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The Ultimate System - Chapter 11
The New Game
David looked around at the other tables absolutely sure that today was his date with destiny, he noticed Sammy at the craps table, but didn’t even think about buying in for a second. Blackjack was even more popular than usual that day, even for a Friday, having four full tables in the early afternoon (one of them at $15 minimums) was highly unusual.
As he waited for Matt, the blonde-haired dealer with the cherub face who David had an extremely hard time believing was any older than his mid-twenties, he compulsively counted the contents of his wallet two more times. Unsurprisingly, it totalled $5,700 on both occasions. He briefly considered just buying in with Phillip and not playing, but that was merely his excitement getting the best of him. It felt as though he had been waiting for Matt to return for an hour, though it couldn’t have been more than three minutes since he had told the old relief guy he would wait for Matt.
A litany of loosely connected thoughts ran through his head as he continued to wait. He thought about doing a base bet of $25, then $50, then maybe just calling it a trip and not playing anything else. He was a bundle of nervousness, excitement and somewhere deep within: fear. There was an annoying, nagging thought gnawing away at him, I’m going to blow it all again!
David had almost resolved to refrain from playing, but then he saw Matt approach the table, but before he got there, the pit boss grabbed his arm and whispered something to him. He looked over at David, confirming the latter’s suspicions that he was the subject of the conversation. Upon hearing whatever his instructions were, he nodded and made his way over to the table. He tapped Phillip, who dutifully went to his next assignment, relieving the roulette croupier for a break, and then took his position at the table showing both sides of his hands and arms to surveillance so they would know he had brought nothing with him.
Matt noticed the concerned expression on David’s face and understood it was important to draw him to the table, to seal the deal, "Well, are you ready to win huge like you promised?"
David had begun to harbor doubts about his ability to win huge, much less whether or not he even wanted to play at all. Seeing Matt again, however, brought a confidence to him that he couldn’t quite explain. He had something to prove, and now the time had come to prove it.
David sat down and passed his players club card over to Matt who held it up for the pit boss, Matt asked, "Do you prefer David, Dave or Mr. Landstrom?"
This was, once again, another example of treatment that David was quickly becoming used to, "David’s fine," he replied.
"Very good, welcome to the table, David," Matt said joyfully, "How much would you like to buy in for?"
David had separated a stack of twenty hundreds and the rest of them in his wallet using a small piece of paper, knowing which stack he wanted to pull out immediately, he tossed it on the table and requested, "Three-thousand and seven hundred dollars, all green."
If a similar request would have been made for, "All red," with $740, then Matt probably would have strongly requested that the player take some green chips to go with it, but when a high-roller such as David Landstrom asks for all of his chips in one color, by God, that’s how you give them to him. "Changing Thirty-Seven Hundred!!!"
The pit boss walked over and decided the transaction was sizable enough that she should probably have eyes on it. She first watched as Matt divided the hundreds into seven rows of five mostly separated bills followed by setting the two other hundreds off to one side. "Go ahead," she answered, as Matt gathered the hundreds to drop in the box and began to cut out 148 green chips.
Matt then passed David fourteen stacks of ten chips, a stack of five and a stack of three. David counted through it even though he was positive it was all there, then he reassembled the stacks into twenty-nine stacks of five green chips each and put a small stack of three green chips on top of one of those. It was a good thing the table wasn’t full, his stacks almost took up enough room for two betting spots.
"This is where it all begins," David said. He put two of his green chips on the betting circle.
Matt dealt out first David’s two cards, and then he placed the community cards in their respective spots. He put the other cards in the discard rack and almost had to immediately admonish David as the latter had come close to checking his cards before the green light had come on.
David looked down at a Qc and 7d, not ideal, but playable. He made another $50 bet and caught a deuce, he would have to bet again. The following card was a Ks and this was one of the hands that make players of Mississippi Stud sick. On the one hand, the player is more likely than not going to lose, and if the choice was to make a $50 bet or do nothing (and no previous bets had been made) then the $50 bet would be terrible. Hands such as these are the kind of, ‘Chasing,’ demanded by the strategy of the game, a negative expectation (taken alone) bet only becomes a good bet because it is better than folding the $150 he had already played.
David bit the bullet and placed two chips on third street.
David caught the miracle queen of hearts and found himself up to $3900 in chips. Naturally, he opted to repeat his bet.
After the usual procedure, David looked down at these next two cards and found himself with a 3d-4d. He couldn’t quite remember the strategy for something like that and decided just to play it. He was wrong, of course, and the next card was a jack of hearts, so he folded.
Even with that hand, he was still pleased to find he was up $100 with $3,800 total in chips. He decided to continue with the $50 bets.
The following hand was a nine of clubs and a king of diamonds, so he knew he’d be making at least two more $50 bets. He went ahead and put both of those out there, and Matt turned over a ten of hearts and six of diamonds. It was time to chase again.
David sighed, but then he remembered that is simply how the game works, and eventually a strong hand would come. He made the final $50 bet. The final card was an ace of spades and $200 had been dropped on that hand leaving him with $3,600 in chips.
"That hand sucked," he complained.
"Yeah," Matt agreed, "But, you’ll get those sometimes on this game. Have to play until the end, that’s what I tell everyone: when in doubt, play until the end."
David nodded, "Good advice."
The following $50 bet showed David looking at a queen and eight, both diamonds, and he quickly tried to figure out whether a straight flush was possible. He decided it was, even though he knew enough to understand that this was a playable hand even if they had been off-suit. The following card was a four of clubs, and it looked like David would be stuck chasing another loser to the end.
