With his shaved head, striped suit, and ear-bud, the pit boss could have easily been CIA or KGB.
Instead, he seemed to be far less concerned with national security and more interested in what was going on at our Blackjack table.
There were only 3 of us at the table. Lyndsey, who wasn’t playing, sat conspicuously in between us. Alan and myself sat on eat side, and a very, very strange thing was happening. Strange indeed….
We were winning!
I harbor no delusions that I can ever beat “the house”. After playing engineer for so many years, I know the mathematical odds of walking out of a casino with a heavier wallet than what you entered with. One look at the lavish lobby, gleaming marble, and two story fountains would remind anyone that this establishment is in the business of finding suckers, shaking the coins out of their pockets, then sending them out the door with a boot in the ass.
Still, despite the odds, I enjoy it. Maybe its the blinking lights and cacophony of ten thousand slot machines sucking electricity and coins, or the thrill of doing battle with the house and a good dealer – I don’t know what it is….despite all the tripwires protecting my hard earned travel funds telling me to run like hell – I think its fun!
So, you can imagine what was going through my mind as I found myself up $80 in a matter of minutes at Blackjack. I was buzzing with adrenaline, and a combination of luck plus following basic blackjack strategy (where you always assume the next card is 10 value because 16 of the 52 cards are worth 10) had fortune smiling on me.
Our friendly dealer was Vietnamese but had studied in Thailand, so we exchanged a little Thai back and forth. When the pit boss which was keeping one twitchy eye on the action realized that:
A) These two sharp dressed guys are winning
B) With the non-playing female, this looks like a team. Hey, she even has a Blackberry.
C) The dealer and player are speaking a language that I don’t understand.
….. he grew nervous and started rattling codes into his earpiece.
As the rusty synopsis in his little brain began to formulate a conspiracy theory, we had already decided that we had better quit while we were ahead. Gambling is a curve, if you find yourself up – you probably won’t be there long, so run!
I cashed out and received my first black chip – a $100 token of my efforts and I was grinning from ear to ear. That did it, the MIT card counting guys had nothing on me. I was selling my camera when I got home and becoming a professional Blackjack player. Viva la revolution!
When we moved upstairs, Lyndsey overheard a conversation over a security radio about the “woman with the red top, just left downstairs, now standing outside the poker room”. Considering that we were the only people standing outside the poker room, it was pretty obvious who they were talking about. She could even hear the servos in the low mounted camera hum as it adjusted to where she was standing.
This was great! Not only was I still fondling a $100 chip in my pocket, but we had created a security buzz without even trying – how exciting! I glanced up at the scores of black orbs and knew that in some hidden, well-connected room, men in black suits were watching us at every moment. I just smiled for the camera(s).
We left Alan to try his luck at Poker, and against all my better logic, sat back down at a Blackjack table. I received change for my precious black chip and somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I would never see it again. 🙂 Who cares….this was fun, it was my third vagabonding Halloween, and besides – maybe in a matter of minutes I would be happily fondling two black chips in my pocket, right?
I received two 8s which I split (which is what math tells you to do). I then received two 3s, which meant that I had two hands equal to 11….a blackjack dream. This means that on either side I was very likely to hit 21, so I doubled my bet. I then received two 5s.
If I took the time to figure out what the odds were at receiving completely matching 8s, 3s, and then 5s were I would probably proceed outside and throw myself into traffic. A hand that should have been a giant winner had just gone very sour indeed. So with two 16 value hands, I watched as she beat me and swept away $40 in one drag across the green velvet. So much for my new career and the revolution.
A cold chill went up my spine and I knew that this was it…I had magically been transformed from MIT material to professional sucker. Somewhere above me, a room full of security guys that had been monitoring us were probably bursting out in laughter and saying “false alarm, nothing to worry about here.”
I knew what was happening and rather than run with tail tucked between legs, I embraced it….get some! If I was going to be branded a sucker, then I wanted to be a legendary sucker.
I leaned back in my chair and smiled at the Asian dealer who returned my smile with a “you-are-so-toast-I-do-this-every-day” confidence. Oh well. It was Halloween, I was in California, and besides…someone has to pay for those fountains out front, right?
I put another $10 on the table and looked her in the eyes……. “hit me!”