I'd never gambled in a casino and didn't intend to begin in Atlantic City. Two hours after my arrival, I was on the telephone to my editor.

"Sending me here with no money to gamble is like putting a kid in Disneyland with no tickets to ride," I whined into the phone. The atmosphere hooked me, I couldn't stay in this place without playing a few tables.The chief OK'd a $160 ceiling, and I strode onto the floor like a real hitter.

The slots swallowed $40 worth of silver dollars in about 10 minutes, and I retreated to gather my wits. Upstairs in his hotel room, Henry Allen poured over how-to-gamble booklets. I picked up the blackjack instructions and decided that was my game.

An hour's wait earned me a seat at a $5-a-bet blackjack table where I promptly lost $60. This was not fun - I had two more days to spend in this pleasure factory, and I didn't relish spending them broke. At the unlikely hour of 4 a.m. the next day, I plunged back in. There were no seats at the $5 tables; I sat down at a $25-a-bet blackjack table, casually changing a $100 bill for chips. I tried to affect a world-weary look to indicate I spent every Sunday 4 a.m. betting $25 on each draw of the cards.

In five minutes I had more than doubled my money. I folded a couple of $100 bills into my wallet and went to bed a winner as a foggy dawn broke over the Boardwalk.

Just before check-out time on Sunday afternoon I bought eight $25 chips. It had been so easy the night before, I told myself; why waste time on the $5 tables - win four chips there and you have $20. Win four chips with the big boys and that's $100. In the course of 10 hands, I lost all of my chips. Never mind that my newspaper bore the brunt of my ill luck, I was a loser. And America doesn't like losers. I felt grumpy. I felt worse when Allen and I learned our connecting flight to Washington from Philadelphia was oversold. One seat was available on the next flight.

"You know what this means?" Allen said to me.

And with that, he tossed a quarter in the air. I called heads. It was tails.