I strolled into one of my favorite haunts, hungering for the sweet taste of some blackjack action. Depressingly, though, every table overflowed with the ploppy masses out to enjoy the holiday. But lo and behold, amidst the endless tide of unwashed humanity (which had to be not so gently elbowed out of the way), I found an open table, an island of serenity in the eye of the storm if you will. Some old geezer moneybags was in the process of coloring up a vast mound of black and green as I quickly slid into one of the many open chairs available. Well, maybe not a vast mound but it was a pretty healthy molehill of chips he had amassed. Anyway, he kept two purple for himself and pushed the stacks towards the female dealer.
This dealer was undoubtedly in her high forties, age-wise, but seemed stuck in a holding pattern at the big three-oh. The casino lights gleamed harshly off her bleached hair, causing me to yearn for my Maui Jim’s; the only thing preventing my complete and irrevocable blindness were her extensive dark roots. Her lipstick was red, blood red, and the rouge was packed thick. She sported flashy rings of cubic zirconium on every finger; well, every digit but her wedding finger. No band to be found there, only a small area of desolation. Her incessant babbling during my play seemed to solely focus on her desperate desire to find a boyfriend to take care of her. She seemed quite harmless, which was more an attribute to her disarming manner than to her actual competence as a dealer, which was seriously in doubt. Her one redeeming quality, albeit a precious one, was her consistent 75% penetration at double deck. Did she have character? I don’t know, but she was a character, that much I did know.
Anyway, Moneybags clutched his two purple tightly and pushed the rest of his chips proudly towards the dealer who proceeded to break ‘em down into rows, starting directly in front of her and growing outwards toward the players’ side of the felt. In the first row she casually dropped four stacks of black, each with five chips. In the second row, she repeated the maneuver but came up with only three stacks, once again with five black chips in each. In the third row were the remaining twenty chips, all green, which were haphazardly dropped with a distinctive chinking sound into five stacks of four each. She then proceeded to pass her hand over each row, counting aloud, “Two thousand, four thousand, five hundred. Color up forty-five hundred!” Simultaneously, she withdrew nine purple chips from the tray and stacked them to her far right in two stacks of 4 chips with the remaining purple alone in front.
Meanwhile, I was casually withdrawing Bennies from my pocket as a harried floorgal breathlessly rushed over and perused the transaction rather perfunctorily. The dealer repeated her actions and mantra, telling the floorgal, “Four thousand, five hundred.” I awaited the floorgal’s correction which never came. The floorgal, brushing a sweaty strand of hair out of her eyes, seemed more intent on making sure the nine purples were only nine instead of more. She nodded an affirmative and the dealer calmly pushed the purples to Moneybags, who was either oblivious or covered it well with an unconcerned deadpan. Must have been oblivion since he then proceeded to sit and watch me play blackjack for the next thirty minutes, all the while smoothly sipping on what appeared to be champagne. I couldn’t help but notice that the buxom waitress managed to keep his stemware full despite the intervening crowds and his lack of play; all a tribute to her skill I presume. I exchanged my bills for chips and watched the dealer’s hapless attempts at the seemingly complex shuffle that most refer to as a riffle. I expected to hear the pit phone, only three feet away, ring but it was surprisingly silent. Oh well, must be nice.
The first twenty minutes of my session were rather bland and uneventful: a few wins here, and more than a few losses there. I was slowly losing ground in the battle to stay even, but the whiskey was smooth and the service was quick so it was a painless experience, rather like grocery shopping at two AM. I did notice one curious pattern in that every time the dealer mentioned her need for a boyfriend, I managed to lose several hands in a row. Every time she managed to hold off for a minute or two on commenting on her lack of a significant other, I managed to win several in a row. I’m not sure this trend reached statistical significance but it was disturbing, nonetheless, mainly because she spent a majority of the time wishing for a man.
Finally, the deck ripened to the point it was ready to burst open and release its nourishing wealth for me to succor. The first three hands saw no face cards, not a one. It was so obvious that even Moneybags, buzzing on his bubbly while people-watching, commented on the fact. The dealer just shrugged. Me, I was just hoping the dealer wouldn’t start in again with her jinxing tales of unrequited love. Well, I tell you, fortune smiled handsomely on me this day. I essentially flat bet my max of $200 the rest of the way with my only shortcoming, albeit a tiny one, being my inability to determine when the shuffle card was coming out which prevented me from spreading to two hands on the last round. Despite losing two max double downs, I converted my three bill deficit into a tidy profit of $1900 and some change, mainly on the backs of several huge double downs after splitting.
A legion of ploppies then descended on my game like moths to a light, perhaps drawn by the irresistible lure of another’s easy winnings. If you win big, they will come…in droves. I managed to get the first round dealt to me before any bystander money hit the felt, assuring myself of at least one more deal through at heads-up in this No Mid Shoe Entry game. My joy only lasted a few brief seconds as the dealer began telling the waiting gamblers of her need for a man. Naturally, on cue, I promptly lost the first eight hands. By that time the count had descended into the realm of Hades. Figuring the count would not hit positive before the shuffle and not desiring to play at a full table, I pulled the rat/sinking ship bit and bailed, pushing all but my white chips toward the dealer but not before giving them a quick perusal, $2300 of buy-in and winnings, I estimated.
