Those of you who read my book know it chronicles 864 of my casino visits during the period from January 2001 to June 2008. Last weekend, I experienced the 1000th visit during a trip to Las Vegas. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from the trip:
HIGH: On the flight to Vegas, I finished reading Arnold Snyder’s novel, “Risk of Ruin.” It was superb! I’ve never been sadder to be on the last page of a book. I plan to write a complete review in the next week. Also on the flight, I had the pleasure of listening to the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, “Mosquito.” Another superb work of art. Finally, I was seated next to a four-year old boy. You might think this was a lowlight, but the kid was a perfect little gentleman…he read books when the plane was on the ground and played a Curious George animal game on his dad’s iPad while in flight. The only time he spoke was when I pointed to an animal and said, “Giraffe.” The kid replied, “No silly…that’s a rhino.”
LOW: Shortly after landing and checking into the Hard Rock Hotel for a three-day comped stay, I learned that their relatively decent $25 double-deck blackjack game had been replaced by a blackjack-pays-6-to-5 monstrosity. I checked out of the hotel instantly. No free stay is worth that nonsense.
HIGH: My favorite hotel, which still has a great double-deck BJ game, and which I have never been given a second look while card-counting, was able to accommodate me on short notice for a free stay. I will not divulge its location for selfish reasons.
LOW: In less than an hour of playing blackjack, I had experienced a horrible losing streak. I began by losing approximately 18 out of 20 hands. And, in the first hour, I must’ve lost 7 or 8 double-downs in a row.
HIGH: The next day started well at the tables, and got even better when I was featured on the Gambler’s Book Club Podcast. The host, Howard Schwartz, and the Sound Engineer, Bill Coveney, spent an hour before the interview and an hour afterwards showing me books and telling stories about some of the notorious guest authors who occupied the same chair as me: high-stakes gamblers, Mafia kingpins, FBI agents, felons, con artists, and Sin City celebrities. It was truly an honor and a privilege for me to be there. (The most notorious thing I had ever done was let my dog crap in the neighbor’s yard.) In addition to discussing blackjack and my book in the interview, I did my best (or worst?) to imitate an evangelist, a Harvard lawyer, obnoxious blackjack players, and a few other random voices. I also defended my devious behavior in and around the casino. Finally, I may or may not have divulged a government top secret. The full interview can be heard at the following link:
LOW: That night, for the first and last time in my life, I made a bet on pro basketball because my son is a huge Denver Nuggets fan. I lost $100, plus the $10 vig, when Golden State beat Denver by four points.
HIGH: As a big fan of the Blue Man Group, I was tickled pink to see their new show at the Monte Carlo. About 80% of their bits are new, and the sound and light show was like experiencing Laser Floyd. During the finale, all the children in the audience (plus a forty-seven-year-old man) screamed and gasped with joy.
LOW: Outside the Blue Man Group theater, I noticed an 8-deck blackjack game near a catwalk stage where a scantily-clad woman performed. The game paid 6-to-5 on a blackjack. I repeat…an 8-deck game in Vegas that pays 6-to-5! Who cares if lotsa skin was visible nearby? I asked the pit boss and the dealer if they had trouble sleeping at night.
HIGH: Conversely, in the high-limit pit at the Monte Carlo, there was a $50 double-deck game with the dealer staying on soft 17 and dealing approximately 75% of the cards. Great stuff! I played there for 26 minutes with moderate success.
LOW: The reason I played there for only 26 minutes was due to the pit boss asking me to leave the game for card-counting. Too good to be true.
HIGH: In-and-Out Burger. I had a 3 by 3. Those of you who live in Vegas or the Western part of the United States should never take for granted the cheeseburgery goodness you have at your fingertips…literally.
LOW: At the pool, I lap swam for an hour before realizing that my back was sun burnt to a crisp. I always knew that the sun affected you even in the water, but one hour in April? C’mon! To even the redness, I had to backstroke awhile. I hate the backstroke.
HIGH: A good run of cards at my favorite hotel and casino, which still will remain nameless because I don’t want to share it with anyone.
LOW: Playing blackjack next to a guy who stacked his chips in stacks of six. Almost every other player in the world makes stacks of five or ten. After a couple hours of watching this guy, my OCD tendencies were kicking onto overdrive. Why does he stack chips like that?!
HIGH: Leaving Las Vegas a winner, albeit with a slight sunburn.
LOW: Two days later at my home in Colorado, it snowed six inches. In May. When is my next trip to the desert?