That didn’t end up being the case, though, when a five of diamonds came out, even he knew the only choice was to fold. He now had $3,450 in chips. Unflustered, he made another $50 bet.
Getting an off-suit 8-4 for his trouble, he folded and was down to $3,400.
"How about dealing me a pair of kings?"
"I hope I have just that coming up, and maybe two more besides," Matt replied.
David thought back on the four kings he had hit on the WizardofOdds game and was absolutely positive that what Matt said meant something was going to happen. Granted, Matt had probably meant it as a joke, but it seemed destined that he would have an amazing hit, now.
He slid two more green chips in the ante circle and awaited his fate. Fate decided to give him a suited A-6 this time, hearts. David was a little juiced by the flush potential, but that hope was dashed by a nine of spades. The situation, however, still called for another bet. He made the bet and caught a three of spades. Even though he didn’t like it, David knew he had to chase this one. He put out the final $50 bet and was rewarded with the ace of clubs!!!
Just like that, David found himself only down $100. He quickly placed his $50 bet in the ante. Receiving an off-suit J-8, he made the first street bet. The next card was a six of clubs, and another bet was called for; the resulting card was, yes, another jack! Now it was time for the 3x bet to come out on this guaranteed win, hopefully he would catch another jack!
Unfortunately, the final card was a king of hearts, but David found himself up $200, with $3900 in chips to his name after that hand. "Keep those coming!"
"I’ll do my best," Matt replied.
The next hand was a 4-2 and immediate fold. However, that poor hand was followed by a suited A-Q in diamonds. There was no royal flush to be had, but the following card was a queen which enabled David to simply put out his two 3x bets and wait.
A ten and a four did not improve the hand at all, but David was still up $550 after that hand. His chip stack now totalled $4,250, and he put out a $100 ante...it was time to press.
He received a hand with a little bit of promise, 10-J off-suit, making his 1x bet, he caught a four, but another bet was needed. Fourth street brought him a queen and necessitated a final bet, so David put out another stack of four green chips and found himself faced with another queen! He was now ahead $950 and had $4,650 in chips!
He decided to repeat his $100 bet, for his work he got an off-suit 9-10. He considered folding, but decided to play it and got a six for his troubles. These were all break-even cards, so he had to play fourth street, and there was an outside chance he might catch a straight. Not with the queen of diamonds he received, though, but he still had a final bet to make. Catching another nine, he pushed.
Looking at Matt, David inquired, "This sure gets the heart going, doesn’t it?" David had started to visibly perspire.
Matt agreed, "Yeah, I just wish people were able to stay longer."
"How do you mean?"
"You’re doing well, and I have every confidence that will continue," Matt began, "But, for a player playing with fewer chips than you have, getting eaten alive quickly is quite possible.
David had regathered four of his green chips, and pushing the stack into the ante circle he responded, "Well, let’s hope that doesn’t happen."
David found himself with a suited 5-4 and decided to play it, but the next card was a seven of diamonds. Insanely, David reasoned that he still had a chance of a straight and didn’t want to lose $200 automatically on the chance he’d hit it, he made the fourth street bet. The card was a jack, and even David wasn’t foolish enough to chase the hand anymore. Good thing, because the king wouldn’t have helped him.
With $4,350 in chips, David was still ahead $650 and decided to press on with his $100 antes. The following hand had him receiving a 6-9 off-suit that he knew to play, he caught another nine and eagerly put out his 3x bet on fourth and fifth street praying to the God he didn’t believe in for improvement!
It was not to be, though, a jack of diamonds and three of hearts didn’t help. He made a $100 ante bet in the same position as he had been the previous hand and received an off-suit Q-K. He knew the hand would get played all the way, and he almost laid out the 1x bets all the way, until he occurred to him he might want to make a 3x bet if he were to catch a winner.
Just like that, David found himself with $3,950 in chips, but he was nevertheless ahead, so he decided to make another $100 ante bet. He was rewarded with an off-suit 6-K, forcing him to bet into a less than ideal situation. The next card was a jack of diamonds, but it was followed by a king of clubs, and David eagerly made his 3x fifth street bet!
No improvement, but just like that, he was $850 ahead and had $4,550 in green chips.
Making another $100 ante bet he asked, "What’s the most you’ve ever seen anyone win on this?"
Matt smiled, remembering a $1,000 tip, "I dealt someone a royal and he was playing fifteen bucks a spot, I guess it was seventy-five large! Good thing, that’s also our maximum aggregate payout!"
David asked, "What’s that mean?"
Matt suddenly remembered how much David was betting and opted for, "Don’t worry about it."
David made another $100 ante bet and folded an 8-5 off-suit. Making the same bet, he found himself looking at an off-suit K-9. He made a 1x bet and was thrilled to see a king on third street! He made two 3x bets and hoped for the best, maybe he’d catch the quads!!!
The quads were too much to hope for, but the resulting pair of kings was still quite nice at that bet level. David was now up $1,550 with $5,250 in chips, he decided to up the ante to $200.
"They’re going to kick me out of here!"
"If you keep winning like this, we will," Matt joked.
Making the $200 ante bet, David was faced with an off-suit K-2, third street brought him a queen, fourth street an ace...the three high cards were suited, but the deuce was wrong. The final card was a seven, and $800 of David’s (now the casino’s) money was swept away as quickly as he had gotten it.
David decided that $800 was the most that would be bet on a loss, so ahead $750, he decided to try the $200 ante bet one more time. Folding a 4-3 off-suit (with two queens in the community cards, damnit!) David decided to drop his ante bet back down to $100.
