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The Ultimate System - Chapter 9


The Ultimate System - Chapter 9

Starting Again

"That’s fine," Nate Frazier said, the phone receiver hovering just inches from the cradle and his left hand hovering mere centimeters from the disconnect button, "Just give me a call when you want to come back and I’ll see what we can do for you. Uh-huh. Okay. I’ll talk to you then. Okay. Bye."

Greg, the senior (and only other) host adjusted his glasses for the twentieth, or so, time in ten minutes and looked over at Nate, "How’s tricks over there?"

Nate groaned, "Well, I’ve resorted to calling David Landstrom again, if that tells you anything. I can’t get anybody in here!" Nate looked around and the small office shared by Greg and himself and then noticed Greg was doing a crossword puzzle. Incredulously, "How are you sitting so pretty over there? Don’t you want to get anyone in here?"

Greg shrugged, "It’s always slow right after the new year. People blow all of their money on Christmas shopping, other holiday partying, this isn’t exactly a resort town in the Winter, you know. We might see a few of our people in a month or two if they overpaid on their taxes, the people expecting to get money usually file their returns the fastest."

Nate understood the situation, in fact, it had been exactly the same at the other casino he’d worked for. Table games staff would leave early throughout all of January and most of February. The Super Bowl would draw a little bit of a crowd, but those would be mostly people slow-playing (or no playing) the bar top machines while watching the game. Because the state had no legalized sports betting, the Super Bowl was little more a draw for people than any other decent bar would be.

"I just figured I’d try my locals and semi-locals," Nate reasoned, "You’re not going to get anyone to travel this time of year, especially not here, so I figure the brass would be happy with us getting anyone to come into the place."

Greg took his glasses off and rubbed them with his handkerchief, "The locals usually have less money than anyone else around this time," he suggested, "If nothing else, you calling them is probably just a reminder of their current financial state." He yawned and put his feet up on the desk, "Anyway, the brass probably isn’t even here to care, at least not most of them, I don’t think they really care what we do right now."

Nate looked around the office for about the tenth time that hour, it occurred to him that it was never going to look any different, "So, what’s the plan? Just to put in the minimum hours to satisfy the salary part of our contracts?"

Greg inquired, "What else is there to do? Let me take this nap, and then I might break out that little putting green; we can putt for dollars, probably be the most gambling going on anywhere in this place!"



What Nate didn’t know was that David Landstrom was not out of money, quite the opposite in fact, he’d managed to save up just over the most he’d ever had at once and, for the third time that day, counted his stack of thirty-five hundred dollar bills. David would only have to wait a few more days for his next check, to reach the minimum permissible bankroll of four grand, and he would be able to unleash, ‘The Ultimate System," upon the unwary Golden Goose Casino yet again.

David had been hard at work trying out every system he could think of on the free games at WizardofOdds.com, he’d been growing increasingly frustrated as most of his attempts eventually resulted in failure. Sooner or later, it turned out, just about every system would result in a player losing all of his bankroll. David had even considered paying someone to run a simulation of his system, apparently completely forgetting both his objections to simulations and his perception that electronic games were an illegitimate representation.

With a couple of clicks, David fired off another bet that resulted in a loss. If he lost another consecutive bet, the result would be that his $4,000 bankroll would be unable to sustain the loss and make the next required bet. Fortunately, his next bet was a winner and he was able to continue.

What had finally occurred to David is that his system could not beat any individual game over a prolonged period of time, however, the key was to jump from game to game incorporating the betting system. He figured out that, at any one table or another, long winning or losing streaks simply happened from time to time. As ridiculous as it was, they just did, so trying to ride out any Martingale based system at the same game would be leaving a player exposed to the results of a particular game that was either trending hot or cold.

Of course, David had reasoned, that could be counteracted by switching it up and betting with the streak as opposed to against it, but it seemed that what would often happen when one did that, perhaps jumping from a pass line bet on craps to a don’t pass, is that was when the table would sometimes choose to get choppy...the ultimate result being a player always being on the wrong side.

What David figured out, however, was these trends only happened if a player were to stick with the same game at all times. He determined that the key to success was to switch from game to game, but aside from that, he intended to stick with his usual back and forth system. The only major difference was that the win parameters to move onto the next game were going to go down substantially.

David won the next two decisions on the craps game and then jumped over to the free roulette game. After a couple of losses he switched colors and picked up three consecutive wins, at which time he switched over to the baccarat game. A few player results later, (it was the one game where he never bet banker because the commission on a win was too much of a pain to deal with) and it was right back to craps.

If nothing else, at least he’d get a little exercise doing it in a live casino…


David kicked the snow in front of him and watched as the lump-like mound took to the air and temporarily reverted back to the form of hundreds of flakes, just then a gust of wind sent the flakes flying over and through the bridge railing and out towards the little stream that ran along the back way to A Penny Saved grocery store. David let loose another kick against a different mound of snow that had formed against one of the bridge supports and watched in innocent joy as another gust of wind send the individual snowflakes scattering through the air.

David was happy for two reasons: It was February, so even given his considerable girth, he could walk from place to place without finding himself covered in sweat upon reaching his destination, the second reason was because he was only two days away from a three-night stay at The Golden Goose Casino. He made a mental note to take it easy on Friday, though, so that he would actually make it to work on time Saturday.


While he believed that his system had an expectation of winning by, ‘Jumping around,’ from game to game, it occurred to him that his new strategy was a bit less aggressive on the winning side, so there was a pretty good chance he wouldn’t be quitting his job after the three-day weekend. His schedule had changed, yet again, and his new days off were Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but burning his vacation day just as quickly as he got it, he was taking Wednesday off as well.

