Drill Bits & Kneecaps

It’s early evening and I’m playing blackjack inside a small casino off The Strip. I’m sitting at “first base” and the little old Chinese lady sitting next to me has been my good luck charm. When I’m not sure if I should hit or stand she usually tells me the right thing to do. If it wasn’t for her I’d've been knocked out of the game an hour ago.

“Maybe I should bet more,” I say, looking my small pile of chips.

“Bet more, bet more,” the old Chinese lady says. “More money mean more money.”

“You’ve been good luck so far,” I acknowledge.

“Bet more,” the Chinese lady says, egging me on. Easy for her to say. She’s got a thousand bucks in front of her.

I put twenty-five dollars in the betting box. The dealer hands me an ace.

“Blackjack!” the Chinese lady shouts. “Big money!”

Of course, my next card’s a two and the dealer’s got a ten showing.

“Crap,” the Chinese lady says.

“I never hit it,” I moan.

The dealer doles out the rest of the cards and gives herself a five.

“Double down!” the Chinese lady hisses, tapping my arm. “Double down.”

“Double down,” I say. “Are you kidding?”

“No kidding,” she replies. “Double down.”

“Okay,” I sigh. I lay up another twenty-five bucks and get dealt a three. Now I’ve got sixteen.

“Ugh,” I say.

“Dealer bust!” the Chinese lady shouts, refusing to hit on her twelve. “Dealer bust!”

Everyone else at the table ignores the Chinese lady’s premonition and hit on their lousy hands. The dealer busts everyone.

“Damn!” a player snorts. “The is one evil deck.”

“She’s gonna deal herself a seventeen,” another player, some guy my age wearing a John Deere cap, says, “Just you watch.”

My stomach tightens. The dealer hasn’t busted in ages. Even though I know what’s happening with the cards is governed by probability, the dealer has had an uncanny ability to transform her losing fourteens and fifteens into winning twenty-ones. I watch anxiously as she slides a card out of the shoe and turns it over.

It’s an eight. Hot damn.

“Dealer busts!” the Chinese lady yells, thumping my arm.

“Honey,” I say. “You’re a lifesaver.”

“I don’t believe it,” the guy in the John Deere hat sighs.

“Should’ve listened to my girl,” I say, winking at the Chinese lady. She winks back.

As I pull my winnings towards me I’m suffused with a warm glow. I’m having a good time. The last time I played blackjack in casino was in Atlantic City around 1993. I’ll never forget that game. My friend Al, who considers himself a real card sharp, spilled his beer all over the velvet table and delayed the game for fifteen minutes. As the dealer frantically tried sopping up the mess with a towel, we mercilessly teased Al about the impromptu arthroscopic surgery that awaited him in a back alley. I was no prize either. Intoxicated and not knowing how to play, I earned the wrath of some drunk guy dressed in a yacht captain’s uniform (Complete with brass buttons and white hat.) by hitting on seventeens and taking all the dealer’s bust cards.

“Fucking amateur,” the man grumbled as he walked away from the table, leaving a vapor trail of whisky floating in his wake.

I was drunk myself so I can’t quite remember my comeback. But I think it was along the lines of “Hey Admiral, give my regards to Gilligan when you see him.” Or I could’ve just belched. I was a bit crude back then. Man, so much has changed in the sixteen years since that game.

“Bet, sir?” the dealer says, poking me out of my reverie.

“Oh, sorry,” I say, sliding ten dollars into the betting box. “Lost track there.”

“No problem, sir.”

I take a dollar chip and place in front to my bet. “That’s for you,” I tell the dealer. “Let’s try and bribe ourselves a little karma.”

The dealer chuckles and deals out the cards. I get a four and dealer gets a ten. On the second pass the dealer hands me a queen. I’ve got myself a big fourteen. The book says I should hit it – but I’ve got a feeling. I signal I don’t want a card.

“Good!” the Chinese lady says, also taking a pass on her hand.

Suddenly, above the din of the casino, I hear loud and obnoxious ring tone. The man sitting to the left of the Chinese lady, the guy in the John Deere hat, whips out a cell phone and starts talking.

“Excuse me, sir,” the dealer says. “No cell phones at the table.”

“It’s okay,” the man says. “It’s just my wife.”

“I cannot deal while you’re on the phone, sir.”

“I’ll be just a minute.”

Then, out of nowhere, the pit boss shows up. “Sir, off the phone,” he says in a clipped voice.

The guy in the John Deere hat stares at him. I can tell he’s bristling at being told what to do. But something about the pit boss makes him close the phone immediately. I think I know what that something is. I had a pleasant conversation with the pit boss earlier and discovered he’s some kind of ex-special forces guy – with the challenge coins to prove it. A big strong man even in retirement, he could snap the lawn mower jockey’s neck like a chicken bone.

“Sorry, sir,” the man in the John Deere hat says.

“Thank you, sir,” the pit boss says, his voice becoming friendlier. “Sorry to be brusque, but the casino has rules.”

“No problem,” the man says sheepishly. “I’m just here to have a good time”

I smile to myself. It’s interesting how casinos have no problems enforcing cell phone rules while restaurant owners tend to be complete and utter pussies. Maybe it’s the impromptu arthroscopic surgery thing casinos have going for them. Drill bits and kneecaps do not mix.

