Friday, March 21, 2008

A Whacky Casino Story

Many of you might not know that before I became a casino cheat I was a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas. That's where I met my mentor Joe Classon, but before that I met a diverse group of characters. While dealing cards to them, players often told me their life stories. I heard about the sons in medical school, the daughters who were now assistant prosecutors, everything from cobalt treatments to mistresses in Italy, who were often kept in neighboring hotels while the wives of these storytellers were kept busy at slot machines.
And then there were the nuts, the raving lunatics. Like the bars had their drunks, the casinos had their degenerates. After being transferred to the swing shift which ran from six o'clock at night to two in the morning, I became familiar with a pathological gambler of about fifty, who looked at least seventy and went by the name of Whacky. Everybody on the swing shift knew him. He came into the Four Queens every night at nine o'clock, had been doing so for years. One night while I was standing on a dead mini-baccarat game, Whacky told me an incredible story which, to my amazement, turned out to be true.
Spending most of his adult life panhandling on Las Vegas's streets to scrape up whatever money he could to booze and play slot machines, Whacky was also a roulette junkie. One rainy night the day before Christmas Eve ten years before, he rolled into the casino a little earlier than usual because of the rain. He still was as drunk as ever, although the coins in his pocket weighed less because of the absence of crowds in the street.
Whacky quickly lost all his coins in the slot machines. When he approached his favorite roulette wheel in the middle of the sparsely peopled casino, he had but a solitary one-dollar bill left in his pocket. He put it on his favorite number: 4. The dealer spun the ball and it landed on number 4. Whacky won thirty-five dollars. Intoxicated, but knowing instinctively what he was doing, Whacky put his lucky dollar bill back in his pocket and let the thirty-five bucks he won ride on number 4. It came in again and now Whacky was ahead $1,225. He wanted to let it ride again but the casino limit on betting a number straight up was a $100. Whacky bitched at the pit bosses but they refused to raise the limit for him. Annoyed, and cursing loudly for the whole casino to hear, Whacky bet the $100 on number 4 and it won a third time. He was up $4,725. The casino manager was called over to the wheel and he immediately yanked the dealer, put in another one with a mean disposition. But that didn't cool off Whacky. He not only won a fourth but an amazing fifth time in a row. Not too unofficially, that was a Las Vegas record for consecutive times a number came out on an honest roulette wheel. The Nevada Gaming Control Board had examined Whacky's favorite wheel the next day and concluded it was both honest and free of defects.
Whacky took his nearly twelve grand in roulette profits and sat down at a blackjack table, where he placed a thousand-dollar chip on all seven betting squares. Being that a single deck was in use, the four blackjacks Whacky got that first round were the most possible. He went on a massive winning streak. The Four Queens kept changing the dealers in order to break the streak but Whacky kept beating them all. He was ahead three hundred grand by the time he got to the craps table. And there he held the dice an amazing two hours. By the time it was over Whacky had the Four Queens beat for a cool million. At that point he passed out and fell into the craps table. The casino manager, in a panic, immediately coaxed Whacky to allow the casino to lavish its most luxurious suite on him. Whacky agreed, let the Four Queens put his million bucks in the casino cage for safekeeping, but not the lucky dollar bill that had started it all. He took that up to the suite and went to bed with it, putting it safely underneath his pillow. When he awoke the next day realizing that he was a millionaire, and that he no longer had to go out begging on the streets, it was just too much. Having nothing else to do and perhaps following his destiny, Whacky went back into the casino. It took him a whole week to lose back the million bucks. Before they booted him out of the suite into the street, the casino manager offered Whacky $100 for the lucky one-dollar bill that had remained in his pocket. Whacky refused and went back outside, where eerily it was raining again in the desert. The very next night Whacky was arrested in the Four Queens Hotel gift shop for stealing a candy bar and pack of chewing gum that together cost one dollar.
After he had finished his story, I asked Whacky why he hadn't paid for the candy bar and chewing gum with his last dollar. I should have known the reason. All he had left in his life was his lucky dollar, and the Four Queens, he said, was never going to get that.