He decided to stay at home Tuesday to see if any adjustments needed to be made to his system. He sought out support on the WizardofVegas.com forums, but the only response he seemed to be getting from anyone was that his system would work best by not playing it. Of course, nobody was willing to do the math on the probability of success or a complete bust-out because the system was simply too complicated to give an exact probability for due to both the frequency of switching games, and also the fact that the parameters of the system, despite David’s many attempts to explain them, were not particularly clear.

For the time being, however, it was Monday and David had an eight hour shift in front of him. He reminded himself, once again, about Nicholas Allison’s apparent promise to recommend him for deli supervisor provided he kept his book clean, and his book had been kept clean ever since. When he wasn’t gambling, in fact, David was nothing short of a model employee.


David was in the middle of one of the biggest PITA orders that exist in the deli world, a customer who wanted a quarter-pound of just about everything that wasn’t on display, and of course, wanted everything except the cheese chipped. David even had to chip the friggin’ bologna on that order, "Who eats chipped bologna?" he asked himself while readying the meat slicer for the sixth loaf of a cold cut it had seen if five minutes…


"Excuse me, sir?" David looked over and saw the customer waving at him, "Don’t you think you should clean the slicer, now? How many different things have been on there?"

David groaned and grabbed a washrag, washrags in a deli are not at all dissimilar from washrags used in a bar, dipping the rag in a bucket of water labeled, "Sanitizer," he went to work on the slicer.

"Sir…" the customer sounded impatient, "I mean, don’t you think you should take it apart and clean it? I don’t think my wife wants her bologna tasting like London Broil."

David was beyond incensed at this point, but did everything possible not to show it. For some reason, everyone in town seemed to have chosen that day to get deli meats and cheeses, a Monday, usually one of the slowest of the week in the grocery world...and also supposedly during the slowest season of the year for grocery stores. Of course, David was alone during this shift because the expectation was there wouldn’t be anybody there.

The prospect of breaking down an entire slicer and cleaning it for the purposes of serving one customer a quarter-pound of bologna, and the other seven things he was sure to order, was nothing short of aggravating. Slicers usually got broken down once a night, and besides that, David knew that the guy was inevitably going to bitch about how long the service took.

David asked, "Is it okay if I just use the other slicer, sir? I promise it hasn’t been used at all today."

"Does the other slicer work well?"

Fortunately, David had his back to the customer, so the customer couldn’t see David extend his middle finger across his chest or roll his eyes, "I promise that slicer works just as well as this one, in fact, that slicer’s actually newer."

"Well, why weren’t you using that one to begin with?"

Because this one is closer to the fucking display case that I have to fucking chip and slice stuff up and fill you fucking retard!!!

Instead, David responded, "I don’t know, sir, maybe I’ll ask for permission to start using that slicer first from now on."

Nicholas Allison was in an inordinately feisty mood when he came in an hour later to check on things, feisty though he may have been, he was just as anal as ever, "Mr. Landstrom," he began, "Why are both meat slicers in use when you are only one person?"

David explained the situation with the customer who demanded that the slicer be fully broken down and cleaned in the middle of his order, and basically admitted that he wanted to get the customer out of there faster, so he decided to use the other slicer.

"Was he the only one in line?"

David thought he was going to catch an earful, but decided to tell the truth anyway, "Yeah, we’ve actually been busy all day, but he was the only one in line at that moment."

"In that case," Nicholas began, "Take your sweet time cleaning the thing and make the asshole wait. Try to get the stuff you already cut up to fifty degrees by the time he gets out of here!"

David had a hearty laugh at the advice, that had actually been his first idea.

"In the meantime, though," Nicholas said resignedly, "I hate to do this, but I have to ask you to clean one of these. It just doesn’t look right for two slicers to be dirty when only one person’s working, besides, you have lunch in ten minutes."

The reason Nicholas was there, in fact, was to give David his lunch. Two ten-minute breaks were hardly a concern because a sign could simply be put out, but it was difficult to leave the deli for a full half hour for lunch. David became irritated, initially, wondering why Nicholas couldn’t just clean the damn thing, but then he thought about things from Nicholas’ perspective: Nicholas was there to relieve him because the deli wasn’t going to run with two people on a weekday, so while Nicholas was off two days a week, on each of those days, he had to come in and cover a lunch. He also had to cover the lunch for the opposite shift on the days that he did work.

Of course, the deli was still busy enough to justify having two per shift on weekends, but Nicholas would have a tough time taking Friday and Saturday, the only busy days of the week that time of the year, off. Long story short, Nicholas essentially got to enjoy two months of not really having a day off, and not getting paid a cent more for his efforts, because it saved the store a paltry sum of money.


I wouldn’t want to do anything during that thirty minutes, either, David thought.

David had actually become curious as to what Nicholas made one day, but he didn’t want to phrase the question directly. Knowing he might be in the position to take the job of supervisor, because Nicholas had as much as told him so, he asked, "What does a starting deli supervisor make?" It turned out that deli supervisors made a pittance over the other employees of the deli based on a forty-hour workweek, but Nicholas seemed to put in closer to fifty-five hours a week, which meant that he made about two bucks less per hour than the deli attendants. In addition to that came Nicholas’ present responsibility of cutting two chunks out of his, ‘Day off,’ to come into the deli and relieve the attendants for lunch.

David’s thoughts then turned to the customer from earlier, the one who made him open up five new items and bought a total of a quarter pound each of about eight different meats and six different cheeses as well as making him clean the slicer. Forget mandatory military service, David thought, everyone should have to do mandatory customer service for a year.