The dealer pulls out a hard seventeen and I lose my hand. So much for bribing karma. The game seesaws back and forth for another hour. But when the little old Chinese lady leaves my luck turns bad and all my gains are wiped out. I’m almost down to my original hundred. Time to walk away.

I “color up” what I’ve got left in into a single black $100 chip. Before I leave, however, I lay a ten dollar cash bet for the dealer, Of course, she hits blackjack on it.

“Thank you, sir,” she says happily.

“You’re welcome,” I reply, trying to hide my pique. I didn’t hit blackjack in the three hours I sat at the table. I guess that’s why they call it gambling folks.


Comments

Drill Bits & Kneecaps — 28 Comments

  1. Don’t listen to grumpy Billy there, these stories have been great! I for one am loving this foray into Vegas territory. The city certainly breeds enough material to write about. :)

  2. I was just walking home and saw a guy carrying a messenger bag that said “Love is a gamble” and I thought, “I never gamble with my money so maybe I shouldn’t gamble on love either”. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

  3. I’ve always wanted to play Blackjack with the ‘big boyz’ but I have no idea what I’m doing. I’d be in a back alley somewhere with the whole ‘drill bit’ scenario going on.

  4. Hahaha I once had a chinese good luck guy on a roulette table, I was down to my last $10 and started piggy backing his bets, started winning and then put $50 on zero and bam zero came up

    a great night, also the last day I ever seriously bet at a casino, I know when I’m done :)

  5. Hey, your gambling to have fun, You can’t actully win in the long run. I stopped playing black jack when I stopped getting that feeling in the pit of my stomach.

  6. If you could never win in the long run, there’d be nobody playing in the casinos or the lottery in general. There’s always those few lucky souls who hit it big. It’s usually just people you don’t know ;-) .

  7. Please don’t listen tot he second poster. Write about anything you like. In your case it isn’t what you write about that makes it compelling, it’s the way you write. I personally would read your take on the phone book, and no doubt have a good time while doing it.

  8. Good post!

    Cascinos get away with their rules because they all have the same rules SO if you want their product you follow the rules or else you do without. You can just go to the next restaurant and or two and get what you want to get away with there.

  9. Hi there, love your stories and think you’re a great writer, just wanted to point out a slight glitch in vocabulary in this entry. I think you mean “orthopedic” where you keep saying “orthoscopic”. Orthopedic refers to the bones/joints, orthoscopic means something that corrects vision, like an orthoscopic lens.

    Waiter says: I stand corrected. The term I was looking for was “arthroscopic surgery!” Thanks!

  10. I think the blog world needs a “Vegas Rant.” Something with the writing quality and observational powers of Waiter Rant, but all about Vegas.

    And re: the cell phones, the reason you can’t use one at the gaming tables isn’t because they’re worried that you’ll annoy the other players, it’s because a)you might be cheating and b)it slows the game down.

    But, if restaurants employed ex-special forces guys as waiters, and told them to enforce a “no cell phone” rule, you could bet that there’d be no one on the phone!

  11. Such politeness all around with all the sorry-sirs and thank-you-sirs. Interesting. Must be the threat of injury that brings out the best in people.

    Little Chinese lady sounds like she would be a hoot to know in person. Reminds of my little Chinese lady at the local dry cleaners who always beams, radiating pure joy. Even when she has lost your favorite shirt or has permanently ruined your one ridiculously expensive dress. But, there is always just so much spirit about her…

    http://venusreinvented.blogspot.com

  12. Maybe Chinese Lady was a card counter. That would explain how your luck went bad after she left. She knew the deck had gone sour.

  13. I only play Roulette since I have been told there are unwritten rules to playing Blackjack and I have no idea what they are. Basically everyone at the table has to follow the rules and that is the only way to win.
    I was in Vegas about a month ago and was down to $10 on a $5 dollar table. I start doing whatever a lady next to me did (I got her permission first) and ended up walking away with $600. I left when she did since I knew I would give it all back. The lady left because it was 4:00am and her boyfriend wanted to go to bed. Tried to talk her out of it but she left so I left. Paid for my flight and hotel.

  14. Great story Waiter,
    Keep em coming. Small point however, isn’t it “card sharp”? Please correct me if I’m wrong.
    Thanks

  15. It was a nice run while it lasted, eh? I’ve won a few bucks at blackjack but overall my luck usually flows the casino’s way. It’s just part of why I refuse to gamble now. That plus living on a fixed income.

    Better luck next time, buddy.

  16. Why casinos have a no-phone rule: It helps stop people from cheating.

    Why restaurants can’t have the same rule: Pissing people off affects the tip. Margins are already razor thin in the biz, there isn’t enough in the budget to pay enforcers, and people have business lunches where they need their phones.

    You know what else makes casinos better than restaurants? NO MINORS!

  17. Sweetie, I have challenge coins earned for military, and I’m a spouse. There are units who hand those things out like candy. You showed up for a ball, you showed up for a homecoming, you breath well… You can buy the coins from most military stores, and pick up some better ones second hand in the pawn shops around base.

    The guy could be real SF. But a challenge coin doesn’t prove a thing.

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