Players sat in their chairs, antsy, like a bunch of race car drivers with their engines started awaiting the drop of a flag.
When the call shot out over the speakers, and the Escapade, a 180-foot luxury ship, had crossed that magical line known as "international waters," the glass cases came off. Cash hit the tables. Chips slid into the circle.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Opus Casino Cruise Line was open for business. Sailing out of the Nautical Mile in Freeport, Opus made its maiden voyage last weekend. Through September, the new casino cruise which can carry 600 passengers sails six nights a week with music, food, booze - and yes, gaming.
Here's the scoop from aboard the ship.
For $35 (that's one green chip and two red chips), you'll set sail on a five-plus hour excursion on the Atlantic Ocean.
It begins with dinner, a buffet-style tour through all the, er, food groups: chicken, beef, pasta, fish, salad and appetizers. The menu varies. Food comes first for a reason: The ship needs about 45 minutes to reach international waters for gambling purposes, so what better way to entertain bettors than with food? If you're betting, you're drinking for free, too.
There are about 200 slots, starting at a penny and going into the dollar range, and close to 400 total gaming positions. But the table games represent the real action. "It's better than driving two hours to Atlantic City," said Tadeo De Castro, 22, of Franklin Square. "And they have tables. If they didn't have tables, I wouldn't bother."
The convenience of not having to drive a few hours south to the Jersey Shore - or north to Connecticut - was a popular feature for many of the players aboard the Escapade last Friday. For most Long Islanders, the travel time alone (traffic or not) back and forth to these casinos would take longer than the actual cruise.
De Castro and two of his friends, Daniel Robbins, 21, and Peter Greek, 22, spent the majority of their cruise at one of the dozen blackjack tables.
There's also a craps table, roulette wheel, three-card poker and mini-baccarat tables. Wagering amounts vary by table, but a $5 craps game and a $10 blackjack table were available.
The Escapade has three.
LOWER DECK It has 149 slot machines to choose from, be it the Lucky 7s, Game Maker or assorted funky-named one-armed bandits.
DECK TWO The main gaming floor, with the table games and slots.
TOP DECK Includes two poker tables for Texas Hold'em tucked behind the bar and food areas. Next to the buffet is an outdoor deck with a DJ. For romantics, it's a place to sit outside to admire the moonlight and majesty of the ocean. For the gamblers, it's a spot to lament not picking up your bets before that dude rolled a 7.
Once the casino closes for the 45-minute ride back to the dock, the top deck becomes party central. Forget the chips, it's time to pump some fists. The desserts are pretty sweet, too.
Opus Casino Cruise
395 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport
INFO 877-321-OPUS (6787), opusccl.com
SAILS Tuesday-Sunday through September. Passengers must be at least 21 years old.
HOURS Tuesday 10:15 a.m.-5:20 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday
7:15 p.m.-12:20 a.m.; Friday-Saturday 7:15 p.m.-1:20 a.m.,
and Sunday 1-7 p.m.
COST $35 (includes meal)
* Going with a group of friends? Get to the tables well before they open. It won't increase your odds of winning, but it boosts your chances of sitting together.
* Queasy types should consider taking motion-sickness medication.
* Bring cash, unless you like paying $4 ATM fees.
* It's a long trip at sea, so pace yourself both economically and emotionally.