Increasingly, David found himself experiencing tinges of guilt for all of the customer service people he had wronged over the years. The way society works, people simply don’t do everything for themselves, so out of either recreation or necessity, people simply have to go out and deal with other people to get the things that they need or want. In that process comes an opportunity to either make someone’s day more bearable, or to be a serious pain in that person’s ass and make a process that isn’t necessarily all that fun even more miserable. Too often, David and those who dealt with David now, as he worked in the deli, chose the latter route.

In many cases, some people probably don’t realize what unmitigated pain in the asses they are, but in others, there can be almost no question that the person is aware of what he or she is doing. Sometimes, people will deliberately make such a nuisance out of themselves because they hope to get something out of the serviceperson who really just wants the customer to get the hell away from him or her. While it may seem intelligent to, ‘Stand strong,’ and not let such people win, ultimately, an individual’s tolerance might simply not be up for the challenge that day.

David mulled these things over as he ate a sandwich he had made (and properly tagged at the employee lunch rate) earlier that day. He clocked in after exactly thirty minutes and said to Nicholas Allison, "Enjoy the rest of your day, Nicholas, I’m sorry you have to come in like this."

"It sucks," Nicholas agreed, "But, we’re all slaves to something, aren’t we?"

"You’ll make store manager one day," David consoled, "Then you won’t be a slave."

"Rest assured, I’ll still be a slave, just a slave who is better compensated."

David asked, "Don’t more whippings go along with that territory?"

"I never really thought about it," Nicholas admitted, "Isn’t it amazing what you’ll endure for an entire two weeks just to get that five minutes of enjoyment when you open up your paycheck? Actually, hell, sometimes it’s already spent and not even that is enjoyable."


The phone in the deli rang for the first time that day, even though it had been busy for walk-up customers, there hadn’t been any orders of any kind. David looked up at the clock, 20:14, he briefly mulled over not answering the phone, but then realized it could be Nicholas calling with something to add to the order he’d forgotten. His breaks had both been used, so he’d catch all Hell if he didn’t answer his only phone call of the day.

"A Penny Saved Deli, this is David, how may I help you?"

"Hello," a middle-aged lady’s voice called out, "Did you say this is David?"

"Guilty as charged," David responded, "Can I help you?"

"I’m so glad you’re there," she saId, "Your trays were fabulous last time you made them for us…"

Oh, fuck.

"Anyway, we have a club meeting tomorrow morning at ten, but I need to pick up the trays before that. I need three meat and cheese trays, size three, and two veggie trays, size two."

David took a moment and considered his options, the deli would open at nine o’clock, but it sounded like they would want to pick the trays up right away, so nothing morning shift could do. He thought about calling Nicholas Allison and passing the order along to him, but he already felt bad enough that Nicholas had to come in twice on his day off. He could tell the lady that the trays simply couldn’t be done by nine o’clock, and they really couldn’t, unless David planned to violate one policy or another…

"They’ll be in the back at nine o’clock," David said, "As always, thanks for choosing A Penny Saved."

As David started slicing what he needed for the meat and cheese trays, and then cubing it, he continued to wonder whether he should stay on the clock and get an override, work off the clock, or call Nicholas and tell him he had to get there before opening the next day. The latter option, while technically correct, made him feel terrible. First the guy has to come in twice on his supposed day off, and then he has to deal with getting a call in the evening hours to tell him that he has to come in either that night or before shift to finish the trays off. What kind of life is that?

David decided that he would be best off just staying on the clock given that working off the clock subjected him to immediate termination, if found out. Even rushing things, there was no way he would get done in time, so he decided to do a thorough and complete job on the five trays, clean the slicer properly, and go to the office and get an override.

He clocked out at 21:25.


"I really wish you wouldn’t go," Evan Blake protested at David, who was tying his shoes in his dingy basement, the drip-drip-drip from the leaky pipe in his new and improved Blue Bonnet butter container just audible enough to be irritating in the background.

"Look, you’re here to give me a ride," David protested, "Not to act as my life coach. Besides, you can stay with me one or two nights if you want, I can probably get a room with two beds, might even be able to score some buffets for you."

David felt that he negotiated a good, ‘Trip,’ with Nate Frazier. After a little bit of back-and-forth between the two, David managed to get three free nights inside a room that would have definitely sat empty otherwise, two free buffets per day of food that was, literally, not at all likely to change during his stay...just be reheated…$20 in free play, per day, and $20 per day in other food and beverage credit..


From his perspective, David had scored a pretty good three-day trip at The Golden Goose Casino, and for his part, Nate Frazier was just happy that one of his people were coming in for a change. It was true that things would improve a little bit in March, but the rest of February was guaranteed to be a complete and total mess. In fact, Nate had begun to follow Greg’s daily plan...which consisted of sleeping half of the day and playing putt-putt the other half.

That’s another reason I can’t wait until it gets busy again, Nate had thought, I’m getting killed on this putt-putt stuff.

Evan Blake countered, "Well, how much are you planning to lose?"

David protested, "I’m not planning to lose anything, thank you. I’m planning to win."

"Fair enough, Mr. Winner," Evan retorted, "How much are you taking with you?"

David had just flipped through the thirty-five C-Notes and $562.34 check right before Evan arrived, "A little under five hundred bucks, my money is safe in the bank. Speaking of which, I have to get it out, can we stop there first?"

Evan was confused, "I thought you just got paid, how did you cash that check?"

David was close to caught, but not quite, "I didn’t pick up my check today."

"Then why did we go to the store?"

