A couple flew to Las Vegas to get married in one of the city’s many Wedding Chapels. They were young, starry-eyed and deeply in love. They were also prudent and had set a budget for the amount that they would spend on gambling while they were in town.
They enjoyed a marvelous wedding dinner at a five star restaurant and, afterward, before retiring for their wedding night, they decided to take the five hundred dollars that they had allocated for gambling and play some blackjack at their hotel’s casino.
Things didn’t go well. The dealer refused to break and before long the wife had lost her entire stake and the husband was down to ten dollars. Dismayed, they went up to their room and took solace and joy in each other’s company.
A few hours later, the husband found himself unable to sleep. He kept replaying all the bad hands he had received at the blackjack table and felt sure that his luck was bound to change for the better. So he got out of bed, told his bride that he would be back soon and took the ten dollars that remained, once again armed to do battle at the tables.
When he sat down in an open seat, he exchanged his ten dollars for two brown five dollar chips and put them both in the betting square in front of him. His first hand, a winner – so he pressed his twenty dollars. His second hand a blackjack, so he pressed his fifty dollars and let it all ride. Another winner and another. His little streak caused one of the floor men to come over to the table to make sure there were no shenanigans going on.
Certain that God was smiling on him, he risked his two hundred dollars on the next hand. Another winner. Soon the four hundred dollars became eight and then sixteen hundred. Our newlywed was beside himself.
“If I just make one more hand I will have recovered the five hundred we lost, paid for our trip here and have something to put in the bank,” he thought to himself. So he pushed out his entire stack. At that point the dealer pointed out that the table carried a single bet limit of one thousand dollars.
The floor man in the pit had been watching the gambler’s run. The player asked if he would raise the limit on the table. After thinking for a moment, he agreed to increasing it to a five thousand dollar limit per bet.
The gambler put his sixteen hundred in the betting square and waited for his cards. A pair of faces and the dealer showed a nine. He tucked his cards under his bet and waited for the dealer to reveal his down card. It was a ten and the dealer swiftly placed sixteen hundred in chips next to the original bet.
Our gambling friend was giddy with delight. He knew that he couldn’t lose. If he only won one more hand he and his bride could really start their new life together in style. So he stacked up the thirty-two hundred he had for yet another last bet.
The cards were dealt. Again he had a twenty. The dealer showed a ten and had another one down. Push. The decks were spent and the dealer picked up the cards to shuffle as the gambler eagerly awaited his chance to cut them. By this time a small cheering section had gathered around the table to watch his incredible and seemingly unbeatable streak.
The dealer presented him with the red cut card and he deftly sliced it into the two decks. It felt like a good cut to him. And the hand was dealt.
Once again, two picture cards for a twenty – and the dealer showed a six – the worst card for either a player or the house. He was nearly counting the money as the dealer turned over his down card. It was a three.
“Okay, get a ten,” he said to himself. But the dealer drew a four for thirteen and had to hit again. The next card was an ace for fourteen and then a deuce for sixteen. “Hit a big one,” the gambler said out loud. And the dealer took the next card. It was a five to make a hand of twenty-one.
Stunned, the young man waited for the dealer to flip up his cards revealing the almost perfect twenty – and to put his thirty-two hundred dollars worth of chips in the dealer’s rack.
The crowd behind the player quickly dispersed and both the dealer and the floor man offered their condolences to the deflated gambler. He was so light-headed, he barely heard them as he tried to gain the strength to rise from his seat and make his way to the bank of elevators that would take him to his room.
His wife was awake and as soon as he came in asked if he had any luck.
The young man said, “No, I couldn’t get any cards and I lost the last ten bucks.”
As you have probably heard, Las Vegas’ nickname is “Sin City”. That moniker seems to me to be highly unfair and not truly descriptive of this little oasis in the desert, despite the fact that later this week we are hosting the annual “Adult Entertainment Expo” (a/k/a Porn Convention).. So I am planning on suggesting that we officially re-name ourselves, “The City With The Right Vision For The Future”.
As you probably know, Las Vegas has a number of establishments where you can gamble with your hard-earned savings, or for that matter with your EBT cards. And making gambling available to one and all, irrespective of race, religion, creed or ability to pay your rent or mortgage or feed your children certainly makes us an inclusive dot on the map.
After many years of looking at people who gamble I notice several underlying threads that run through almost all of them. Most are lazy and they want to get something for nothing – and if that isn’t an accurate reflection of the mindset sweeping the nation, I don’t know what is. Given this mindset, you will not be surprised to learn that the residents of Las Vegas who cater to those “about to be fleeced” in a large majority belong to the Party of the People – the Democrats.
