The Question of Credit

 

They have the highest house edge of any machines in the casino. In fact, no one has ever come out ahead playing them – ever. They loom in the hallways and lobbies – brightly lit machines with no conscience, who neither ask for nor give quarter – or quarters for that matter. Many a player will rush to them and start pressing buttons, hoping to make a quick withdrawal. And the players pay a hefty, hefty price on these machines because no one has ever won on them. No one has even broken even on them. Ever!

I’m not talking about your garden-variety slot or video-poker machines. I’m talking about those ATM Credit Card Advance machines, sprinkled all over casino creation, that charge unconscionable interest rates of upwards of three percent on a single withdrawal, often adding fees of up to and over ten percent of the total money withdrawn. (Fees? Fees? Isn’t the interest the fee?) Casino players who use these machines are making the dumbest possible move they can make – dumber than splitting tens at blackjack, dumber than betting Big Red at craps and dumber than playing Sic Bo.

What’s worse, using those currency-sucking monsters is so unnecessary! In fact, no smart casino player should ever give them a look much less a mention when right in the casino sits a flesh and blood human being who will give you money; who wants to give you money; whose job is to give you money, money for free – with no interest and no fees – and he or she will also give you anywhere from seven to forty-five days to pay it all back, depending on how much you borrowed. Now, casino players can’t ask for anything better than that other than a win the very next time they play. Yes, I am talking about casino credit.

Every casino has a special credit department whose sole reason for existing is to give away money. (Okay, let’s not be naive. They give it away in the hopes that you’ll lose it in the casino. But that’s so obvious I don’t have to say that, do I?) The upsides to getting casino credit are numerous and obvious. The downsides are small and even more obvious.

The first benefit to a casino credit line is that you don’t have to carry wads of cash when you travel by car, bus, train or plane to your favorite casino venue. The second benefit to credit is that the money you have in your gambling bank account can sit there for up to six weeks gaining interest before you have to pay back the casino what you owe it. (You do have a gambling bank account don’t you? Money tucked aside that is used strictly for playing purposes? If not, start one, now, even before you get credit.) If you win, you pay back your marker immediately. If you lose, the casino takes it out of your account. Contrast this with those awful credit card advance machines that immediately dock your account and rip their pound of interest flesh from your economic carcass as well.

A third, generally unspoken, unpublicized benefit to getting casino credit has to do with how you’re perceived once you have, use and pay back a credit line. Although I could get no casino executives to state for the record that “credit players” are viewed in a more favorable light than “money players,” the fact is that they are. The casino assumes that credit players are willing to lose the amount of their credit line (which may or may not be true). A simple mind experiment can prove this.

Two players enter a game and both cash in for $1,000. Joe gives cash and Joan takes out a $1,000 marker against her credit line of $10,000. Both Joe and Joan now lose their $1,000 in short order. Who would you bet on to go for a second $1,000 – Joe, the cash player, or Joan with the $10,000 line? I pick Joan because I know (or think I know) that she has $10,000 in play money she’s willing to gamble. I have no idea how much Joe has. For all I know, that $1,000 was for his kid’s braces and he’s in a powerful lot of trouble when his wife, Big Gert, finds out that little Lulu is still going to resemble Bugs Bunny when she hits junior high next year.

Casinos also think that credit players are more motivated players. In fact, this is probably true. My experience tells me that credit players tend to come to casinos more frequently than other players. Casinos like that. Interestingly enough, between four and ten percent of table-game players have established credit lines and anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the table game drop in Atlantic City, at least, comes from these players. Casinos that attract big action tend to have more credit players than casinos that attract small to moderate action.

Even more interesting, only about one to two percent of slot players have established credit. Why so few? Because many slot players don’t know that credit exists for them as well. But it does. In the future you are going to see a big push to get credit for slot players from the casinos.

How do you get that credit line? Easy! Just call your favorite casino and ask them to send you a credit application. Most casinos in a given venue use similar forms. In Vegas, the forms tend to be modest. They’ll ask for your name, address, phone, social security number and the bank account you’ll use for your credit line.

On the other hand, Atlantic City desires more information. Most casinos there will want to know your full name, address, phone number, where you work or if you’re self-employed, your yearly income, your outstanding indebtedness, the name of your bank, and the account you want to write your markers against. Some Atlantic City casinos will go one step further and ask to know your net worth.

You’ll then sign a release form which will allow the casino’s credit checkers to make sure you have enough money in the specified account to pay back the amount of the credit you’re requesting. This is an important item. When you apply make sure you have more than enough in one account to fully cover the entire line of credit you want.

The casinos will then do a credit check to make sure you’re a good risk. The whole process takes about a week.

What are your chances of being turned down?

Stated one casino credit manager who wished to remain nameless: “I’d say that approximately three-fourths of the people who ask for credit get it. The only area where there might be some difference of opinion between us and the patron is on how much credit we should give. First time credit applications are often for sums that we feel might be a little too high. If someone asks for $10,000, we might say ‘Let us give you $5,000 and we can readjust that figure in the future.’ The people we turn down are usually people who just have a history of not paying their bills. Remember we’re giving a loan for up to six weeks with no interest and we want to make sure we’re going to get that money back.”

What percentage of the money borrowed by players is not returned? The figure varies from casino to casino and state to state, and is a closely guarded secret, but I estimate that less than three percent of the total money borrowed by credit players is not paid back in a timely fashion.

Once your credit is approved, your next trip to the casino will probably see you take out your first marker. A marker is a promissory note that can be drawn directly against your bank account. In fact, it looks like an oversized generic check, which is exactly what it is.

Once you’re at the table of your choice, you’ll say to the dealer: “I’d like to take out a marker, please.” The floor person will be called over and he or she will ask you, “For how much?” Once you tell the floor person how much you want, you’ll probably be asked for your player’s card. In such a case, the casino floor person will fill out most of the information on a marker form and ask you to sign it. If you don’t hand in a player’s card, or if the casino is very busy, the floor person will give you a small sheet of paper where you’ll write your name, address, phone number, the name of your bank, and how much you want to take out. Then you’ll sign your name.

It usually takes two to five minutes for the marker to arrive. When it does, you’ll sign it and the floor person will put it on the table and the dealer will count out the appropriate number of chips (credit players in Las Vegas and some other venues will get the chips even before the marker arrives). Slot players will usually do their transactions at the cashier’s cage.