David held up the pouf and toothpaste he’d grabbed from the store...after grabbing his check, "I needed some essentials," he said, "I don’t like their toothpaste and they don’t have poufs. I forgot all about my check."

Evan dutifully drove David to the bank and the latter deposited $62.34 from his check as well as $30.24 he had on him in addition to his thirty-five crisp hundreds. David asked for a print out of his new balance and found himself mildly satisfied that it had grown to $612.22 despite the fact that he had been keeping most of his checks in cash form for his casino excursion that was only a few moments away.

The pair then pulled into the casino and David said, "Evan, at least come in and have a buffet. There’s no way I can use both of them today."


Evan agreed and the pair walked in and ate at the buffet. David then checked into his room and excitedly gave Evan a tour of the hotel side of the property. David’s room was a pretty good one, with a king-size bed, large flat screen TV and bathroom big enough for two people with a double sink, "Isn’t it great!?"

Evan looked around unimpressed, "It’s a hotel room, it’s okay. You know you only live a few miles from here?"

David responded, "It’s a lot nicer than my basement, you have to admit."

Evan sighed, "Nicer than the basement, yes, probably not as nice as my place."

David looked up, surprised, "What do you mean, ‘My place?’"

Evan could have swore he told David that he had rented an apartment, clean place with a sizable kitchen/dining area and good view of the hills from the balcony, "I couldn’t wait around forever, David, so I got an apartment. It was actually a pretty affordable place, but it’s a one-bedroom, so the roommate ship has sailed. I can probably get you in the building, though, I think they have one or two units available."

David looked at him quizzically, "I thought you wanted us to be roommates?"

Evan retorted, "If I had a dollar for every time you said you wouldn’t specifically commit to that plan, I would have had my deposit for free. The fact of the matter is that every time I suggested that the two of us become roommates, you never actually agreed. You said you were saving too much money living at your Mom’s."

"I don’t know that those were my exact words," David mused.

"Yes," Evan said matter-of-factly, "They absolutely were. You also pointed out that your mom would be leaving you her house when she passes."

David really didn’t feel like arguing about the matter any further, "Are you going to hang out for a bit?"

"There’s nothing here for me to do," Evan said, "Have a good vacation."

David considered the four grand in his wallet and thought about vacations, he pretty much had enough money to go anywhere in the United States for a few days, and yet he was at The Golden Goose instead trying to turn his four grand into...he wasn’t really sure what. Besides that, he probably could have taken a trip to Vegas with what he had where there would be more casinos, games, free drinks…

"Distractions." David said to nobody in particular, "There would be more distractions if I went to Vegas. It’s time to get serious about winning."

Before he could do that, however, David was in serious need of a nap. He had thoroughly enjoyed the food, mostly two-three days old, from the sparsely populated buffet, though Evan only ate a few things declaring he had better stuff to cook at home. David idly wondered what it was about Evan that caused him never to be happy with anything as he laid his head on the pillow; he woke up just shy of 11:00p.m..

David decided to grab a shower before heading downstairs, and he took his leisurely time with it. As the water cascaded over him and through what remained of his hair, he felt his excitement build. He didn’t really need to adhere to any strict sleeping schedule, so as far as he was concerned, he had two and a half days of his vacation to go.


He got out of the shower, dried himself, and put on a fresh set of clothes. Taking the elevator downstairs, the first order of business was to figure out what machine he wanted to play his $20 free play on. He went over to where he had found the Winning Wolf title just a few months prior, but it was gone, replaced by Buffalo-something instead. As David looked around, he realized that perhaps a quarter of all of the machines were different compared to last time he had been there, with exception to the video poker games anyway, those hadn’t changed in years.

Eventually, David settled in front of some Quick Hit title or another, there were only about sixty different ones to choose from, and that was if you didn’t count the other Bally Tech titles that were essentially the same exact game (even with how the Free Games worked) just with a different title and animations. David wasn’t necessarily compelled to mess around on the machine for too long and decided just to bet the max of $1.50/spin, failing to hit any free games, and with his best result being three Quick Hit symbols twice (which got his money back) he cashed out with $5.10.

David took his ticket to the ticket redemption machine and stuck the five into his wallet, while usually frugal, he didn’t bother with the change and just left the dime in the coin tray. He pulled out his cell phone and looked at the time, 12:17a.m., and meandered over to the table games.

By the time he got over there, he was bewildered to see no crowd whatsoever and also to see that the only game open was a solitary blackjack game with only one player, "What the hell?" He had asked that question to nobody in particular and decided that talking to a person would be a more effective method, making his way over to the blackjack table, he looked past the dealer and asked the pit boss, "Where are all the games?"

"It’s a weekday and after midnight with no players," she responded, "Therefore, the other games all closed. Other than this one blackjack table, I need at least two players per table after midnight to keep the table open, as soon as it falls below that, the table closes."


David gestured towards the blackjack table, "Why is this still open?"

"Because of those," the pit boss responded, pointing at the electronic craps and electronic roulette, "Those count as table games, at least according to this state. In some states, those count as slots. Anyway, if those games are going there has to be at least one live table open. If you ask me why, the answer is, ‘I really don’t know.’"

As expected, David really didn’t know, either. The only thing that he did know was that he wasn’t going to be able to work his system until the following day because it required switching games. Interestingly enough, even though blackjack had the lowest house edge in the entire establishment, that was the one game that he wouldn’t play because he couldn’t devise a way to make it work with his new system.


Thirty minutes later, and David was seriously regretting the nap he had taken earlier. It was either nearly 1:00, or not even 1:00 yet, depending on who you were, and David was wide awake and had absolutely nothing to do. He remembered the food and beverage credits, but was still full from the buffet. Normally not a drinker, he sauntered over to the bar.