He ended up with a suited J-2 in clubs, and of course, made the follow-up bet of $100 on third street. He groaned as he caught an eight and knew he would have to bet again on a chase hand. He dutifully put the bet out there and caught a seven for his trouble, now he could only hope to match something. A queen of hearts concluded another $400 swing and David was now ahead a mere $150.
"Ahead is ahead, I said," David said, and chuckled.
"Nothing," David answered absently, "I am going to bet a minimum of $100 anytime I am ahead already, and I still am, but only by $150."
"I could use $150," the dealer intoned.
David could probably use it, too, but that didn’t face him as he put another black chip in the ante circle.
Pair of nines!!!!
"Please improve on this," David practically pleaded to Matt.
In a philosophical-sounding tone, Matt replied, "The cards will decide, not me."
A-7-4, three 3x bets were awarded with a break-even result.
"What a pain," David moaned, even though it didn’t stop him from making another $100 ante bet.
David received a suited 5-9 and played it. The wrong play, of course, but he figured there was a straight flush chance. He caught a ten of hearts and decided to go 3x with the flush draw. The play was wrong again, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and David caught the four of hearts. This time putting the 3x bet was the right decision, and he caught a five of diamonds and found himself down $650 with $3,050 in chips.
David looked at Matt, "How did that happen!?"
Matt was confused by the inquiry, but decided to answer to the best of his ability, "You chased a flush and you didn’t get it. I’m sorry."
David was inclined to leave the table, but his right hand, apparently acting out of concert with his brain, made another $100 ante bet. Apparently, his brain had also forgotten to notify his hand that he was no longer ahead. He received an off-suit Q-8 and had to bet another $100.
He caught a king of spades and asked, "Can I bet less than $100?"
"You cannot bet less than the ante, I’m sorry," Matt answered.
"Why do you think that is?
"I’m sure there’s some reason, but I don’t really know. I just deal according to the rules I am given."
David felt a little better as he caught a nine, at least he had four live cards. The final card, a four, was a killer, though.
David was now $1,050 in the hole, despite being ahead just two hands prior. He had $2,650 in chips in front of him and decided to try one more $100 ante.
Pair of sevens!!!
David decided that Mississippi Stud was officially a crazy game, though it did occur to him that he had nothing better than a high pair thus far and was well ahead at one point. He cheerfully made another $100 bet and received...a ten!!!
"Motherfucker!!!!" David’s voice echoed across the casino such that a few slot players were broken out of their reverie and looked over, seriously annoyed. One lady in particular was giving him a dirty look, and since she was within earshot, he said, "Oh, please. You’ll be over there screaming until your fucking false teeth fall out if you get a twenty dollar win!"
"Listen," Matt said, "I’m really sorry. You can get away with cussing, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t antagonize the other players."
David groaned, the roller coaster ride had become a bit hard on his stomach, "I won’t. I’m, sorry. Deal."
David’s next starting hand was an off-suit Q-9, another potential chase-and-lose hand. He caught a king of diamonds on third street, a four of diamonds on fourth street and an ace of diamonds on fifth street. "Damnit," he muttered, it had occurred to him that he would have had a flush had it not been for the queen being a club.
David counted his chips and realized he was down $1,450. Still above the 2k mark, he decided to try another $100 ante. K-9, off-suit, queen of hearts on third street, two of diamonds on fourth and a loss cementing five of spades on fifth street.
David mopped his brow with his sleeve, "Maybe I’ll slow it down a bit." He chuckled nervously and slid two green chips into the ante circle.
"That’s sometimes a good idea," Matt said, "Get those big bets out there when they get hot again."
David folded an off-suit 8-2 and was now down $1,900 with $1,800 in chips in front of him. He would still have $3,800 total if he decided to cash in, yet he played on.
Two green chips later, he was looking at an off-suit J-9. "You know," he said to Matt, "I’d be making a lot of money if I could somehow bet one of my starting cards would be a nine."
Matt shrugged, "Probably, I hadn’t noticed, I’m sorry."
David forgave him and found himself looking at a seven and a ten that were suited with the nine. He had a bunch of outs, and a straight would be HUGE, he decided to bet 3x on fifth street. The decision was incorrect, of course, but another nine did manage to save all of his bets.
David shook his head in mild disgust and made another $50 bet, Q-2 off-suit. "Yuck!"
He made the obligatory 1x bet and chased a jack, a six and a ten all the way to a loss of another $200.
"This game is really starting to piss me off."
"Like I said," Matt replied, "It’s swingy, that’s why most people don’t play long. They either win big and leave, or they lose quickly...and also leave."
David was officially down $2,100 with $1,600 in green chips in front of him. As though he were being controlled by a force outside of himself, he made another $50 ante bet. A-7, off-suit.
David found himself down to $1400 in chips. "This has got to change."
Another $50 bet, another ace and off-suit card, this time a three. The three was followed up by a two and David incorrectly chose to play fourth street because he reasoned he could still get a straight. The following card was an eight, and David folded...The final card would have been a money-saving second eight.
David bet $50 of his remaining $1,250 in chips. 9-8, off-suit. "Beautiful," he said and slid out the necessary third street bet. He caught a seven, which gave him hope for a straight, but that was followed up with a king and then a jack.
David looked at his paltry $1,050 in chips and declared, "This is disgusting," yet he was determined to finish the session and made another $50 ante bet. That one was rewarded by a K-8, off-suit. He played through a Q-6-J and was down to $850 in chips. He made another $50 bet, though he was all but completely sure he was going down.
J-5 off-suit, perfect. The starting hand was followed by a deuce, and David knew enough to fold. He now had a mere $750 in chips.