That’s it, you’re in the game. It’s a lot faster than the ATMs and a lot more economical.

How and when you pay back your marker is a product of how you did at the tables. It is customary to pay back all the money you borrowed at the end of your trip if you won. If you don’t pay after a winning stay, it is considered a very bad thing called walking with the chips. Casinos frown upon players who “walk” because they feel (rightly) that not only have you won money from them at the tables (fair and square) but you’ve taken a loan that now will get you interest for however long it sits in your account before the marker is redeemed (unfair and not square).

Some high-rolling, self-employed business people have attempted to use their casino credit lines as short-term business loans at no interest. If casinos discover you doing this, they will not only cut off your credit, they’ll say bad things about you behind your back and you won’t get credit at other casinos when the word gets out that you’re a “chip walker.” So never walk with the chips.

How much time do casinos give you to pay the piper? If you borrowed up to $1,000, you usually have seven days to pay up. If you borrowed between $1,001 and $5,000, you usually have 14 days; and if you borrowed $5,001 or more, you have between 30 and 45 days. Each state will have slightly different timetables but the above is representative.

But what if you borrowed $1,001 and only (only?) lost $500 of it? Here you have a choice. You can pay back the $500 that is left and wait the two weeks for the casino to collect the rest, or you can simply write a check for the other $500 on the spot. (Some casinos want first-time credit players to do this until it is firmly established that they are not risks.)

I know why players would want to get credit, but why would casinos want to give it? Some players believe that casinos give out credit as a part of a plot to get them to play for bigger money than they can afford and for longer periods of time than they should. Although this is not the reason casinos give out credit, it is a pitfall that players should be aware of and is the one big downside to casino credit. Your credit line should be in keeping with your budget. Don’t take out a $10,000 credit line if you are a five-dollar player with a gambling bankroll of $500. The temptation to plunge into your credit line for more money might just prove too great to resist on a bad day or night.

Casinos give out credit as a customer service, a loyalty inducer, and a convenience. Players should be aware that markers are money in the bank – your bank – and while they are interest free, they aren’t obligation free. Should you lose in the casino, you will be expected to pay back what you borrowed. Make sure you can afford to do so.

But given the other alternatives of carrying wads of cash and/or borrowing from those bent-nosed ATM loan sharks in the lobby, establishing casino credit is the intelligent way to go.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores.

***Above article based on Frank’s book Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!

 

 

Movie Scobe: The Black Panther

 

(Cedrica has joined me in reviewing and discussing movies, old and new. I welcome her aboard.)

Scobe: The Black Panther is up for an Academy Award. What do you think?

Cedrica: No way it wins although it is a good movie, far better than the Shape of Water which was last year’s winner.  Comic book movies are too popular so therefore how good can they be? The Academy usually goes for what it considers a “deep” movie; not all the time but enough times that we can make fun of that institution. Some movies win the Academy Award as best picture and they aren’t even in my top twenty list.

Scobe: Certainly Shape of Water was deep since it dealt with a creature who lived in depths. Hold off on this right now and we’ll discuss this movie in the future.

Cedrica: Must we?

Scobe: Yes.

Cedrica: I do have a small problem with The Black Panther. I thought Michael Jordan’s character of Eric Killmonger was too streetie – if that’s a word – and not up to the task of taking on the real Black Panther in an epic fight. The character didn’t ring true. His character wasn’t big enough; not iconic enough. Think of how awesome the Abomination was in The Incredible Hulk (2008) to get an idea of how to structure a fearsome villain.  Yes, Killmonger was given the same powers of the Black Panther but he didn’t have that epic quality about him. Jordan is a terrific actor but this role was not a great one and an actor can only do what he does. He was great as Creed.

Scobe: They gave him a back story where his intelligence and intellectual accomplishments were great but you feel that didn’t translate into his character in the movie. He was too below the quality of the other characters. The warriors and the heads of the other tribes had stature. The civilization had stature. His character didn’t.

Cedrica: Correct.

Scobe: The Black Panther is an godlike character and Wakanda is a super civilization. I did think all the other characters had that epic quality if you will. You may be right about Killmonger. He should have been more awesome.

Cedrica: You read my mind. Chadwick Boseman is amazingly good as the Black Panther. The script – with that one exception – is well written and the direction, cinematography, music are all first rate. I’d give this movie 3.5 stars out of four.

Scobe: I give it a four out of four. Killmonger did not ruin it for me.

Cedrica: Three and one half stars is not a ruined movie. It’s a better movie than Shape of Water.

Scobe: In that you are not all wet!

Movie Ratings:

4 stars: Top of the heap!

3.5 stars: Great movie with a little flaw

3 stars: Good night out or just as good watching on the television.

2.5 stars: Passing an evening without big regrets in the morning.

2 stars: Maybe one or two things are decent in this movie.

1.5 stars: Got a good book?

1 star: Being kind.

0 star: Seriously? I mean, seriously?

Birdie Its Cold Outside

 

This afternoon as I write this article, the outside temperature is 10 degrees. I am in my three-quarters glass office and quite warm. Outside are several dozens of birds of many kinds: mourning doves, two blue jays, sparrows of various types, black-capped chickadees, woodpeckers, male and female cardinals and, I believe, a couple of grackles. And some little reddish bird too. The ones appear to be mated, the blue jay and cardinals, tend to always be together.

My wife the Beautiful AP came into the room and stood by the sliding doors to our deck. She was watching the wind whip through our trees.

I came up behind her and put my arms around her waist. And we both looked at the windy day from the security of a warm house.

I kissed her cheek and then I sang to her – heck I can be a romantic son of a gun. “But, baby, its cold outside” and I kissed her cheek again. And she turned, tilted her head (I love her head tilt) and I sang again, “But, baby, it’s cold outside,” and she slapped me.

“Woe, what the hell?”

“That song is sexist and should be retired,” she said.

“What are you talking about?” I said. “It’s a beautiful song and fits the weather today.”

She slapped me again.

“What the hell is with those slaps?”

“They are symbolic,” she said.

“Of what?” I said.

“Harder slaps.”

“Jeez,” I said.

“You are singing a song that might imply violence against women,” she said.

