PAUL'S POINTERS: OH THE THINGS YOU'LL SEE
By Paul Wilson
BJI contributing writer Paul Wilson is a quasi-Renaissance man and graduate of Millsaps College. Some of his interests and hobbies include finance, consulting, travel, photography, and rock music. He's an avid baseball fan. Paul has done freelance writing and editing for gaming publications and takes blackjack, video poker, and sports betting very seriously. As we learned in the November 2014 issue, he also might have a "thing" for Wonder Woman.
When I was a kid I listened to a lot of Atlanta Braves baseball broadcasts on the radio and later watched the games on television. I remember one of the Braves announcers saying "If you stick around this game long enough, you'll see some crazy things." (I believe it was the late Ernie Johnson or maybe it was the late Skip Caray or both who said that.) Either way, they were right. As a fan I've seen no-hitters, triple plays (even an unassisted one turned by my beloved Braves while I watched from the center field seats in Busch Stadium against the Cardinals), back-to-back-to-back home runs, steals of home plate, great plays, horrendous errors, daring base-running, ridiculous base-running, fights, bench-clearing brawls, a player's pants around his ankles at first base, managers, players, and even fans being ejected; bad craziness in the best and worst of ways. I've seen a lot, but in any given game, I could see something I've never witnessed before. To me that's pretty cool. If you think about it, blackjack is kind of like baseball. It's generally played on a green surface; there's lots of numbers and statistics, and there's the "book" of strategy to name a few. Players on both sides get hot and cold. There are glorious winning streaks and stomach turning losing streaks. Yes, blackjack is a lot like baseball. Stick around the blackjack tables long enough and you're liable to see some pretty crazy stuff too.
After tackling some pretty heady stuff with the Illustrious 18 in the previous two issues, of BJI I'm going to shift gears this month and do some light-hearted story telling. The permanent lessons or takeaways, if there are any, will be primarily up to the reader to decide. Join me as I sit here late one night in my office with a large glass of ice tea and the Beatles playing on the "jukebox" as I take a walk down memory lane and recount some of the more "interesting" things I've seen on the green-felt playing fields.
Might as well start with something spicy right? Long, long ago when I was young and naive (and probably a better person for it), I was playing blackjack heads up with a dealer at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. This was probably my second or third visit to Las Vegas and Caesars was still a great property - gorgeous cocktail servers in minimal Roman garb, colorful dealers that recanted stories of the mob and the Rat Pack, and even Cleopatra herself made regular appearances with Roman soldiers and hand maidens at her side. Her procession was a sight to behold and no one dared cross her path. The empire was indeed the empire and it was glorious in my young eyes.
Anyway, I was playing at a $5 table and sweating bullets agonizing over each hand I lost and celebrating with each win (both metaphorically of course; I was always cool and graceful under pressure), when an older guy in a nice sports coat jumps in middle of the shoe. Even then, I always wanted to see a fresh shuffle, so I thought that was a bit odd, but then my attention was quickly diverted to his companions - two incredibly beautiful women. One was blonde, the other brunette. These ladies were centerfold material and had an air of grace about them; classy, but still smoking hot. Anyway, the guy throws down two $500 chips in the betting square. The dealer doesn't even bat an eye (Vegas was a gambling town then) and deals the cards. I'd never seen a bet of this size and I don't recall what I was dealt, but I remember thinking I hope I don't make a playing decision that screws this guy up, because that's about two weeks salary for me that he's betting. Anyway, first hand he gets a blackjack - $1,500! "Amazing" I think to myself. He then proceeds to flat bet $500. I can't help but keep score and this fella plays all of about 10 hands or less and cashes out plus $2,500. As he departs with a lovely on each arm, the dealer says, "Take a good look, kid. He needs that money."
I pondered the dealer's assessment as we played out the shoe and slowly came to the conclusion that those two girls cost that guy $2,500. That's some high-end stuff, true believers. I'd never really thought anything about Las Vegas being full of hookers though they were in plain view on the Strip in those days. They just seemed like wall paper, part of the show, like the neon and themed casinos. I will say there were some good looking ladies in the skin trade in those days. But the $2,500 blackjack win and "reapportionment of wealth" for "services rendered" made me view Vegas pros and even a lot of "amateurs" in a different way. Those girls were beautiful, but they also represented a threat to my bankroll. You could play a lot of blackjack and bet a lot of baseball games with that kind of dough. I've always been leery when approached by an attractive woman in a casino; even women that I met away from the tables. In hindsight, that was a seminal moment in my "youth" and probably a clue that I was destined to be a serious gambler or that I would always have "trust" issues!
Along the lines of the above tale, I'll share one more that actually happened before I even got to the blackjack tables and would never happen today. I was staying at the Aladdin, now Planet Hollywood. Hotel check-in is on the lower level and you take an escalator up to the casino floor, and then depending on your room number, you find the appropriate elevator.
I had just checked in and stepped onto the escalator when an attractive blonde seemingly appeared from nowhere and fell in step and conversation with me. She immediately asked if I had stayed at the Aladdin before and asked me my room number. I'm holding the folder with my room keys and number in plain view (she would never have gotten my room number that easily today and even she wouldn't have the guts to pull that move; besides she'd be too busy texting or posting to social media about some ratchet YouTube video). Anyway, she says "1042. At the top of the escalator hang a left and the elevators are down that wall about 100 feet" or something to that affect.
"Wow! That's nuts," I thought to myself. My new friend made sure I was headed in the proper direction and we parted ways. She had introduced herself and left me with a "maybe I'll see you on the blackjack tables." She had asked if I played blackjack. Very strange I thought, but hey, she was helpful, pleasant, and easy on the eyes. A few minutes later I got to my room and checked in. After unpacking a bit I noticed a light on the room telephone was blinking. I had a message. Guess who it was?
Yep; you got it. It was my new friend from the escalator. "Call me."
She called me by name on the voicemail and asked if I wanted to party; either right now or later - and left her number. I'll admit it was tempting to dial those digits just because. I mean you had to respect her whole act. I'd love to interview her now. Nevertheless, all I could think about when I thought about her was the story from Caesars Palace. No thanks. I'll leave "paying for women" to the big boys; in the meantime girls like that, and many women you'll meet in a casino, are a threat to the bankroll. To this day, one of my standard responses when approached by a working girl is, "Sorry sweetheart; you're not part of my bankroll." I'm no fun am I?
YOU COUNT CARDS TOO, HUH?
This one is about a different kind of woman I met in a casino. I used to play the face-up double-deck game at the Tropicana because it was a great game. This story is from 1996. At this point in life I had been to Vegas several times and played a lot of blackjack in various venues. One night I saddled up on a game and a cute brunette about my age is holed up in the third base spot playing heads up with the dealer. I sit down next to her and she immediately asks if I'll stay out until the shuffle. I always want to see a fresh shuffle, so no problem. I was playing pretty good basic strategy and knew a little bit about card counting at this point in my life. Anyway, we proceed to play together for a while and things were going rather well for both of us on the tables. At times, other players joined the table and she literally grew fangs, snarled, and ran them off. It was almost comical. In hindsight, they deserved it. The "fangs" appeared when the other players misplayed a hand and the commentary started as soon as the player hesitated on a given decision. This girl was cold-blooded and ran constant commentary on these guy's misplays. She literally bullied and intimidated them off our table. We had played for some time and eventually it was time to change the cards, so we decided to take restroom breaks. We walked together and I asked her why she didn't try to run me off.
"Sheesh! Because you know what you're doing. You haven't misplayed a hand yet. Are you counting, too?"
After that exchange, we were like...
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