"Can you use food and beverage credits here?"

The bartender looked up at David as though the latter was an idiot, "Why couldn’t you?"

David said something about other casinos not allowing one to do that in the past, despite the fact that he’d never had food and beverage credits anywhere else and otherwise wouldn’t know what the policy of other casinos might be. David was at a loss for what to get, "Um...can I have a whiskey?"

The bartender seriously thought David was a tool at this point, "I’m afraid you’re going to have to be more specific."


"How about Jack Daniels?"

David had asked the question not entirely confident that there would only be one kind of Jack Daniels that the casino had, and if there was more than one, David wouldn’t know how to be more specific with his order. The question then came, "Rocks?"

"What?" David asked, "Does it rock? I guess it does."

"No, no, no," the bartender responded, actually becoming amused, "Do you want it on ice?"

David thought about it for a second, "No."


David didn’t know what the question meant, but what the bartender was asking was whether he would rather have it in a whiskey glass or a shot glass. "I suppose," David replied.

David handed the bartender his players club card along with the voucher, "Okay, said the bartender, that’ll be $6 and you’ll have $14 left, or I can make it a double for only half price for the second shot."

David really didn’t know if he could handle drinking an entire double, but he did know that half price was better than full price, "Sure, let’s do that."

Nine dollars in food credits later and David has his drink, which he proceeded to pour straight down his gullet in a single gulp. Immediately, David felt the color leave his face as sweat rose up, he felt the blood drain from his ears and was scared to open his mouth for fear of breathing fire. He exhaled through his nostrils and it felt (and smelt) like burning charcoal. Even for a seasoned drinker, shooting a double of straight whiskey can be a somewhat intimidating task, for someone who almost never drinks, it is a fight not to cry out in pain.

The bartender shot David a quizzical look, "What was the point of getting it neat?"

"I’m sorry," David finally managed to gasp out, "What’s your question?"

"When people get whiskey neat," the bartender explained, "It’s usually because they want to sip it."

"Oh," David said, "Can I have another double?"

The bartender dutifully poured another double of whiskey neat and David gingerly took just the smallest of sips, "Oh, yes, that’s much more tolerable."

The bartender laughed and replied, "I would think so."

"Can I use the rest of the food credits as a tip?"

"Sure thing," the bartender replied, "Thank you very much, let me get your form to sign."


David found himself slowly entering a state of utter inebriation, of course, he didn’t know how fast the train he bought a ticket for was rolling down the track. One of the primary problems experienced by people who either don’t drink or do so only rarely is that they have seen other people drink which causes them to seriously overestimate their tolerance and seriously underestimate how long it will take for the drinks to hit them.

David found himself in that position as he realized his vision was slightly, what he called, ‘Lagging,’ meaning he would turn his head quickly and his vision would take a few milliseconds, barely perceptible but there, to catch up with where his eyes were pointed. In addition to that, David had felt as though a little bit of the weight had left his legs and he felt a little unconfident with each step he made. He had only finished half of the second double to that point.

David otherwise felt fine, though, pretty mellow. He thought that an hour or so of meandering around aimlessly had passed, although setting his drink down to look at his phone, he realized it had only been ten minutes. "Well, screw it," he said to himself and threw back the other shot, while it certainly burned a little bit and threatened to cause his ears to burst into flames, it was easier to take than the double shot had been all at once.

Even though David was disappointed by the fact that none of the table games of choice were open, or at least not the live versions, he decided he wasn’t ready for bed just yet…


"Changing five-hundred," the dealer called back at her usual volume, despite the fact that the pit boss, David, the other player from earlier and herself were the only ones even on the table games side of the casino.


"Yup," said the pit boss, she typically abandoned most formality this time of the night, especially with only one table open. In fact, she’d be pissed that she was on that shift if she was a tipped employee. Even though all of the tips were pooled (except poker dealers) at the casino anyway, there was still a feeling of satisfaction that most dealers got from generating tokes. Besides that, having actual players made the shift go faster, and the dealers, unlike her, couldn’t sit at the pit boss station with a Sudoku book. She looked down at the book and was satisfied to find that the, ‘1,’ belonged in the top right corner of the top middle quadrant...As a pit boss, she thought, this shift is alright.

The dealer sent David’s green chips across the table again offering him some red or white for the side bets. The dealer also reasoned that he only chance of getting some tokes from David would be if he had some smaller denomination chips in his inventory. Again, David refused, so the dealer send the chips out, after another delay of a few seconds for David to change his mind, and waited for him to make his bet.

Just then, the cocktail waitress walked over to the table calling out, "Drinks or coffee, gentlemen?" Both David and the other gentleman, a sandy-haired guy in his early forties, shook their heads and the waitress made a grab for David’s whiskey glass.

"Excuse me," he said, "I’m not finished with that."

The waitress cocked her head at the glass, she couldn’t help but wonder what there was to finish, the few droplets still clinging to the inside of the glass? Either way, him sitting there with an empty glass wasn’t hurting her any, "Okay, my mistake, hun, just let me know when you want that taken away."


David finally set up a bet of $25, one of his green chips, on the layout and proceeded to get dealt a natural against a dealer sixteen. The dealer pushed over a green, two reds, and an odd yellowish colored chip emblazoned with, "The Golden Goose Casino-$2.50."

David decided to let his winnings ride, so he stacked up all the chips for a bet of $62.50.

The dealer looked at him, "I’m sorry, but those chips really can’t be bet unless you have two of them."

"Well," David responded, "What do you want me to do with it?"

Toke it, the dealer thought.