“What the hell? You have got to be kidding me,” I said. “It’s a love song. You know the male wants…”

“I know what the male wants but the female doesn’t want that.”

“Let’s go to the Internet and put the song on,” I said.

So we did. I thought the song was cute and flirty and had nothing whatsoever to do with violence against women. The self-righteous of the political left have demonized the song and my wife, despite her awesome intelligence, has fallen for the hoax.

We listened to it a second time.

“You don’t see what’s going on in the song?” she asked me. “She says ‘no, no, no.’”

“No,” I said. “She wishes she could say ‘no, no, no.’ But she can’t.”

“No,” said the Beautiful AP. “In another line she definitively says ‘no.’”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” I said. “I knew listening to NPR could give you erroneous ideas.”

“Plus she asks what’s in the drink. A date-rape drug isn’t ‘flirtatious’ now is it?” she countered.

“There’s no date rape drug. She was hinting that there might be alcohol in the drink. It’s flirty.” The Beautiful AP shook her head.

“Look, here’s how we settle this,” I said.

“We settle this because I am right,” she said.

“Wrong,” I said.

“I’m right,” she said.

I made a copy of the lyrics and we read them.

“Totally innocent and fun,” I said.

“An invitation to sexual abuse,” she said.

I looked out the window at our three bird feeders and noticed both Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal and Mr. and Mrs. Blue Jay eating up their food in the frigid air. They could be singing the song, “Birdie, Its Cold Outside,” or would they be fighting over the meaning of the damn thing?

Politics has become a form of religion, if you ask me. Soon everything will be banned. The left has become as righteous as the right. The song is not sexist; it’s flirtatious; nothing more. (Don’t tell my wife I wrote this last paragraph. I’m afraid she’ll slap me again.)

Dean Martin’s performance of the song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaflZPQhtmE

Complete lyrics to the song:

(I really can’t stay) But, baby, it’s cold outside
(I’ve got to go away) But, baby, it’s cold outside
(This evening has been) Been hoping that you’d drop in
(So very nice) I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice
(My mother will start to worry) Beautiful, what’s your hurry
(My father will be pacing the floor) Listen to the fireplace roar
(So really I’d better scurry) Beautiful, please don’t hurry
(Well, maybe just half a drink more) Put some records on while I pour
(The neighbors might think) Baby, it’s bad out there
(Say, what’s in this drink?) No cabs to be had out there
(I wish I knew how) Your eyes are like starlight now
(To break this spell) I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
(I ought to say no, no, no, sir) Mind if I move in closer
(At least I’m gonna say that I tried) What’s the sense of hurting my pride
(I really can’t stay) Baby, don’t hold out
[Both] Baby, it’s cold outside
(I simply must go) But, baby, it’s cold outside
(The answer is no) But, baby, it’s cold outside
(The welcome has been) How lucky that you dropped in
(So nice and warm) Look out the window at the storm
(My sister will be suspicious) Gosh your lips look delicious
(My brother will be there at the door) Waves upon a tropical shore
(My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious) Gosh your lips are delicious
(But maybe just a cigarette more) Never such a blizzard before
(I got to get home) But, baby, you’d freeze out there
(Say lend me a coat) It’s up to your knees out there
(You’ve really been grand) I thrill when you touch my hand
(But don’t you see) How can you do this thing to me
(There’s bound to be talk tomorrow) Think of my life long sorrow
(At least there will be plenty implied) If you caught pneumonia and died
(I really can’t stay) Get over that hold out
[Both] Baby, it’s cold outside

Dear reader, what do you think? And remember, it’s okay to take my side!

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

Wrong Way McKay

 

Wrong Way McKay

 

For the first year of my new teaching assignment my wife and I continued to live in Suffolk County on Long Island – in Sound Beach – which was about 65 miles from the school district. So each day I had a 130-mile commute. The second year – yes I made it to my second year – we moved into the Five Towns, where this school district was located.

Our rent was outrageous and my wife said to me, “We’re going to find it hard to make ends meet so you better get a second job or work some clubs for extra money.”

It so happened that the Cross Country track coach quit the job the year before and there was no one who wanted to attempt to coach this team – if there would be a team. Our high school put no stock in Cross Country track or any track for that matter (until Tony Sparandara, another great teacher, made the track team one of the best in the state – but that was in years to come); we were strictly a football and basketball school.

So I went into the principal’s office and volunteered to coach the Cross Country team.

“Do you have any runners?” asked Mr. Krawitz, the principal. “Last year’s coach said there wouldn’t be any runners this year except Steve Beck and his brother Bryan – who’s just a sophomore.”

“Oh, I can get runners,” I kind of lied there but I did have a clever plan. “We’ll have a team – maybe not a championship team but a team nevertheless.”

“Okay, you are the new Cross Country coach,” said Mr. Krawitz shaking my hand. “Good luck. You have to have a team out on the field in one week though for us to keep the funding of the program.”

In one week I had to field a team! There was one great Cross Country runner, Steven Beck, and his kid brother, Bryan. I needed at least seven kids to be on the team – or was that five? It didn’t matter; I planned on having a full compliment of students.

Here was my brilliant plan. Most kids would love to have a varsity letter for sports – I mean athletes, even track athletes, are more respected than your normal run of the mill high school student. So I went into the halls of the high school and started to recruit kids that I knew would never have a chance to be on a varsity team because they – well, they weren’t athletes in the traditional sense – oh, hell, they weren’t athletes in any sense. I went up to fat kids and low-life greasers smoking behind the gym and my spiel was simple, “I am giving you a chance to get a varsity letter. There is no skill involved. All you have to do is run. You don’t even have to run that fast. You just have to start the races and finish the races to get a letter – a real varsity letter that will be given out at a big dinner with all the pretty cheerleaders present.”

Most of the kids looked at me as if I were nuts. But enough of them joined so that I did have a full team – 16 runners all together, including some who were actually pretty good. We practiced every day for two weeks – if you can call it that. Except for Beck, his brother Bryan, Craig Tischler and Richard Zaintz, my team really stunk. Most of the other runners were fat kids who could barely walk much less run – but they wanted to be varsity athletes and I gave them a golden opportunity.

Our first meet saw two things happen that you never saw happen in a Cross Country meet at our local park – called Sunken Meadow Park. The three-mile race ended and only eight of my runners finished somewhere in the pack. Seven of them came trotting in about 10 minutes after the next race started.