If you happen to be in Las Vegas at a convention or for a vacation and want to have a little entertainment with twenty dollars, you might enjoy your time playing some slots or some blackjack or by going to a movie. You will probably get more bang for your buck at the BJ table than the movie – because at least you will have to use a little strategy and exercise your dormant brain cells to add up to “21”. (Fortunately, Las Vegas casinos do allow the mathematically impaired the use of a calculator if necessary for the player to accomplish this feat).
Recently I have been playing in a twice-weekly blackjack tournament run by one of the casinos which is about a ten minute drive from my home. Nothing big – $20 entry fee and a field of 96 players maximum. I took a first and a fourth place in two of the tournaments out of the seven times I played – so I have enough in winnings to pay my entry fees for the balance of the year.
After playing in one tournament in which I was knocked out early I decided that I had a little time to play before going home to take Gracie to the dog park on our second excursion of the day, so I wandered over to one of the Blackjack tables that was open and sat down. There was one other player at the table, an out of town visitor from San Diego who was sitting there with his wife watching him.
The dealer was in the process of shuffling the two decks as I took my seat, produced my player’s card (so that I can accrue “comps” at the casino based on my wagering) and exchanged my cash for chips. It was not until the first hand was dealt that I realized the other player was a newcomer to the game. He had one of those little “cheat sheet” cards that gave him the basic correct strategy to use in playing blackjack. (The casinos allow players to consult these cards).
I gave up playing blackjack as an income supplement a few years after I moved to town. Part of the reason is that in blackjack, the actions of one player (good or bad) have repercussions on the entire table. Taking a “bad hit” or failing to take a good one, affects the distribution of cards and it affects the results of everyone sitting at a table.
I compensated for that by playing late at night, generally head to head against the dealer. But after awhile, coming home at four in the morning got stale and I decided I would be better off getting a good night’s rest and spending quality time with the dogs rather than sitting in a smoke-filled casino. (The dogs agreed with my decision).
Now the reason I reference this new blackjack player is that he epitomizes the reasons that we have so many casinos in this town – all of which seem to be doing pretty well, despite the downtrodden economy and a bit of Obama-bashing a few years back.
Walking into a casino is not the place to get on-the-job training for learning how to gamble. In all honesty, I was gratified that this young man had taken the time to purchase a card which provides the perfect basic strategy in playing the game. He clung to this card as though it were his family Bible.
And then he received his hand. A sixteen versus the dealer’s ten. That card told him that he had to take a hit. He looked it up on the card – but was hesitant to follow its advice. Sixteen is a hand that frequently breaks.
So despite the fact that his card told him he should take a hit, he hesitated and asked the dealer what he thought. The dealer (knowing the correct play and knowing what the card would advise) said, “What does your card say?”
“It says, hit it.”
At that point I chimed in. I asked the young man, “Did you purchase that card?” – to which he answered that he had. I then said to him, “I suspect you purchased that card because you are unsure how to play in certain situations – as in this one. But if you bought it and don’t follow it’s proven advice, you have wasted whatever money you spent to buy it.”
The dealer, realizing that I was a player who knew the game, looked at me with a knowing glance for stating the obvious which was that the card was the result of looking at the outcomes of millions of hands dealt and reviewing the mathematically best choices for playing each of them.
The young man acquiesced to taking a card and received a ten. Of course it busted his hand. But the dealer turned up another ten – so he was doomed to lose this hand no matter what he did. But the thought of that ten-busting hit lingered with him.
About fifteen minutes later he was dealt another sixteen. Remembering what had happened the last time he had hit this hand, after looking several times at the card and hoping that the print on it had changed, he tucked his cards under his bet and refused to execute the proper strategy. The dealer revealed his down card, a five and took a hit, getting a five to make a hand of twenty.
The young man would have had twenty-one and won the hand had he followed the proper procedure. I had to stay on a nineteen so I also lost. Looking at the next card which I was dealt, which would have been the dealer’s had the young man followed the rules, the dealer would have busted the previous hand and both of us would have been winners instead of losers.
Now the reason for my detailing this experience has nothing to do with this young man’s inexperience or failure to act correctly but it provides a setting and some background for the next post – which will be about how following rules that are well established and based on sound reason – can improve our efforts should we choose to gamble with our money – and, more importantly, should we choose to gamble with our lives.