Instead, she answered, "You can hang onto it in case you get another natural, then you’ll have two of them to bet or can change them for a red chip."

Surprisingly, David did what the dealer was only willing to suggest he do with it in her head, "Just lock it up," he said, "I might not get another natural."

David bet $60 on the following hand and received a 6-7 against the dealer showing a ten. The dealer peeked for blackjack, but there was nobody home, so after the other player hit and busted she gestured to David with her hand, "What would you like to do?"

David knew that the right move was to take a hit, so he did that, but he received a nine and found himself down $25.

The cards were actually a little bit blurry at this point, and David looked up and squinted at the casino’s several multi-colored lights that seemed to make a targeted assault on his eyes. Shaking his head, he returned his attention to the table and set two green chips out for his next bet.

The dealer said, "Good luck, gentlemen," and proceeded to deal out a 7-5 to the player at first base (on the dealer’s left) while David, seated in the middle of the table, received a 8-6. The dealer had an ace showing and asked both players if they would like insurance, both declined. The dealer peeked at the undercard, and giving a resigned shrug, flipped over the king for a natural and scooped up the players’ bets.

David burped and said, "Shit, well, no matter." He stacked four green chips upright, at least, on his second attempt, and put them in the betting circle. The other player at first base tossed the dealer a red, wished her a good night, tossed David a, "Good luck," as though it was an afterthought, and left.

The dealer glided David’s first card to him, an eight, not good, and then slid her undercard over to herself. After that, David received a three (now a great hand!) and the dealer showed a six. After waiting for a full minute for David to make a decision, he was the only one at the table after all, she asked, "What do you want to do?"


"You pretty much have to double in this situation, don’t you?"

"Textbook, sir," the dealer said, apparently forgetting that she had just encouraged side bets earlier, "I hate giving bad advice, but this is a no doubt about it time to double."

David put together another stack of four green chips and slid them beside his other stack, "Okay, here we go."

The dealer professionally retrieved his other card and flipped it without taking too much time about it, yet while not being too quick, it was a nine.

"Nice," David said.

The dealer didn’t say anything. When she was breaking in, having a rough idea that David had a good chance of winning the hand, she might have agreed. Experience and a few tongue-lashings from players taking a bad beat taught her just to reserve comment until the hand finishes playing out. It was especially well-guided for her to have done so on this occasion, as she flipped over a five and then gave herself a queen. She usually tried not to show too much emotion, and was a likable person who genuinely found herself cheering internally for most players, so she couldn’t help but have her lips turn down into a slight frown.

David grinned, "You’re more worried about it than I am!" Internally, though, David was a little bit worried. Despite his alcohol-fueled bravado, the fact that the full four grand should be completely intact for running his system had immediately occurred to him after he saw the dealer ten-card. He was NOT supposed to be losing his money at blackjack. Either way, he had nine green chips for $225 left in front of him and he stacked them all up and put them in the betting circle.

The dealer was too much of a professional to ask any questions, though the one that came to mind was, "Are you sure?" Immediately, she dealt David out a deuce that was followed by an eight while she was sitting on a nine.


"It’s supposed to be a double," David muttered.

"You’re not wrong," the dealer responded.

David mulled over the situation a bit, if he were to lose the hand, then he would have dropped an almost immediate five hundred bucks. He also knew that the correct decision was to double, in this situation, but if he got a low card he might have a better chance of winning if he still had the opportunity to hit against the dealer’s nine. He wanted to make the right play, but losing more than $500 in the space of less than ten minutes would be thoroughly disgusting. He looked in his wallet, counted his remaining $3,500, and signalled for a hit.

The dealer slid and flipped him an Ace.

"Fuck!" David exclaimed, "I mean, good, but, fuck!"

The dealer flipped over another nine for a total of eighteen, and David’s chip stack was thereby doubled to $450. David found himself intoxicated, not just from his Jack Daniel’s, but from the prospect of a chip stack doubling so readily. After winning, he almost immediately forgot that his stack should have done more than that. "If I get back to even," David declared, "I’m done."

He slid two green chips out there.

The dealer had heard this one before, and even though she didn’t keep any specific notes, show would estimate the percentage of players to say something like that and then follow through to be somewhere around just under 10%. Of course, about half of the players never got back to even in the first place, but of the ones that did, only 10% of those actually left.

The dealer couldn’t help but hope that she would toss David a natural, but with no need for either David or herself to make a decision, her 10-10 beat his 9-8. David stacked up six green chips, leaving him with $250 in front of him, and put them in the betting circle.


Another natural for the dealer with an ace showing, no insurance, even David wasn’t that stupid. David looked at the dealer resignedly and asked, "Can I get a shuffle?"

The dealer replied, "I see no reason not to allow that, but house policy is I have to ask permission since we have not reached the cut card." She looked behind her at the pit boss, "Player requests a fresh shuffle."

The voices of both David and the dealer had faded into little more than background noise, it was the volume that suggested she was the one being spoken to. Breaking temporarily out of her world of numbers zero through nine she looked up and asked, "I’m sorry, changing what?"

"No," the dealer said, jealous because she couldn’t get paid the big bucks to do Sudoku all night, "Player requests a shuffle."

"Well," the pit boss asked annoyed, "Is he the only one playing?"

The dealer had just about enough of her crap at this point, the pit boss was looking at her table, the only table operating in the entire house...she could clearly see that he was the only one playing. Barely managing to keep her voice from raising in her frustration, "Yes, it would seem so."

"Okay," the pit boss concluded, "Then, go ahead."