For whatever reason, he upped his ante bet to $75 and was presented an off-suit K-7. These cards were followed by A-10-9 and another $300 was gone, leaving $450 in chips. David opted to return to a $50 bet and caught a suited A-8, though a ten of spades destroyed any hope of a flush and a six followed by a three destroyed any hope of not losing $200 that hand.
David was down to $250 in chips, and not knowing what else to do, made another $50 bet. Looking at a A-Q in hearts, David followed with a 3x bet (Incorrectly) on third street, but he did catch a jack of diamonds. He slid his last $50 in chips onto fourth street and found himself saved by a queen! He bought in for $200 extra dollars to make the final $150 bet, but no improvement.
David had now bought in for a total of $3,900, but to his credit, he had $950 in chips in front of him again. He remembered Matt’s advice about the cards running well and decided that was the start of something, in all likelihood, he put $100 on the ante bet. He caught a pair of fours and knew he had to bet 3x, though he wasn’t sure why. The following card was a jack, but another jack followed it! David bet 3x, and even though he didn’t catch the full house, he found himself with $2,550 in chips and was only down $1,350.
ONLY $1,550, he thought maniacally to himself, and fell into a laughing outburst. Recovering, he slid eight green chips into the ante spot for a $200 bet.
10-2 and a fold. He tried again.
J-10 off, good potential, and followed with a nine! Fourth street, however, brought with it an ace and that was followed by another jack! David was up to $3,150 in chips and was only down $750. He decided $200 was as rich as his ante bet really needed to get and did it again.
Q-8, suited. Third street brought a five on the 1x bet, fourth street a seven, and fifth street a king. David ran a hand through his remaining hair, shaped like a horseshoe that landed around his head in a ringer, he was now down $1550 and had $2,350 in chips.
Not convinced the streak had officially ended, he made another $200 bet. The next two hands were immediate folds with 10-4, off-suit and 6-4, off-suit. David found himself again down $1950 and had exactly that much in chips.
David’s emotional center had officially fried. He had experienced the pinnacles of excitement in the beginning of the session as well as despair in making what he thought would be the ante on his final hand. Interestingly enough, he now felt nothing. Nothing, that is, except a nagging need to continue. He wasn’t quite sure that the winning streak was truly broken, after all, it’s not like he had lost multiple bets on a playable hand in the last two hands. He decided to split the difference and stacked six green chips for a $150 ante bet.
He got one of those, ‘Hopeful,’ starting hands: a K-7, suited. He tried to will an additional spade, but received a nine of hearts, instead. Fortunately, it was followed by another nine, and he pushed out $450 in chips desperately hoping for improvement.
He caught another seven! Two pair!
Matt went on another break as the old guy, Phillip, tapped him out again. David meticulously counted and stacked his chips and was pleased to discover that he had $3,750 in front of him and was only down $150. Briefly forgetting that Matt was allegedly the dealer of destiny, he made a bet of $200 and Phillip sent him his two cards, K-2, off-suit.
David chased all the way through a Q-6-8 and was now down $950 total. He opted to try another $200 bet, which he did in an automatic, trance-like fashion.
ACES!!! Holy shit, ACES!!!
No improvement, but the 3x bets and the starting aces brought him back to $4,950 in chips. He was ahead $1,050! Apparently forgetting about the $200 max bet he had self-imposed, he slid a stack of twelve green chips into the ante spot, a $300 bet!
10-5, off-suit, and an immediate fold. The dealer flipped three community cards, and sure enough, there had been two tens hiding there. David opted to repeat the $300 ante bet. J-4, off-suit, nine, two, fold. Just like that, he was down $150.
David returned to his $200 bet and was met with an A-5, both clubs. The next card was a two of clubs, he bet 3x (incorrectly) because of the straight flush potential. He got a jack of spades and made a 1x bet, four of clubs.
"Shit," David intoned, "That was close."
Phillip was pretty uncomfortable with responding to statements such as those, so he gestured by way of asking David whether or not he wanted to make another bet. David bet $200 again and was dealt J-10, off-suit, followed by A-8-2, for another $800 loss. He now had $1,750 in chips. Automatically, he repeated the bet.
A-K, suited, David wrongly made a 3x bet, but was fortunate enough to catch another Ace!
That pair of aces also failed to improve, but David found himself restored to $3,750 in chips, and was down $150, overall. He couldn’t help but push his bet to $300. He started the following hand with a suited J-7, clubs, but chased an off eight followed by a nine and a five for an $800 loss.
Again, he made a $200 bet. He folded a 4-3, off-suit, but got a suited A-8, clubs, the following hand. He ended up catching a pair with the remaining three cards, but it was a pair of threes and another $800 loss. Just as Matt returned, David counted $1,550 in chips.
"How are you," Matt asked?
"I don’t know," David replied. The only thing he did know was that he was sliding eight more green chips into the ante spot. Folding a 7-2, he tried again and caught an A-6, off-suit. He then caught running jacks and his chip stack was increased to $2,550. He put another $300 ante out.
He received a K-5 off and folded when the following card turned out to be a three, of course, the last two cards ended up being tens.
He reduced his ante bet to $200 and slid the eight green chips into the circle. He caught A-8, off-suit, and a matched eight without any further improvement got his bets back to him. He bet the $200 ante again and received an off-suit K-10. He chased that for a Q-4-5, lost another $800, and took inventory.
He found himself down to $1,150 in chips and recalled having to buy back in for $200 meaning he had $2,950, overall, and was down $2,750 to this table. As much as he hated coming off of the $200 antes, he willed himself to do it, and slid four green chips into the ante circle.
He folded an off-suit 6-5 exclaiming, "Fuck!" As Matt revealed the other cards, it turned out they would have given David a straight. He folded a 6-4, and two kings were hiding in the community cards. He continued to bet $100, folded a 6-4, got his bets back on a pair of sixes, folded a 6-3.
