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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.

With a tip of the cap to Mr. Poe and his black bird, it's another late night of pondering over "many volumes of forgotten lore." If you're a regular reader, you may recall that in the October 2016 issue of Blackjack Insider I recanted some of the more "interesting" things I've encountered during my adventures in "Casino land." These included beautiful women, card counting, foreign lands, and even East St. Louis. Admittedly, that's tough to beat! This month I've been asked to write a second installment. It won't compare with the earlier effort, but just might make for an interesting read too. Again, I caution that the permanent lessons or takeaways, if any, will be primarily up to the reader to decide. I've got my large glass of iced tea and some groovy tunes on the "jukebox," so let me begin.


With respect to Schoolhouse Rock and Saturday morning cartoons, three was definitely a magic number for the player in this story. Several years ago I was playing a six-deck blackjack game at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (HRC) in Las Vegas. It was late in the afternoon, not the wee hours as is so often the case in many HRC stories, so alcohol and a long night of partying can't be blamed for this fiasco (or perhaps they can be from the previous night?!). I was one of two players on the table and in the middle position; the other player was already at the third base spot when I joined the game. I was dealt a hard 19 against a dealer Ace. The other player had a pair of 3's. The dealer asked for insurance and we both passed. After the dealer checked for blackjack and came up empty, the other player split their 3's!

Apparently third base had never heard of basic strategy and I almost fell out of my seat when he assured the dealer he was indeed going to split his 3's against her Ace. The HRC felt has long been home to some less than stellar blackjack play, but this was lunacy! The dealer pulled a card from the shoe. It was another 3. What did third base do? You know exactly what he did. He re-split! He now had three $15 hands starting with 3 against a dealer's Ace.

Play continued and the player drew a King for a 13 on the first hand and stayed. At this point, I'm just along for the ride - for good or ill. I'm thinking ill as this will probably result in a whacky dealer 20 or 21 and the loss of three red chips for me. A six followed making a hard 9 on the second hand. The player proudly pushed more chips into the circle and announced, "Double down." The hand continued in this most bizarre manner and when it was done, the player had split and re-split four 3's, doubled down on a pair of 9-counts, sat on a two-card 13, and drew four cards to a 14 and stayed.

A wise man once said that the Lord looks after sinners and fools. Maybe the blackjack gods agreed and borrowed a page from that book because when the smoke cleared and the dealer drew her sixth card of the hand, she busted! It took six cards, but she finally busted and we were all winners for a brief moment in time. Third base shared high fives with his friend standing behind him and I just smiled and shook my head. What else could I do? I'm smiling and shaking my head as I type this one. Should I laugh or cry after witnessing that hand? I still don't know. It remains to this day probably the most bizarre blackjack hand I have ever witnessed. Who are we to question Schoolhouse Rock? After all, 3 is a magic number. It certainly was for that player, that day, that time.


This next story happened earlier this year in a Las Vegas casino on the Rancho Strip. I was nestled in at third base on a double-deck game and was pondering my escape as my modest session win goal was within reach. Suddenly I heard in a loud voice over my shoulder, "I said I'll stay."

I turned my chair slightly to see what was going on at the next table as we played the last hand before the shuffle. I saw a man standing about three feet behind his chair waving frantically that he did not want a hit. He was playing heads-up against the dealer and had two cards tucked beneath his chips. He was also in the middle of a conversation on his cell phone.

Apparently the cards had been dealt as his phone rang. Anyway, the cards were tucked and the dealing was trying to talk to him. The player had stepped away from the table no doubt to honor the "no cell phones or mobile devices at the table" rule. However, the dealer wouldn't continue the hand until he got off the phone. After hearing him proclaim loudly and more agitated each time, "I said I'll stay," the pit boss comes over and declares the hand dead.

Now this gets the guy off his phone. "What do you mean?" he asks the suit. "I had twenty!"

The pit boss says, "You were talking on your phone. You can't do that at the table. I killed the hand because I thought you might be cheating." (He said that with a rather smug grin).

Amid the player's protests the pit boss turns his back and says while walking away, "This is Vegas."

The player screams at him, "But I was talking to my sister!"

The dealer was instructed to shuffle the cards and in the meantime I was in a position to cash out and did so before play resumed on my neighbor's table. I felt for the player, but the whole exchange was kind of funny.


This happened to me not that long ago in an off-Strip Las Vegas locals' casino. I was playing the third-base position on a double-deck game with two other players. Things were going fine and the players were actually winning their share of hands when the dealer turned over a 5. I had an 8-2 combo and quickly doubled my hard 10. The other players had tucked their cards. The dealer had an Ace in the hole, drew a 6 and declared "18."

Before I could say "Huh" the dealer proceeds to...

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