BANGOR — Gerry Beckwith of Hampden plopped down at the roulette table Friday morning and waited for the first spin.

“I don’t believe in the odds. I believe in right here,” he said, leaning back to slap his formidable belly, “right in the gut.”

With a flick of the hand, the croupier sent a white marble swirling along the rim of polished wood as the spokes of the roulette wheel spun in the opposite direction.

“Yes! Yes!” barked Beckwith as the ball settled into the slot for number 29 and he won a $33 payout.

Maine’s first full-fledged casino opened Friday as Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway added the green felt of 14 tables for poker, blackjack and roulette to its hundreds of brightly flashing slot machines.

Penobscot County voters decided in November to approve adding the table games to what had been strictly a slot machine parlor since it opened in 2008.

A casino that’s scheduled to open in May or June in Oxford County also will have table games.

In Bangor on Friday morning, about 15 people waited in the casino’s lobby for the doors to open at 8 o’clock. Among the first to hit the tables was Tom Gagne of Bangor.

“It’s about time,” he said, noting that he prefers poker to slots. “I’d rather hold cards than push a button,” he said, and gas is too pricey for the drive to out-of-state casinos.

Larry Baum, a lobsterman, drove to Bangor from Rockland with his friend Tim Fowler, who owns a campground.

“We wanted to be here when they opened,” Baum said. “We generally go to Vegas, Miami, all over the country.”

Baum also prefers poker to slot machines. “We just feel we control our own destiny,” he said.

The numbers in the casino quickly swelled, and by 9 a.m. there were 100 people playing Texas Hold’em, blackjack, roulette, and three- and four-card poker games.

“It’s probably a little busier than we thought it would be at 8 a.m.,” said John Osborne, the casino’s general manager. “We filled two poker tables right away. What’s it going to be when people get out of work?”

Players wagered with red $5 chips and white $1 chips, some quietly intense and others cheering loudly when they won. Dealers’ trays have other colors: black chips worth $100 each and purple — worth $500.

Friday’s action was almost entirely at the poker tables. The slot machines were quiet. Several banks of slot machines had been removed to make room for the tables.

The four traditional poker tables are in a new part of the casino that includes an area where customers can watch and wager on horse racing. The race book used to be at Bangor Raceway, across the street.

John Schwarze of Brewer, taking a break to stretch his legs, said he was pleased with the new games.

“You don’t have to travel to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun,” he said, referring to the much larger casinos several hours away in Connecticut.

Cocktail waitresses circulated through the area, and many players were drinking beer despite the early hour.

The whole operation was under constant observation by a multitude of staff members, supervisors and, ultimately, a pit boss, checking the flow of the games and making sure people were enjoying themselves and the dealers were engaging.

Dealers announce, to no one in particular, how much cash they are taking in exchange for chips. Osborne said that alerts the supervisors and the pit boss to how much action is at a given table. They pay more attention to tables where gamblers are playing with $1,000 than to those with $100 players.

The table games demand more oversight than slot machines, to ensure that everybody plays fair. The casino has bolstered its security with discreet ceiling cameras keeping watch over the tables, Osborne said.

The expansion led the company to add 89 workers.

Stephen Kiel, 26, is one of the casino’s new dealers. The Bangor native worked most recently as a server at the buffet at what was Hollywood Slots, while he went to school for accounting.

He got 160 hours of training to be a dealer, about one-third of it dealing with simulated circumstances, he said.

“I’ve played poker and blackjack, and went to Vegas a couple of times and I thought about moving out there, but now we have table games here so I don’t have to move,” he said.

Kiel said a dealer needs knowledge of the games, an ability to control the tempo and a personable way with the players.

Nearby, Larry Baum made $10 bets at a blackjack table.

“We’re up a little bit,” he said, knowing full well that could change quickly. He planned to stay until lunchtime.

“We like to play. We don’t care if we win,” he said. ” It’s better if we win, of course.”

At the roulette table, Gerry Beckwith said he usually comes with his wife, who prefers slots, but he was excited about the roulette.

“I like the atmosphere, the friendliness They can have their blackjack,” he said.

After winning on three successive spins of the wheel, Beckwith lost his wager as the marble fell on a less favorable number.

“You son of a …” he grimaced. “It don’t work sometimes,” he said of his betting strategy.

Many who played Friday morning said the new gambling options are a welcome change.

“I don’t have to play the slots anymore,” said Gerard Marceau, a retiree who lives about 10 minutes away and comes in about twice a week. “I can play against people. I can make my own decisions.”

Staff Writer David Hench can be reached at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]