shapely black dresses, and the men seemed to have blown off the pages of a designer brochure, with crisply cut suits and swagger in spades.

“It adds some excitement to dress up,” said Wesley Spargo, sophomore with a bow tie snug at his throat. “Look good, play good, kind of thing.”

The night’s most coveted buy-ins were at Texas Hold’em. Although, onlookers never would have guessed by the players’ emotionless faces, which had all the cheer of a police lineup.

“The key is not showing your facial expressions,” said Andrew Wolford, environmental studies major. “You don’t want anybody to know how you feel about your hand. That’s why some of them wear sunglasses.”

The table saw some emotion, however, when Wolford pushed all his chips in on the strength of three Queens that weren’t strong enough.

“No way!” said Wolford, disappointment turned face up. “He beat me with a full house on the river card. I can’t believe that.”

A group of Westminster students pose for the camera at SAC's Casino Night, dressed to the nines for the event.

A group of Westminster students pose for the camera at SAC's Casino Night, dressed to the nines for the event.

Westminster students "gambling" at Casino Night. Although Utah has strict gambling laws, because students give nothing of value to participate in the evening, the event does not violate any restrictions.

Westminster students "gambling" at Casino Night. Although Utah has strict gambling laws, because students give nothing of value to participate in the evening, the event does not violate any restrictions.

A number of students expressed upset, not because they’d lost at Hold’em, but rather because they didn’t get the chance to.

“No one’s getting up. Their butts are glued to the seats,” said one student, who asked not to be named. “I felt like they were being inconsiderate. I waited forty minutes and still wasn’t able to play.”

Members of SAC said they did their best to involve all students who came to the event.

“We spoke with the dealers about complaints, and they did their best to allow more students to play,” said Hirning, SAC president. “But there were more students than we anticipated. One hundred students RSVP’d… and 150 showed up, which is double the number of last year.”

The most accessible tables were at Blackjack, where the mood was mellow and chatty.

“It’s casual but engaging, and it’s easy math,” said Aspen Hopkins, neuroscience major, scraping the felt for a hit. She stayed on 18. The dealer went bust. Based on the stack of her chips, Hopkins had the math down.  

“I really don’t ever play,” she said. “It’s beginner’s luck.”

The event’s wild-child was the craps table.

“Craps is a very social game,” said Ryan Cooks, who’d drawn a crowd to the table with a lengthy lucky streak. “A lot of people can play at once, even though only one person rolls the dice. It can get confusing, too, but the dealers were really good at explaining everything and giving us tips. And it’s fun because you can win really big.”

Big, indeed. Close to the end of the night, the crowd around Cooks had grown to nearly 30, three rows deep and packed tight. Heads craned for a view as Cooks hurled his last shot, and when the dice came to a stop, so did every last game in the house: all heads turned to witness the night’s biggest commotion—holy craps!

Some students earned as many as 15 raffle tickets. Prizes included a $50 Amazon gift card and two $25 gift cards. Not exactly a high-stakes payout. Nonetheless, students were playing to win. On the last hand of the night, Hopkins was showing 17 at Blackjack.

“Hit. No, wait, stay! Okay fine, hit! No…I don’t know!” Hopkins said.

The math, it seems, got harder with time. Hopkins sighed and looked at the dealer.

“What do you think? Hit?”