The dealer proceeded to break them down into rows of a thousand. In the first row she placed two stacks of five blacks each. In the second went a combination of black and green for another thousand. Finally, in the third row were the leftovers of green and red which totaled exactly $300. She intently studied the stacks for a few seconds then said, “Let me give 300 back to you.” She removed 3 blacks from the second row and substituted the $300 in red/green into the vacancy, leaving two neat rows of $1000 each. Our delightful dealer then placed my three blacks directly in front of the tray, stared at them for a second like she had no idea what they were doing there, then shrugged and put them into the tray! Having been victimized by this same dirty maneuver several years earlier at a Missouri riverboat, I immediately pounced on the dealer, firmly insisting that she remove those same three blacks from the tray and place them back on the felt. She told me that I didn’t understand. “No,” I forcefully corrected her while pointing at the tray, “you don’t understand. That $300 is mine.”
To her credit, my bluntness didn’t seem to distress her. “Sir,” she pleasantly replied, “I’m trying to simplify things and help you out.” She removed three blacks from the tray and undid her previous machinations, restoring the original chip break down. “You see, you have two thousand and this extra three hundred. If I take three hundred away from this row and move the $300 in red/green into its place, it simplifies things.” As she stated this, she calmly and without any fanfare once again added the three black chips to the tray.
By now, my amusement had mutated to overt frustration. I told her to hold on while I diligently scanned the pit for a floorperson to rectify the situation. At this point Moneybags piped in, “Listen, girl, just hand him the chips, don’t put them in the tray.” The dealer, though, failed to comprehend the logic of this request. Finally, I caught the eye of the beleaguered floorgal who hurried over and asked what seemed to be the problem. The dealer pointed out that she was trying to color me up but I was being “difficult” and wanted things done the “hard way.” Hey, I told the floorgal, I just want my money, all of it. The dealer, now rolling her makeup-encrusted eyes heavenward, did her thing all over again and gave me four purple and three blacks from the tray.
After successfully prying my rightful chips from the clutches of this aging debutante, I glanced down to notice seven dollars in white. In other circumstances after such a nice win, I would have tipped it all, but not here, not today. I casually flipped her $1 for the pleasure of her company and strode away through the masses. On a whim I felt it was time for a little true gambling so socking away my blackjack winnings, I took the $6 that would have been the dealer’s tip and decided to blow it. I forced my way to the padded rail of the craps table, aiming for the immediate left of the shooter so as to actually lay my hands on the dice, but the best I could manage was another spot down. After the ubiquitous seven out, I threw $3 on the line and set aside the other half of my stash for my roll which would be next. Come out was a 4. Not caring to wager any on the backline or field, I fully expected my line bet to not last long. As if. The shooter hit his point two rolls later, a seven on the come out, and then another point made, this time with me backing my tiny line bet with another measly bet. Feeling the draw of gambling and winning, I kept my line bet the same but now jumped on the six and eight. Wahoo, another winning roll as this shooter hit an eight, a six, (both hardways) then a five for his point. He made maybe another point or two before the dreaded seven, leaving me with about $40 or so in winnings. I was close to walking here, real close, but it felt good, damn good, to be gambling!
Now the dice were in my sweaty palms. As I stared around the full table at the old men elbow to elbow, crammed in like sardines, I couldn’t help but notice the gleam in their rheumy eyes. The air seemed to be sizzling with palpable electricity, even the pit crew noticed. The table was heating up and giving off vibes to all within range. Only one oblivious Doubting Thomas was in the crowd, having dropped his chip on the Don’t Pass Line. Taking this personally, I gave him the evil eye and flung the dice towards the other end of the felt…and off the table. Wow, was I cranked up. The pit critter eyed the dice up and down, boring a hole in them. Finally satisfied, he returned them. This time, overcompensating, I barely achieved the cushion with them. A seven! Everybody high-fived and parlayed their bets, including yours truly who jumped from $3 to a red chip on the pass line. Next two rolls, two more sevens. Gambling fever then took hold. Fists were pumping, people were shouting, my back was slapped not a few times, and that was only the beginning. I rolled for about fifteen or twenty minutes, parlaying my bets upward with each successful roll of the cubes. At the end I was still betting a single red on the pass line but backing it with the max of four greens. I was also covering the field with green, and I was the small bettor as most of my fellow gamblers had their entire month’s Social Security check on the felt. Finally, like all good things, the roll came to an end. One oldtimer told me in a dry, cracking voice amidst a hacking cough, “You done well, kid.” Thanks, Pops, I replied with a wide grin.
Giddy with the rush of gambling and winning, I threw out my mass of chips to be colored up which resulted in yet another comedy of errors. I had exactly $300 in green which was broken down into two stacks of 4 greens surrounding a stack of three greens. Despite the obvious difference in the stacks’ height, this was labeled as $300 by the craps dealer. The other green was placed alongside the stacks of red/white for a colored up total of $550 (in reality $525). The pit critter approved the color up. I swept my purple and two greens and headed toward the cage. Perhaps it was the sad puppy eyes of the table crew who gazed longingly at my chips or maybe it was the breathless excitement of turning $6 into over $500 at a negative EV game, but for some inexplicable reason I abruptly spun and tossed a green onto the felt “for the boys.” Almost faster than the eye could follow, that chip was snatched up like a soup bone thrown among a pack of hungry dogs.