You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, the dealer thought, and they expect us to be able to get tips. If you ask whether or not you can shuffle, you get sarcasm from the pit boss because it’s the only player at the table, so of course you can shuffle. If you don’t ask and do it anyway, knowing the answer is, ‘Yes,’ then you get written up. Screw this place.

She knew better than to let David feel the brunt of her hostility, it really wasn’t his fault that the pit boss was being snarky, even though there was really no mathematical benefit to his ask for a shuffle. She went through the procedure of hand shuffling all the decks, had David cut them, burnt off a few cards, (as was the house policy) and asked David what his bet would be.

David looked down and simply pushed his remaining $250 in chips towards the dealer. He found himself in another good spot with an 8-8 against a dealer five, of course, he had virtually no choice but to split. He pulled out five hundred dollar bills and asked for them back in green.


"Changing five-hundred," intoned the dealer.

"Yup," said the pit boss. She still had David’s players club card in front of her, she’d been too consumed with her Sudoku book to even put him in the computer for rating yet.

David measured out another stack and slid it into the appropriate section to split the two eights. He ended up with a fifteen on one hand and a total of ten on the other. He stood on the hand with fifteen, and money already on the table, doubled the ten total without hesitation.

The dealer turned David over a ten, so even if she made a hand of some sort, there was a pretty good chance that David would pull it out on the hand that he had doubled. The dealer flipped over a three, for a total of eight, and David waited.

David also realized that the dealer catching a ten would be a good thing for him. Granted, it wasn’t the best possible result as $250 would be lost on one of the hands, but winning on the doubled hand would be enough to bring David back to even.

This time, David said, if I can get out of this even, I absolutely know I will leave.

The dealer turned over a deuce bringing her to a total of ten. David felt his heart sink from his chest down into his stomach, he had no idea what he would do if he pushed on the hand that now had $500 riding on it because he would still be down the original $500. Even he couldn’t deny that he was not playing any particular system, so even in his clouded and delusional mind, he had no reason to believe that he had a winning expectation.

The dealer turned over another five, bringing her up to a total of fifteen.

David visibly brightened, quick mental math told him he was at a huge advantage at that point. An ace would mean that the dealer had to hit again, a deuce, three or four would mean that the dealer beat his fifteen, but the twenty would be a winner, and he’d be back up to even. Anything that was a seven or greater would bust, and David didn’t want to think about a five and especially not a six…

The dealer flipped over an ace.

"It really wants to make me wait, doesn’t it?"

The dealer couldn’t help but pick up on the nervousness in David’s voice, she would have never commented on her own while dealing the cards, and especially would not pause to comment, but fundamental Midwestern politeness suggested that David had asked a question and she should answer him, "You won’t wait any longer than this last card takes me to flip."

"Yeah," David replied quickly, "Take your time with that."

The dealer did as she was requested sliding the card all the way to its final resting place before beginning to flip it over. She even hesitated a little bit, while she knew that 99.9999% of patrons would never get physically aggressive with her over a hand result, the tongue-lashings that she occasionally received for an event that was in no way her fault still took their toll on her, and still made her feel intimidated. She couldn’t quite get enough of a read on David to accurately judge how he would react if he lost, almost against her own will she flipped over the card…

….a five.

The dealer had managed to pull the only card that would beat both of David’s hands and make him a thousand dollars poorer for the night, or for that twenty minutes, for that matter. She wanted to apologize to him, but remembered that prior apologies had brought tirades of their own in the past, instead, she patiently waited for David to do whatever he was going to do.


David stared at the table for thirty long seconds, somehow even longer for the dealer than they were for him, then he got into his wallet and pulled out the five dollar bill he’d received from the ticket redemption machine earlier. Tossing it on the table, David dejectedly said, "At least you made a good show out of it, lock it up."

"Thank you, sir," the dealer responded, "Better luck."

David remembered Doc Brown’s quote from the end of the first Back to the Future and decided to modify it a little bit, "Luck? Where I’m going, I won’t need...luck."

The dealer had no idea what he meant by that, but recognizing the reference, smiled in spite of herself. "Thank you again!"


David walked unsteadily away from the table, not just because of losing 25% of his bankroll, but also because he was still feeling the effects of his four shots of Jack Daniel’s. On that note, he grabbed his glass that he may not have realized was basically completely empty, and carried it around the casino with him.

He went to the bar, glass in hand, and said, "Let me have another one of those doubles, please, and I want it in the same glass."

The bartender was confused by this request, usually he would only put it in a different glass if a different glass had been specifically requested, why make more work for himself? Either way, he quickly fetched the two shots of Jack and handed the glass to David.

David took a sip of it and started to walk away from the bar. "Excuse me," the bartender called out, "I’m sorry sir, but you used your entire dining and beverage credit earlier, remember?"

"Oh, yes," David replied absently. Coming back to immediate physical reality, he took out his wallet and peeled off one of his hundreds, handing it to the bartender, "Just give me ninety back."

While $1 was far from an impressive tip, it was certainly standard, especially for such a simple drink. Actually, the bartender was slightly impressed, most people who don’t drink very often (a category that David definitely fell into) seemed not to know that bartenders were supposed to be tipped at all. Also, guys seemed to have no trouble stiffing other guys, for whatever reason.

"Thank you, sir," he replied, "By the way, the bar closes in a few minutes, not to rush you, but if you are going to want anything else, that glass either needs to be empty or I need to not see that glass when you come back here." The bartender then gave David a wink.

David shook his head, already more than, ‘Good,’ he answered, "I’m good."