His stack was down to $750, so he dropped his bet to $75.
Pair of eights!!!
4-2, fold, A-2, ended up with a pair of nines for the push.
9-5, fold, Q-3, suited, another three, but no further help.
His chip stack had dwindled to a paltry $300. He bet $50 of it on the ante.
3-2, fold, A-4, suited, 10-8-5, all off-suit.
Just like that, the fat lady had sung. Dazed, David took his two remaining green chips to the cage and put his $50 in his wallet. He counted it up and was somewhat stunned to realize that his $5,700 had been reduced to $1,850 in the span of just a few hours.
He meandered over to the buffet, and though he felt famished when he walked into it, he found himself completely unable to eat anything more than the lightest fare. With a salad and a protein-loaded plate, he managed to only eat half of the salad and take one bite of a burger when a feeling of lightheadedness took over.
He made his way back up to the room, barely, he had to use the wall for support twice. Mississippi Stud, he concluded, is a sick fucking game.
He returned to the room and puttered around. He laid down on the bed and flipped through channels dissatisfied, even though the actual shows playing barely even registered with him. Certain that the very late evening hours had hit, he looked over at the clock, but was dismayed to find that it was just before six in the evening. Not knowing what else to do, he hopped in the shower.
He had not tipped at the buffet on this occasion, so his $1850 was still intact. He absently went down to the slot floor and popped $150 in one of the $15 Quick Hit machines, as if by fate, he experienced a 100% loss on ten consecutive spins and was officially down to $1,700 plus what amounted to a rounding error in the bank.
He had half a notion to get the craps maximum raised to $2,000 and to put all $1,700 on the pass line just to see what happens, or alternatively, to make a $150 bet and put almost everything else on odds, but he looked at the sullen craps table (several players had sevened-out in short succession) and thought better of it.
David then went to the kiosk to check his comps and was pleased to find that he had earned $120 in general comps as well as 10,000 points convertible to $100 in free play. He went back to the Quick Hit machine and loaded that playing only $5 at a time, but with his best single result being $120 on some free games, he lost the free play in under a half hour.
He pulled out his phone and looked at the time, 7:30. Casinos are boring when you don’t really want to gamble, he thought.
He walked around and around the casino in a complete and total daze. He wanted nothing more than to find a reliable way to turn his $1,700 back into $5,700, to erase his $4,000 loss since he had sat down at the Mississippi Stud table. However, for all the systems that he had devised and all of the games for which he had devised them, he could think of no way of doing that. More than anything, he just wanted to continue to gamble, but he didn’t know how or on what. Anything less than a $50 bet was going to essentially seem meaningless, but that was all he could really afford and still hope to play for awhile.
Eventually, David concluded that he had an amazing session with the biggest ups and downs he had experienced to that point in his life, and that he had, overall, enjoyed the last three days even though they caused him to lose over two grand, overall. He realized that, in order to bet at those levels again, he would simply need to increase his bankroll the old-fashioned way: By collecting paychecks. In the meantime, he decided just to go home.
The temperature had absolutely plummeted compared to the previous day when David went on his walk to the bank, and he tucked his hands into his leather jacket and hugged himself. He had heard that having a few drinks would make him feel warmer, so he turned around and walked into a lounge that he had just passed. Upon walking in, he noticed Nate Frazier sitting at a table by himself.
"Care for company?"
Nate was about to decline as he had been focused on his BLT and didn’t immediately recognize the voice, but then he looked up and saw the man who had quickly become one of his best players...at least by off-season standards. "Sure, David, have a seat."
David thanked him and sat down. He searched for something to say and coming up empty pointed out, "I’m surprised to run into you, here."
Nate chuckled, "I exist in places other than the casino, sometimes. In fact, this is usually where I come for lunch, or dinner, whatever you want to call it. Unless I have a player I need to take to dinner, that is."
David cackled, "I’m not good enough for dinner?"
Nate responded, "No, you are, I just gathered that you were more of a solitary type. I’m sorry if I misinterpreted that." Nate couldn’t help but notice the plastic grocery bags stuffed with clothes that David had sat on the floor, "Doing any good today?"
"Everything went according to plan," David joked, "That is, if my plan was to drop four grand."
Nate had quickly become adept at not showing his excitement when a player reported a sizable loss, and at lying, "That really sucks, but at least you’ll have some nice packages coming your way."
"Do you really think so?"
"Absolutely," Nate responded cheerfully, "You know, four grand is a sizeable loss this time of year. This really is a dead time for the casino, and that would actually be a decent loss otherwise, I bet I can get them to roll out the red carpet for you next time."
"That’s good," David replied absently, "I think I also hit the top card level now, but I’m not 100% sure because I didn’t actually check."
Nate thought about the sort of customers that had the casino’s top card, "I doubt it," he replied, "But, you could be close. Just keep playing those tables, the big bets are good, too, the crews are supposed to err on the side of overrating the big players."
David shrugged, "Not to say that I’m not worried about how they rate me, but what I really am concerned about is winning. It seems like nothing that I do ever works."
Nate contemplated how to respond to the statement, with exception to a small handful of ways that The Golden Goose could be beaten, he knew that eventually nothing would ever work. He chewed his food thoughtfully, swallowed, and replied, "You know, David, gambling is about a lot more than winning or losing for many people. In fact, for most players that I deal with, it’s about the excitement, and in that excitement is the experience of gambling. The ups and downs, that sort of thing, if everyone did nothing but lose, then they wouldn’t play...if they did nothing but win...well, I shudder to think. I don’t really want to file for unemployment, I hear it’s a hassle."