“What happened to you guys?” I asked.

“We stopped for a smoke,” said one of them.

“You can’t smoke in the middle of a race,” I scolded. Then I realized I was missing one of the runners, Matt McKay. “Where’s McKay?”

“He was behind us,” said one of my smokers. “When we stopped for a smoke, he passed us but didn’t follow the trail and went into the woods on another path.”

“You mean he’s out in the woods now?”

I looked at my team. “You mean one of our runners is still out there?”

I went to the officials running the meet and told them that one of my runners had gone the wrong way. He looked at me askance and said, “How the hell can anyone get lost on this course? I mean it’s clearly marked!”

“I don’t know how he got lost but he did get lost,” I said. “I think we have to send people out to find him.”

“Oh for Christ sakes,” said the official. “I got a dinner engagement tonight and we could be here forever looking for this kid.”

“Oh, okay, then let’s just let him die, fine,” I said.

“Why don’t you send your kids into the woods to look for him?” said the official.

Before I could answer the next race was finishing. The top runners were coming in now and the official had to record their times. Then the second bunch of runners came in and finally the slowest runners struggled in, huffing and puffing, and behind those slowest of runners, running easily, and aimlessly with a beatific look on his face, was Matt McKay.

I went over to him. “What happened?” I asked.

“I just can’t run as fast as everyone,” he said.

“No, I mean, you got lost. How did you get lost?” I asked.

“I got lost?” he asked.

“You didn’t realize you got lost?” I asked.

“I finished the race pretty good if I got lost. Those runners weren’t too far ahead of me,” he said.

“That was the race after your race,” I said.

“The race after my race?”

“Yes, you went off into the woods and somehow got back into the race but it was the race after your race,” I said.

“Oh,” he said.

“You’ve got to stay with the pack and on the course,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

Now reading this you might think that McKay was a stupid kid – far from it. He was extremely bright. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were a doctor now or a scientist.

The next week in practice I watched McKay as he ran. He was slow moving as if he were fat, but he was quite skinny, but somewhere around the second mile or so, his face would take on that beatific look and he’d run with a look of pleasure on his face that I have never (or since) seen in an individual engaged in athletics.

Have you ever seen those television or magazine ads where they show people working out with big smiles on their faces? If you work out in a gym or run in races or with groups, you know what I know – no one works out with a smile on his or her face. Working out makes you feel good – when it’s over – but during it, well it goes from terribly awful in the start to bearable by the finish.

I’m guessing that McKay got a jolt of whatever chemicals bathe the brain during the “second wind” time when suddenly you lose that initial fatigue and feel pretty good. I think he got a massive dose of those chemicals (I think they are endorphins) and he went off somewhere that few people have ever been. He went off in practice too – which was okay because it was just around the track – but he also went off in every race.

McKay got lost in the second race at Sunken Meadow too. He was well behind the smokers, who had again stopped halfway through the race to light up, and when he passed them he went off in a different direction than last time – but nevertheless the wrong direction. Once again he somehow found his way back to the finish line – again with the next race’s runners.

First I had to scold the smokers for lighting up in the middle of the race. “Look you idiots, if some kid from another team sees you lighting up in the middle of a race and tells on you, the officials will tell Mr. Krawitz and I am sure he will kick your fat butts off the team.” I called them “fat butts” because every smoker in that group was fat and I could play on the word “butt” as well – as in cigarette butt and backside butt. Also in those days, you could use words like fat and idiot because political correctness had not yet swept the land.

“So wait until the race is over and go somewhere off there,” I pointed to the rest room building, “and smoke where no one can see you. Behind the rest rooms.”

My fat butts listened to me and never stopped in the middle of the races the rest of the season to smoke. They were horrible runners, coughing and wheezing as they finished the races because they found it very difficult to make it through three miles without stopping for a cigarette break.

On the other hand, McKay could run all week. He was in terrific shape. He never got tired. He just couldn’t run the races properly. He also couldn’t run very fast. Of the 10 Cross Country meets at Sunken Meadow he got lost seven times. On one occasion, we had to finally get the team to head into the woods to look for him. We found him running around different paths.

So I started to call him Wrong Way McKay, a nickname that stuck. Our team was dismal. We lost every single meet we had – we finished last in all the group meets at Sunken Meadow where schools from all over Long Island competed and we lost every individual head-to-head competition we had with other schools at Eisenhower Park – even to a school for the slightly physically and mentally handicapped. That was a meet we all felt we could win and it crushed us that these kids were better runners than ours. “Man, some of them use crutches in real life,” said one of my disappointed smokers.

Now it was the last race of the season and of my career as a Cross Country coach that Wrong Way McKay put himself into my all-time “I can’t believe it” record book. We were running a race against a high school from the next town over from us. This was a head-to-head race at Eisenhower Park – an almost completely flat course. This other team stunk too so we thought we had a chance with them.

Even Wrong Way McKay had never gotten lost at Eisenhower Park – how could he when we could see him and he could see us from the start of the race to the finish of the race. Unfortunately, the officials had to change the meet’s course on this occasion because some construction work was taking place in the area where our races were normally held.

The new course was flat but at the end there was a little hill, maybe 20 feet in height that you had to run down and then run a straight line of about 100 yards to the finish line. The officials went over the course with all the runners. All the kids nodded their heads when the official asked if they all understood where the race would be run. Yes, even Wrong Way McKay nodded his head.

Our neighboring school kicked our ass, which was to be expected, although Steven Beck, as he always did, finished in the top three (he finished high in every race he ran but all our other runners were so far back that it didn’t matter for our team’s overall scoring). Wrong Way McKay was last, also not unusual as he finished last in almost every race he ran.

At the finish line, we watched the kids come down the hill and head for us. You couldn’t see them until they got to the top of the hill and then you’d see the top of a head, then the kid’s whole head, then his body and down the hill he would run and head for us at the finish line.

Finally McKay’s head appeared at the top of the hill and he ran down the hill, as had all the runners in the race before him. But then something happened. Instead of running towards the finish line, Wrong Way McKay headed right back up the hill. I started to scream, “No! No! This way! McKay, this way!” When Wrong Way McKay got to the top of the hill, he turned around and headed back down. I thought he had heard me.

He hadn’t.