David took a walk around the casino gingerly sipping his Jack, he was really testing each little sip to see if it had some kind of immediate impact, but of course, alcohol doesn’t work that way. David now had $2,990 on him, but it occurred to him that he did have a little bit of money in the bank backing him up. David reasoned that he was certainly not going to need that money for anything, but it was nice to know it was there.


He then considered returning to the Blackjack table to see if he could do anything in another session, besides the desire to make a comeback, he really liked the dealer. The sober part of his brain took over and yelled out an emphatic, ‘NO,’ at the thought of returning to Blackjack, that he had bought a drink with cash was bad enough. He had to save his remaining money for The Ultimate System the following evening, or perhaps, afternoon.

At the same time, he wanted that thousand back and felt impotent because he had no way to effectuate such a result. He eventually decided that he would try to get lucky on a slot machine, and found one of the Quick Hit titles with the $15 total bet, three dollars on each of five lines.

David had no idea what was telling him to do this, but as he looked at the top Progressive prize of $99,155.12 he couldn’t help but believe that he was going to hit it. Alcohol may not have an immediate effect, but it can have a quick effect, and David threw the rest of the contents of his glass straight down his gullet and felt the effect within a minute or two.

David struggled mightily to get the machine to accept one of his hundreds, so much, in fact, that he thought about going back up to his room and calling it a night. How likely am I to make a thousand back on a fuckin’ slot machine, anyway?


Eventually, David felt as though he was watching himself do things from above rather than actively doing them. Unbelievably, David took out all twenty-nine hundreds he had as well as four twenties and a ten and loaded them all up in the machine spinning at $15/pull, the maximum bet. He watched his slot points soar, despite the fact that his credits were diminishing fairly quickly.

David had lost about $1300 at a certain point and had still failed to hit any Free Games, quickly losing his calm, it took everything in his power not to nail the machine with a closed fist. The only thing that calmed him down was realizing how much one of the things would probably cost him to replace, not to mention the fact that he’d probably be kicked out of the casino forever.

It didn’t hurt to fantasize, though, and after spin-after-spin of either losses or very small wins, at least relative to the amount bet, David finally hit a set of free games, though he was down $1700.

David slowly picked from the boxes offered, as though his decisions would have any mathematical effect. It would have been difficult to convince him that those decisions didn’t matter, though, as he picked the twenty free games, twenty free games and Wild+ five free games for twenty-five free games with a 3x multiplier in only three of four picked boxes!


Unfortunately, David did not get a bonus re-trigger, and the most meaningful hit was five Quick Hit symbols which returned $450, considering the multiplier. All told, the free games ended up being worth about $800 and David was still down $900.

Why am I playing this?

David seriously couldn’t understand what force was compelling him to continue. He had just over two grand on the machine and absolutely nothing had happened that should serve to inspire any confidence. Despite that, David continued to play on.

Over the course of the next hour, David managed to hit for five free games and ten free games, but again, neither of the individual sets of free games really accomplished anything. He did eventually hit the six Quick Hits Progressive for $910.05, but at that point, that result left him with only $1517.05 on the machine.

Even though, for many players, that result would be something worthy of celebration, David found himself agitated by the fact that he was still down overall, at this point, by almost the entire amount that he still had on the machine.

He gritted his teeth, as though the machine would care about his level of determination, and continued to spin.

His behavior and thoughts became more erratic as he continued to lose on the Quick Hit machine. For no reason whatsoever, he grabbed his whiskey glass and threw it in the nearest trash can almost not even caring if it shattered against a machine or hit the floor. Surprisingly, given David’s complete and total lack of athletic prowess, the whiskey glass landed cleanly in the trash can.

After another half hour, beaded with perspiration, David found himself with only $700 on his ticket and was seriously considering calling it a night.

I need to be admitted if I keep going, he thought.

Even with that, David did keep going, as though he were completely out of control of himself. His hand rhythmically hit the button, and he soon found himself, ‘Slam-stopping,’ which is to say not allowing the machine to graphically play out the spin, but rather, going straight to the result.

David thought he had hit Free Games, Ding-Ding-ding, but the last ding was a sound meant to indicate that one or more Quick Hit symbols had appeared. A thoroughly disgusted David decided to cast his glance just down and to the right to see how much he had left on the machine: $212.05.

David had absolutely no idea what to do at that point, if he could, he would have just bet $42.41 per line on each of the five lines just to get it over with. As it was, he had abandoned slam-stopping the machine and decided just to look at the results as they happened. It made him sick to go down so quickly, and with only two hits worth over $500 despite the fact that he had put almost $3,000, cash, into the machine. He lost the next three spins completely.

With $167.05 left on the machine, David stopped for a full five or six seconds between spins. Even though the amount of money he had lost within the last few hours turned his stomach, almost turning it too far in fact, the thought that most disgusted him was that his gambling was going to be over for another few months unless the money in the bank could do something.

"All of that," he said to himself, "And I never even played the system."

The next spin caused him to jerk his head up immediately:



A Quick Hit Symbol, first reel!

DING, a little louder…

Two more, second reel.


Three more, he’d covered the third reel!


It couldn’t happen, but it was happening! After all of that worry, all of that concern, after losing nearly $3,000 dollars to the machine and $4,000 on the night, David had finally hit at least eight Quick Hit symbols…

Wait, at least?

The reels spun around for an excruciatingly long time, even though they took no more time than usual…


Bells and sirens were going off everywhere, the machine flashed colors that David didn’t even know it had, the machine had hit for nine Quick Hits and a jackpot of $99,155.12!!!

On this night, David didn’t need his system, he was loaded from just playing a slot machine! David hopped up and closed his eyes as he let it all sink in…

Go back to chapter 8.

To be continued in 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.