David recollected the last few days and pondered whether or not the experience had been worth the money he had lost. His Mississippi Stud experiment had failed miserably, of course, and after the excitement of the wins and the losses, the highs and the lows, he was left with nothing but a dullness. The feeling that he was merely watching everything that had occurred outside of the gambling, that he was a bystander in every other aspect of his own life, had returned and he felt nothing more than an emptiness.
It occurred to him that another huge and exciting session might be sufficient to assuage that emptiness, and that a win would permanently replace it. At the same time, the rational part of him wanted to simply hang on to the money that he had and find a way to enjoy it. After all, $1,700 was not an unsizable sum to have when one has no obligations whatsoever for the money. To wit, he had actually managed to pay his mom for the rent and was two months ahead on it. He could, quite simply, do whatever he wanted to do.
The waitress made her way over and David asked for a double jack and coke, "Put it on my tab," Nate called out, and David thanked him.
David became curious, "Doesn’t that come out of your own money if we’re not at the casino?"
As much as he hated to admit it, Nate recognized what was going on with David and had simply taken pity on him, "Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t a host buying a player a drink, it was me buying you a drink, and I expect you’ll return the favor one day."
"Thanks, sure thing," David responded.
Despite his pronouncement, it occurred to David that there were actually very few sure things. In fact, according to him, there were none at all in the world of gambling. Had David looked at the situation just one iota more realistically on that day, he might have stumbled upon the correct conclusion: The only sure thing was that he would lose if he persisted in playing the way that he did.
That thought didn’t occur to David that night, though. In its place were feelings of regret that David had never accomplished anything meaningful with his life, and if he continued on his current path, he never would. There were a good many things that an individual was expected to have at that stage in life, and David did not have any of them. Not only would a huge win represent a financial success, if it ever happened, but he felt as though a large lump sum of money would, ‘Catch him up,’ in life.
Again, he considered his chance encounter with the dealer, Matt, in the conference room that morning and cursed himself for being as stupid as to think that it meant Mississippi Stud was his game of destiny. He was also furious at the WizardofOdds site for giving him such an amazing hand, if only his play-for-fun had went the same way as what would later happen in real life, David wouldn’t have been playing the game in real life to begin with. The thought that he had squandered an incredible opportunity to properly run The Ultimate System was inescapable, his disciplined approach, that he did not know to be still wrong, replaced by a lust for a quick success.
He had wanted a quick score and he hadn’t gotten it, the voice of his mom, who had often said, ‘..and the people in Hell want a glass of ice water,’ filled his head. That voice was followed by the voice of a college Philosophy teacher that he had liked, ‘Success without hard work has less meaning than working hard and failing.’ With that, it occurred to David that he was not likely to experience any degree of success unless he utilized The Ultimate System in a disciplined way.
Once again, David had partially learned his lesson. However, he would never learn the most important lesson in gambling, ‘One cannot expect to beat a negative expectation game.’
A voice broke his thoughts, "Hello, hello, I said have a good night. I have to get back, do you want to go?"
David’s reverie was snapped by Nate’s voice, and he felt a slight tinge of remorse because Nate had been kind enough to buy him a drink, out of pocket, and David had barely spoken two words to him since. He asked absently, "Go where?"
"Back to the casino," Nate answered, "It’s one thing for me to drive you to work from the casino, but I can’t imagine there is anything fundamentally wrong with taking you back. In fact, I could probably expense this lunch that way!"
David was, in fact, seriously interested in going back to The Golden Goose, after all, he probably had enough to play with if he gambled in a disciplined way. After a few seconds of deliberation, however, Nate’s earlier statement about the casino taking care of heavy bettors came back to him and he realized he would have to start small if he did go back, "No thanks, Nate. I appreciate it, but I think I am going to be done for this trip."
Nate could barely hide his disappointment, his sympathy had been replaced by greed as it had occurred to him that, if David was in a bar, David had some money remaining, "No problem. I just thought I’d offer since I am going there, anyway. Good night."
David finished his drink and went to the bar for another, as he approached, he overheard a conversation taking place between the bartender and a weathered older man who reminded him of Sammy, "...Anyway, those fuckers kicked me out, said I was back-counting."
"Well," the bartender inquired, "Were you?"
"Hell yes I was!" After making the exclamation, the old man erupted into a fit of laughter mixed with coughing, "But, what the Hell does that have to do with anything? The Golden Goose isn’t losing any of its big eggs to me, believe me, they make plenty of money off of the others."
David couldn’t help but inquire, "What are you talking about?"
"Shit," the old man replied, "You buy me the next couple of my beers and I might decide to tell you."
David was skeptical, but he had seventeen hundred bucks and nothing in particular to do, so he asked for another double jack and coke and ordered the old codger another St. Pauli Girl. "Okay, so you were saying."
"It’s really pretty simple," the old man replied, "You count cards at Blackjack, but you only play when the count is good for you. It’s called backcounting, and The Golden Goose kicked me out for it because they knew I was winning money off of them."
As much as David hated to admit it, he couldn’t help but notice that the open arms The Golden Goose had for him were being spread ever wider, and he was at no risk of getting kicked out. He was interested in the advantage that this old guy claimed to have over the casino as it would clearly represent a way to win money rather than lose it, "Okay, how do you do that?"
The old man, keeping his word, explained the fundamental tenets of card counting and even broke out a deck of cards in an effort to illustrate his point. David did not understand any of it, but he said, "I have about seventeen hundred, why don’t you go there with me and tell me when to play?"
The old man laughed heartily and replied, "Are you dense? I told you that they kicked me out, I could actually...well, technically...I could technically be arrested if I go back."