When he got to the bottom of the hill, he turned and headed back up the hill. Now all of us were screaming, even our runners who were smoking, “This way! This way!” We waved our hands; swung shirts and towels over our heads. The other team even started yelling.

Wrong Way McKay just kept running up and down the hill. Finally I sent some of our runners to escort him to the finish line. How could he have gotten lost when he could see the finish line from where he was? I don’t know.

I retired from being the Cross Country coach, as I knew I wasn’t cut out for it, and instead I concentrated on handling the Science Fiction club to which Wrong Way McKay belonged as well. What’s interesting concerning my career as a coach is the fact that I didn’t have one winning meet. Yet, many years before – in 1960 – I was on a basketball team that went undefeated in 55 games, even beating Lew Alcindor’s (now known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s) team in a New York City tournament. [You can read about this in my book The Craps Underground: How Controlled Shooters are Winning Millions from the Casinos!] I have experienced the height of success in athletics and the depths. I would have to say that I was probably the worst coach in the history of that high school.

 

One last thing to close out my coaching career: I did get a letter put in my “file” (all teachers had a file where good and bad letters and reviews of one’s performance and behavior were saved – it was very originally called the “file”) about allowing my students to smoke during races. Some skinny little creep from some other school had told on my fat butts who despite it all received their varsity letters in full view of the pretty cheerleaders.

Postscript: I finished writing this section on McKay on a Friday evening. I went to bed. I wrote all day Saturday since I write every day. Sunday morning I checked my emails and I had an email from Matt McKay. After 30 years of no letters, no calls, no emails, a student from my past, one I never thought I would be in contact with again wrote me. He had some nice things to say and, of course, he had been one of my favorite students of all time. The email arrived 24 hours after I finished this section.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores. Become a subscriber to this newsletter — it’s free.

Who’s Your Favorite Niece?

 

I started 2019 in the hospital with pneumonia and the flu. It was just barely bearable.

After half a day in the emergency room, I was sent to a room.

When my wife the Beautiful AP and I entered the room we heard my new roommate call out, “Gracie? Gracie?” I slowly walked over to his side of the room to let him know neither of us were “Gracie.” I parted the closed curtain just slightly; I could see the guy clearly. He was an ancient man, shriveled up in bed, and when he wasn’t calling for Gracie, I heard his labored, wet breathing and deep cough.

I got into my bed. “You think he’s calling his wife, Gracie?”

“I don’t know,” said AP.

“He doesn’t sound as if he has long to go,” I said.

“No,” she said.

The nurse came in and questioned me about my life story; then the blood-letter came in and drew some of my blood (in three days I gave enough blood to feed an entire village of vampires).

“Gracie? Gracie?” After each “Gracie,” he’d cough, cough, and cough some more in an awfully deep phlegmy way and you could hear the rattling in his lungs. I checked him one more time and I could see the mucus leave his nose in a bubble and burst during many of the coughs. Everything he did was accompanied by a horrible sound effect. It was – to be frank – quite rattling to hear.

The nurses came into the room to ventilate my roommate a couple of times (“Gracie, Gracie”) – which meant they were sticking some kind of vacuum down his throat or nose into his lungs to remove the mucus and whatever other slime had lodged inside this ancient fellow.

Late that night, the orderlies came in to change his diaper. The smell was pungent, despite the fact that the orderlies tried to hide it. He was vacuumed and cleaned up several times that night. Despite my being sick and really tired, it was hard to fall into a restful sleep. The phlegm sounds, the smell, and the recognition of mortality all prevented relaxation.

The next morning a woman came to visit him. I discovered his name was McDougal – that didn’t take much detective work since his name was on the door, McDougal “W” which stood for bed by the window and I was Scoblete “D” which stood for bed by the door. We were in a containment room and if anyone came in they wore a mask and a yellow rain-jacket.

The morning saw Mr. McDougal visited by his niece Becky. Now Becky is an all-American name which I associate with the Midwest and Norman Rockwell, probably a blond cheerleader type. This Becky was anything but. She had long black hair – dyed black hair – and she was, as the Beautiful AP said, “Dressed to the nines, but inappropriately.” She dressed as if she were 15 years younger and going to a cocktail party or out clubbing.

I’d guess she was mid-forties and about a decade away from having the severely gravelly voice of the heavy smoker. She was low-class New Yawk all the way with an accident that makes mine sound as if I were a British lord.

“Unckie-wunkie,” she said to Mr. McDougal whose eyes were tightly closed as he raspingly breathed. Spittle dripped slowly down his jawline since his head was turned into the pillow. Becky’s voice sounded nothing like someone who would say unckie-wunkie.

“It’s your favorite niece,” she shouted directly into his face. “I’ve come to visit you again. Remember that I am the one visiting you in the hospital; your favorite niece, Becky…Becky.”

Uncle McDougal was out cold and did not acknowledge her. Becky continued, “See what I brought you? A living flower! I’m going to put it on the window so it gets some light.” She did so. I couldn’t see her go to the window but the Beautiful AP could. AP gave me a look and mouthed, “OMG.”

I could see Mr. McDougal from the chest up, because my privacy curtain gave virtually no privacy. He stirred a little and let out a gurgle.

“I’m glad you’re awake,” said Becky. “I am sure you like the flower your favorite niece, me, Becky, Becky brought you while you were in the hospital.”

“Aaaarrrrgghhh,” coughed Uncle McDougal. “Eh, eck, aaaarrrrgghhh.” A snot bubble formed and exploded onto his lips.

“I knew you’d like the flower I got you. I am happy to be your favorite niece.”

A little while later, after mentioning several times that she was his favorite niece, she turned his television on really loud as if Unckie-wunkie could actually watch it or hear it. She stomped out of the room as though she had just wasted precious time. AP paused and said to me in a whisper, “I hope she doesn’t get any inheritance.”

“The damn set is blasting. What the hell was that all about?”

“New York one-up-man-ship,” said the Beautiful AP. “She was showing us that she’s in charge.”

“What’s the flower look like?” I asked.

“A cheap little thing.” AP then got a nurse’s aide to lower the volume of his TV set.

The next morning—after Mr. McDougal had been vacuumed and cleaned up a dozen times during the night—two women came to the room and one was Becky. Unckie-wunkie’s favorite niece. The other one, maybe ten years older than Becky, was dressed to the nines as she was poured into a pants suit that was far too small for her ballooning blubber.

She had bleached-blonde hair where you could see clearly the greyish-brownish original hair that was growing out under the blonde. She had already achieved the gravelly voice of the addicted smoker. She was in her late fifties I would guess.

“It’s me, Madeline,” said the woman. “I am a close friend of your favorite niece, Becky. You remember me. You always loved me. You do see how Becky is visiting you all the time right? She loves you so much. That’s why she’s your favorite niece.”

Madeline was dressed in black with a low-cut front with her breasts squeezed together so you could see a lot of cleavage. That cleavage was somewhat wrinkled. She was overly made-up and she reeked of cigarette smoke. The Beautiful AP was sitting in a chair at the bottom of my bed (there was no other room for it) and she shook her head slowly.

“Uncle Do-Do, are you awake?” demanded Madeline.

“Can’t you open your eyes when we talk to you?” scolded Becky.

“Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhh,” coughed Uncle Do-Do. Dribble coming from his lips. He hacked a few times. This poor soul wasn’t feeling too wunkie this morning.

“Your favorite niece is here,” graveled Madeline.

“Open your eyes so you can see your favorite niece,” said Becky.

“Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhh,” coughed Uncle Do-Do or Unckie-wunkie. Dribble streamed down his cheek. He hacked a few times. Pop! went a snot bubble. He did not open his eyes.

“Your favorite niece is here,” graveled Madeline. “Why don’t you open your eyes when I speak to you? It’s her Becky, your favorite niece. You know Becky. See that beautiful flower on the window? She bought that for you.” That flower looked as if it was partly dead today.

“We love to come visit you Unckee Do-Do, uh, wunkie, because we love you and that’s why I am your favorite,” cooed Becky.

Mr. McDougal never opened his eyes and his “responses” were just coughs and snot bubbles and spittle rolling down his cheek.

After a while the two of them started to leave. Becky asked Unckie-wunkie if he wanted his set turned up louder. She turned it up to blasting level. The two of them left.

The Beautiful AP and I waited a few pauses.

“I feel like telling Unckie-wunkie Do-Do not to give any of these witches a dime,” said AP. “All we need is a cauldron, one other witch and we can do Macbeth.”

“When I write this, no one will believe it. It’s so over the top,” I said.

“Over the top,” AP nodded.

Later that day, three well-dressed doctors entered the room and looked at him for a while. Then they looked at each other. Mr. McDougal was moved from the room. The orderlies wheeled his bed out and down the hall.

Another orderly came in to scrub the floor and a woman hurriedly entered the room. She was another overly dressed type, maybe in her twenties.

“Excuse me,” she said to the orderly. “Where is my uncle? You know, McDougal?”

“Que?”

“I am his niece, his only favorite niece. I have to talk to him.”

“Que?”

She left the room.

“Where can we buy a cauldron?” asked AP.

Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

Blinding Insight

 

 One night I was driving onto Sunrise Highway in Freeport, New York, coming back from a South Shore Audubon meeting at the library, when I was blinded by a SUV with those new LED lights. I wanted to make a left hand turn onto Sunrise. I couldn’t see the road, I couldn’t see where I was to turn; I couldn’t see the street light above me. I could not see my dashboard. I was blinded.

“Can you see?” I said to my wife the Beautiful AP.

“This is horrible,” she said.

I stopped somewhere on Sunrise Highway before I even tried to see where I had to turn. The SUV passed me by and my vision returned.

“How can car manufacturers make such lights for their cars and SUVs?” asked my wife. “They will kill people.”

“Like cigarettes,” I said. “The car companies will pretend that these lights do not blind other drivers. That they are great for the environment while people smash up on the roads.”

She agreed. “They’ll pretend everything is just great with these lights.”

“Imagine being on a winding country road and being blinded by one of these cars?” I asked.

Lately more cars and SUVs are using those LED headlights. They are blinding as they approach you. The cars are bad enough but those SUVs are devastating on your eyes.

Are the two of us the only people who realize what danger these LED lights pose?

My wife and I can’t be the only ones now noticing how much more dangerous driving at night can be. The normal car lights do not blind you as they approach. You can clearly see the difference between the normal lights and the new LED lights. Even high beams on normal lights do not blind you.

Have accidents happened because of LED lights? I am guessing they have.

I think the time has come to outlaw such headlights on cars, SUVs and trucks.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes and Noble an at bookstores.

 

I Am a Broken Record

 

My wife the Beautiful AP just said that no one talks about broken or even unbroken records anymore. She is not sure many of my readers have much experience with records of any type so let me update that opening and say that I am a tape recording coming unraveled.

No, wait; tape recordings are pretty old too, aren’t they? So let me go modern and say I am an eight-track tape. Oh, for crying out loud, my neighbor’s annoying kid was outside lounging by his pool and I asked him about eight-track tapes. He laughed at me.

The nerve! The kid just got rid of his braces and his teeth are still multi-colored. He didn’t care that he is one weird-looking kid. He still snorted and snickered and disdainfully told me no one discusses eight-track tapes. “Get with it, Scobe,” he said to me. “Get with the real world dude.”

Just for your information this kid is a PITA which stands for Pain in the (ahum). I got that directly from the person who gave birth to him. His mother knows best.

Okay, so what is it that’s broken? Am I a cracked CD or wacked-out digital download into something that takes digital downloads? What is going on?

Oh, screw it, I am a broken record. Look, I prefer records, just as I prefer real coins making coin sounds in a slot machine. The new-fangled-slot-world that has evolved around simulated sounds and dancing animation these past 15 or so years is not going to get to the eight-track-tape-deck of my heart.

True, I have to deal with the world as it is (I’m trying, I’m trying) and you my dear slot players do too. So here is what’s broken about my record:

Speed Kills!

Let me put it another way: The faster you run head-first into a brick wall the more your head is going to hurt as a result. You might even die.

Whether you are playing an old machine or a brand new machine one thing has always been true – the greater the number of decisions you experience, the better chance you have of losing because you are bucking big house edges on almost all slot machines.

Fast equals not good. Slow equals good. Relax, there is no rush.

Use this as your new mantra: The more you play, the merrier for the casino; the less you play the merrier for you.