David was dumbfounded, "Arrested for what!?"
The old man was on his second beer courtesy of David’s money, "What the Hell do you mean, ‘For what?’ Have you been listening? They kicked me out of the casino and said I am subject to criminal trespass laws if I go back."
"Damn!" David continued to inquire, "What was your system?"
"System!?" The old man was beside himself, "Betting systems are for idiots! I’m talking about backcounting, don’t you understand? I’m saying you only make a bet of any kind when the deck gives you an advantage. Can I make this any simpler? I think I’ll need another beer if I am going to continue to try to get this through your head."
David ordered the old man another beer and got another double for himself, he had found that it was surprisingly easy to start drinking somewhat regularly, "Okay, continue."
The old man realized he was obligated to continue this conversation that was so clearly above David’s level of gambling comprehension, "Look, when the tens and aces are low, you gotta go, when the tens and aces are high....uh...I don’t have a rhyme for that, but it means the show is good. I use a card-counting system called Hi-Lo, and I’ve already explained that twice, but if you keep me in St. Pauli Girl, I might be willing to do it a third time."
David agreed and the man gave another explanation complete with demonstration using a deck of playing cards..
"Of course," the old man concluded, "They’re never going to let you wong-in on a single deck, that’s just not going to happen. In fact, they don’t have any single-deck games, so it’s a moot point, I’m just using this deck to explain the dynamics of it."
"So," David asked, "How much can you make?" David lowered his head and conspiratorially whispered, "Millions?"
The old man laughed so hard he had to grab the bar to keep from falling out of his chair, "No, no no, on a good day, you make a few bets of $500 at a 1% advantage, or thereabouts, and you maybe end up with a couple hundred dollars of value. I guess you can make millions, over the course of several years. I suppose I have, but that’s over the last twenty-five, thirty years.. I’m dry, here."
David ordered the old-timer another beer and himself another double.
The gentleman continued, "But, you know, it’s a ton of work. I mean, not really work, but time. Sometimes you run bad for a bit, there’s no such thing as a guarantee. I don’t even bother with it now that The Goose kicked me out, no other casinos are close enough. It was never my primary source of income, I just retired here because I grew up here and decided to make a few extra bucks because I had nothing better to do."
David couldn’t help but be surprised that The Golden Goose had kicked the man out, incredulously he inquired, "How much were you taking off of them!?"
"BARELY ANYTHING!!!" The old man bombastically continued, "Barely. Anything. I wasn’t even doing it on a semi-professional basis anymore, I just needed something to do. My standard bet was $100, so I was getting a little under a dollar on each hand I played."
David was skeptical, "And, they kicked you out for that? You were winning what, fifty bucks a day?"
The old man shook his head and said, "Not even, I was a friggin’ hobbyist at that point. Can’t put in long hours anymore, feet get too tired, maybe $20."
David recollected the four grand he had dropped that day, "Why would they kick you out for winning twenty bucks a day?"
The old man groaned, "You know, they’re a small place, very sweaty. It sounds strange, but they take countermeasures against counters very seriously. Their rules aren’t even that good. You can’t double after splitting, for one thing. Maybe you can now, that used to not be allowed."
"You can now," David confirmed.
Spitting out the last word, the old man concluded, "Anyway, they’re a bunch of pussies."
"Yeah, pussies, that’s what I said," the old man drunkenly replied, "You have all of these locals...I mean...do you call that a destination? I mean...um...that’s 99% of their money is these locals. Know what I’m saying?"
"I’m afraid I don’t," David admitted.
"No, listen," the old man replied with eyes of fire, "They’re locals, almost all of them. This isn’t some Las Vegas Venetian destination-level casino we’re talking about, here. The place is a dump with reasonably nice hotel rooms, other than that, a dump. You’re talking about a place that exists mainly to cater to gambling addicts, in effect, the locals. You don’t have people from California saying, ‘Let’s go to The Golden Goose (burp) Casino, it’s this great place in the Midwest. That doesn’t happen."
"I don’t understand your point," David admitted.
"My point," the old codger concluded, "Is that they take money from all of the locals around here and they don’t even offer a semblance of anything that at a destination casino offers in return. In itself, that’s probably fine, people can do what they want to with their money, but there’s really no reason for them to be sweating a black chip back counter."
David mostly found himself in agreement with the old man, but he was still bothered by something, "What do you mean when you say they cater to gambling addicts?"
"It’s a question of whether or not a place is a destination, really." The old man continued, "When you talk about a destination, you look at a place that offers something besides gambling, gambling is merely a facet of what is there. Las Vegas has destination casinos, it is a destination, same thing with Atlantic City. The Golden Goose, quite frankly, has no appeal besides whatever appeal it holds to gamblers, which in the case of locals, simply means it is the closest possible place to gamble."
David finally understood the old man’s point, but he didn’t really grasp the concept of backcounting. Even if he had grasped it, the subject wouldn’t particularly interest him because it didn’t seem as though that were any method of assuring a quick win. He bought the old guy another St. Pauli Girl, thanked him for his time, ordered another double Jack & Coke and decided to play the $57 he had left over on one of the machines there.
Not really knowing why, he selected a machine called Wolf Run that he had also noticed the casino had on the floor and played at fifty cents a spin. In David’s state, in addition to the casinos there were small establishments known as, ‘Slot parlors,’ that housed a small number of machines and the bars were allowed to have them, as well, if nobody under twenty-one was allowed inside or if they were in a separate area. Despite hitting a few decent wins, $30, or so, each, David lost his $57 in about an hour.
At that point, he and his $1,600 he had remaining left the establishment.
David hadn’t yet hit, ‘The point of no return,’ which is to say that The Golden Goose was still closer than his destination, his home. He briefly considered returning, even started to drunkenly stumble towards The Golden Goose, but ultimately decided he would be better off just going home, calling it a night, and waiting until he had the bankroll to run his system properly. It will only take a couple of months, he thought.
The alcohol had somewhat recovered David’s sense to just enough of an extent that he no longer felt hollow inside, and he wrestled with the idea that the old man had proposed with what he called, ‘Backcounting.’ He resolved to research some information on card counting at the earliest opportunity to determine what the whole thing was about, just then, his phone rang.
David recognized Nate’s number and answered, "What’s going on, Nate?"
Nate sounded excited, "Hey, David, since it’s the weekend you know the tables will be mostly open all night, right?"
David was confused, "I’m going home, what does that have to do with me?"
"Listen," Nate said, "Based on your action earlier, I was able to get you a $100 free bet coupon, and we won’t even hold that against you on a comp basis. The thing is, you have to use it tonight."
David looked at the street signs as he came to the intersection, ‘South Grandview Avenue and Second Street,’ realizing he had not gone quite halfway home he said, "I could probably also use another drink or two if I come back."
Nate immediately replied, "All taken care of, I decided to go ahead and manually upgrade you to the highest tier level, even though it took some talking, so you can have free drinks whenever you want now and it doesn’t even come off of your food and beverage credit!"
"And, also, I already checked out of the room."
"I can call them and have you checked back in just as easily," Nate replied, "Just go to the hotel desk and get your keys. In fact, I’ll even leave your new players club card and you free bet with them!"
David couldn’t help but have a foreboding feeling about the whole thing. He had been substantially financially harmed, sure, but he had managed to escape the last few days with $1,600 intact, at least. He wrestled with himself internally, but finally responded, "Sure, I’ll be there."
David returned to the casino only to find that his, ‘Free bet,’ could only be used on even money propositions. He took it to the craps table and waited for the dice to come around to him, placing his voucher on the pass line, he proceeded to immediately roll an eleven. His free bet was replaced with a $100 black chip.
David looked at his phone and saw that it was almost midnight, even though he considered buying back into the table, or alternatively, breaking the black chip that he had requested down, he instead went over to the cage and cashed it. To his surprise, he found a single left over from the bar in his wallet and tipped it to the cashier. "Very generous, thank you, sir," came the response.
David returned to his room, set the alarm for nine in the morning and went to sleep. His sleep was interrupted as he woke up from a dream in which the ten thousand dollar hit on four kings playing Mississippi Stud had actually happened. The bathroom light was on, and he stumbled in to turn it off when he suddenly felt the need to urinate.
After finishing his business, David washed his hands. He continued to wash them compulsively while staring in the mirror for several minutes. When he finally turned the sink off, he asked himself, "What am I doing?"
He looked all around him as though there was actually someone present to answer. He returned to the bedroom and counted his wallet for the twentieth time, $1,700, when it had just been $5,700 earlier that day. Despite the free play and the free bets he had been given, it occurred to him that he had managed to lose over four thousand dollars throughout the course of the day.
He feared being late for work again, and looking at the clock, he saw that it was already 7:00 a.m., despite the fact that he had not felt as though he had slept at all. He even considered staying up, but it seemed too prudent to squeeze in those last two hours before the alarm would go off, he laid back down and tried to go to sleep.
No matter what he tried to do, his mind couldn’t escape the fact that he had lost over four thousand dollars in one day. The number repeatedly flashed through his mind, nagging at him constantly, until the alarm started playing Boston’s More Than a Feeling, and he realized he had not slept another wink. He shut the alarm off and stumbled into the shower.
Even though he had managed to restrain himself from playing more after using the free bet, David walked to work feeling like a complete and total disgrace. He had become enraptured by an off-the-wall game called Mississippi Stud, deviated from his systematic betting once again, and had paid a huge price. He shuddered, not just because he hadn’t put his clothes on yet, but also because he realized he had been very close to buying in for everything that he had left on more than one occasion.
He didn’t want to talk to anyone, even though he would have no choice but to do so upon arriving at work, so he dropped his keys into the, ‘Express check out,’ and made his way out of the casino bound for A Penny Saved.
While walking, it occurred to him how empty the next couple of months would be as he worked at his dead-end job in an effort to get four thousand bucks to take with him to the casino and employ The Ultimate System properly, this time. He was somewhat comforted by the fact that he could use that time to figure out a stronger strategy on perhaps a different game with which to employ his system.
At the same time, recollecting his conversation with the old man at the bar the previous night nagged him. After all, the guy had to be onto something if the casino was kicking him out while they were offering David $100 free bets just to get him to come back in and play a little more. He concluded that, through proper use of his system, it would only be a matter of time before The Golden Goose was kicking him out. He was determined to steadfastly adhere to his system on the next stay in order to assure success. Getting sidetracked and betting crazily was not, he concluded, the sort of thing he typically did.
He thought about ducking into a nearby convenience store and calling a cab, but then he decided, every dollar I spend is a dollar more I am away from the four thousand dollars I need to guarantee success, and yet, the rational part of his brain was telling him that he had over four grand going in, and success clearly had not been guaranteed.
Go back to chapter 10.
About the Author
Mission146 is a proud husband and father of two. He generally fell quite a bit short of the expectations most people had for him, though happily so. Mission146 is currently a salary-slave in Ohio who enjoys documentaries, Philosophy and gambling discussion. Mission146 will write for money, and if you wish for him to do so, create an account on WizardofVegas.com and send him a Private Message with your request.
Written by: Brandon James