A leisurely pace is the best method to contain your bankroll and avoid getting hammered too soon and too often. Is it really so joyous to play as fast as a whirlwind when such a wind could easily blow your bankroll away?

I think I have been giving this slow-down advice for decades now but still so many slot players – who obviously have not read my broken-record of slow down you move too fast, got to make your money last – just seem anxious to play faster than the speed of light.

Albert Einstein would have changed his theory concerning light’s speed had he witnessed the swiftness of today’s slot players. “Hmm, I zink it eez e=slot-player-speed squared.”

I will admit that there is a tendency to speed up the number of decisions a slot player faces as time passes. This is similar to how fast a drinker drinks. A person takes the first drink, sips it, and savors it. “Ah, that was delicious, my good man, simply delicious.” He gently wipes his lip with his silk handkerchief.

By the 10th drink, our sophisticated sipper has become a wet-mouthed raging lunatic: “Ah, whool haf mo ma man! Jus po it dowen ma troat!” as he power snots into the bar.

There are relatively easy ways to slow down the pace. Do a spin every 10 seconds. If you must sit at the machine and actually count from one to ten, then do so. After a while it will become second nature.

I think one of the most important realizations that slot players – and all gamblers for that matter – come to is the fact that anticipation is the driving force behind our play. We are looking forward to the next decision. We want a win!

That anticipation of what’s coming next is the fuel that can fool us into playing way too fast. Containing the speed of play will not diminish your anticipation; in fact, I believe it will do the opposite.

I think the anticipatory fun is even more fun the longer you allow it to play itself out. Do six decisions per minute and allow yourself the delightful feeling as you prepare for the next decision. Let the anticipation grow; savor it the way you would savor that first sip of a great drink.

Come on now; your drink almost always tastes better on the first couple of sips than on the swilling of gallons on the 200th swallow.

Okay, so here is the denouement: I am a broken record but what I am saying is the right advice for the smart slots player. I don’t care if my neighbor’s kid thinks I am a “dude” who has to get with it. Listen kid, I’m a gramophone on a mission!

Frank Scoblete’s new books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps! and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! and I Am a Card Counter! All available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores.

The Greatest Blackjack Player of All Time

 

“I want to meet the greatest blackjack player in the world,” I said to Howard Schwartz, manager of the Gamblers Book Shop in Las Vegas.    If anyone knew the greatest blackjack player it would be Howard.

This was June of 1991, several months before my first gambling book would be published.

“Let me go to my office and see what I can do,” he said.

A couple of moments later, a shabbily-dressed worker came from the back.

“I’m Paul Keen,” he said.

“I’m just waiting for Howard. He’s getting something for me.”

Paul smiled. “I’m what he’s getting for you. Howard said you wanted to meet the best blackjack player in the world. I really don’t know if I am the best in the world but for many years I made my full living playing blackjack.”

Paul Keen?

I had heard of Ed Thorp whose book Beat the Dealer revolutionized the game for advantage players. I had heard of “the big player” Ken Uston, who was the most famous and flamboyant blackjack player of all time.

I’d heard of Lawrence Revere, Stanford Wong, Henry Tamburin, Lance Humble and Arnold Snyder. Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily know Paul Keen since he hadn’t written a book, but I wondered how this guy could be considered the best in the world at blackjack? Shouldn’t the best in the world be rich? This Paul Keen was a stock boy. How could he be the best in the world?

“You expected someone a little more imposing didn’t you?”

Howard came from the back. “This man is the greatest blackjack player that I know of.” He nodded at Keen. “When any of the great names have a question they come to Paul. Uston used to frequently come here to talk to him.”

The Ken Uston?” Ken Uston was the blazing star in the blackjack firmament.

The Ken Uston,” said Howard.

“Okay, dinner tonight at 7 o’clock,” I said. “I’ll give a call and let you know where I’ve made reservations.”

“Where are you staying?” he asked.

“The Maxim,” I said.

“The Maxim has the best blackjack game in the history of Vegas.”

And that is how I met Paul Keen.

The Maxim casino is no longer around; it closed in 2001. The building now houses the Westin.

My wife and I had selected the Maxim because it was inexpensive and two blocks from the strip. The place had a coffee shop and a good steakhouse. So the steakhouse it was for dinner.

I called and told Paul Keen that we’d meet him at 7pm at the Maxim steakhouse.

Paul arrived right at 7 o’clock. “This is Susan,” he said. “I live in her luxury trailer.”

I introduced them to the Beautiful AP and we went inside to have dinner.

We ordered drinks. “You count cards?” asked Paul.

“Yes,” I said.

“Are you any good?” he asked.

“We’re good,” said the Beautiful AP

“You’ll like the Maxim’s game,” he said. “It is the best single-deck game ever in Las Vegas. I don’t ever remember a game this good.”

The waiter brought us our drinks. We toasted to a great trip.

“The game uses all but one of the cards, which is discarded after the shuffle. If the dealer runs out of cards midway through the hands, he just takes the discards, shuffles them and continues dealing.”

“God,” I said.

“The rules are great too. Dealer stands on soft 17 [ace-6], you can surrender your hands, and you can double on any two cards and split three times.”

“God,” I said.

“And every time you get a blackjack with five dollars or more you get a one dollar coupon you can use anywhere in the hotel.”

“They are giving away money.”

“There are only four tables. The other players have to satisfy their urge to play so they play the six-deck games which aren’t so hot. The casino manager is pretty clever. He brings the players in for the best game in town but most of them play inferior games.”

“The crowd gets the adrenaline flowing,” I said.

“Some card counters are even getting hit at the single-deck games too,” he said. “They aren’t winning as much as they should.”

Paul Keen had started off as a relatively big player, betting green and black chips, but Vegas is not a friendly town to skilled card counters. The casinos have finely honed radar to catch them – with skilled players hired to catch other skilled players and now computer systems. Even though card counting is perfectly legal, the casinos have the right to tell you to stop playing and to never to come back to their properties.

Over the years Paul was banned from almost every casino. Then he managed to get some of the pit bosses to allow him to play five dollar games with his high bet no more than $15. As he said, “They gave me that at least.”

In card counting when the cards remaining in the deck favor the casino, the player bets small and in Paul’s case that would be five dollars. When the cards remaining to be played favored the player, then the player bets big and in Paul’s case that would be $15. The cards favored the casino when more small cards – 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 remained – and the cards favored the player when more 10’s, jacks, queens, kings and aces remained. Paul’s bet spread from low ($5) to high ($15), while quite small, was sufficient to get him the advantage against those great single decks of the early 1990’s.

Still Paul couldn’t really win a lot of money at those great games unless luck became his lady not just for one night but for the rest of his life.

So Paul Keen lived in his girlfriend’s “luxury trailer” and worked at the Gamblers Book Shop. Vegas would not allow Paul Keen to win substantial sums of money even if some casinos let him play. That’s not how Vegas works. Vegas delights in snatching money, not bestowing it. If Vegas were a science fiction movie it would be “The Invasion of the Money Snatchers.”

Paul certainly had his ups and downs over the years. At times he lived out of his car because he didn’t want to use his bankroll to pay for room and board. Thankfully, Howard Schwartz hired Paul and then Susan housed him so at this point in his life he had a job and shelter.

When we went to the casino after dinner, there were two open spots. Paul took one spot; I took the other. I had never played this type of single-deck game. As I played it just didn’t feel right.

“Let’s quit,” said Paul. He was up about $60. I was down about $20. My spread was $5 to $20. “Let’s go to your room.” In the room Paul took out a deck of cards and shuffled. “There’s a type of play, known as end-play, which almost no one knows nowadays. When all the cards are dealt out but not all the players have received their full hands, those discards now change the nature of the game – they flip your count. Understand?”

“Let me get this,” I said. “If the discards contain small cards, the count is high and normally you’d bet big but if the cards run out and you haven’t gotten your two-card hand what’s about to come out will be small cards.”

“Right,” he nodded. “So you have to know that if you are betting into a positive count [favoring the players] your big bets won’t be ruined because that second card you are getting will most likely be small. So you have to be careful and make sure you know approximately how many cards are left in the dealer’s hand so you don’t get caught by the reshuffle. Also, if a dealer is showing a small card and has to hit that small card, those discards coming into the game could help him make his hand. Or they can bust him if the discards contain a lot of high cards.”

AP jumped in. “So many card counters are actually hurting themselves not knowing this end-play?”

“Yes, the card counter might not be able to handle that reshuffling in the middle of a round of play.”

Paul continued: “Almost no one knows about end-play because games like this are never played. But card counters – most of them anyway – just play by rote. They rarely think to look at a truly unusual game and see if it has some unique pitfalls.”

Paul concluded: “You get the hang of [end play] and your edge on this game will be the highest you can imagine. Off the top the player has a small edge on this game [using] basic strategy. You will have the best blackjack game you ever played with end-play.”

At this point, there was no doubt in my mind that Paul knew his stuff. End play? Amazing.

The next night, Paul took out a deck and taught us end-play.

As we played Paul would ask us how many cards were left in the dealer’s hand and if he would run out thereby reshuffling the discards and how that reshuffling would affect our hands, the dealer’s hand and our betting and strategy decisions. At first A.P. and I were awful. After about an hour, we started to get close. Soon after that, we started hitting it just about right.         At the end of several hours, Paul put the cards down and said, “Let’s go down and give this a try.”

That night turned our blackjack playing careers around. I became a great end-player and the Maxim’s heaven-sent game took us from spreading $5 to $20 up to $25 to $200.

We extended our trip to eight weeks. What made the Maxim so great was the fact that the floor people and pit bosses knew we were counting; they knew others were counting and didn’t care. No sweat, no heat, nothing to do but keep the count and bet appropriately. It was like going to heaven.

The Beautiful AP and I then played for those eight weeks, logging in eight hours per day with each of us playing two hands. When the count was high, we’d jump bets – $25 to $100 to $200. High counts could have $800 on the layout – four hands of $200 – as opposed to $80.

By playing four hands for eight hours per day, we accumulated a fortune in $1 coupons because the average is about one blackjack every 20 hands so (on average) every five rounds one of us would get a blackjack. Those $1 coupons added up – except for the first couple of nights, we never had to pay for a meal while we stayed there. The Maxim did not comp us – one of the things that showed they knew we were playing with an edge.

With the best rules, with relaxed executives, and with personable dealers, the Maxim game was the best blackjack game I ever played.

Paul Keen played every night after work. I got to see him in action and he was truly in his own class.

Paul Keen seemed to have an uncanny ability to predict when he was going to get a blackjack. He was allowed to bet more than $15 at max in this game, so he’d jump to $50 in a player-favorable moment and it was stunning how often those blackjacks came to him. (That $50 was his maximum bet.)

During the eight weeks I gained a great appreciation for his blackjack skills. But there was still more in the offing.

Keen took me a step further – or at least tried to take me a step further. After touring the car collection at Imperial Palace (now the Quad), Paul said, “I want to show you a great way to add to your edge, card tracking.”

The concept of card tracking (also known as shuffle tracking) is quite simple. You follow the 10-valued cards and/or the aces as they come out. When a given round is played, if there is an abundance of 10s and aces, you watch them put into the discard rack and when the dealer finishes with all the cards you follow the shuffle to see where those cards wind up. Then as you play you keep your eye on those areas where the 10’s and aces sit and as they are about to be dealt you bet big. It is a step way beyond simple card counting; an extremely difficult step. Almost no card counters I ever met achieved mastery of this technique.

Paul Keen did.

We stood behind the players at a six-deck game and watched the rounds. Then it came, one round where 10’s and aces poured out of the shoe. Paul watched them being played then put into the discard rack. When the dealer finished this shoe, he shuffled the cards and put the decks back into the shoe. I had no idea where those 10’s and aces wound up. I tried to follow them in the shuffle but I just couldn’t do it. The shuffle became a blur to me. I couldn’t believe Paul would know either. How could you follow this kind of thing?

Somewhere in that shoe was supposedly a group of high cards and aces. Paul watched the discard pile. Then he nodded, “The next two rounds will have those 10’s and aces. If we were playing we’d pump up the bets. There should be some blackjacks and some hands of twenty.”

It was a miracle; a cascade of 10’s and aces came out in the next two rounds. Of course, there were some small cards mixed in with those 10’s and aces but there were three blackjacks and six hands of 20 in the next two rounds.

Paul did this several times and he always got the groups of high cards correct. Was this a perfect strategy? No. Other cards did mix in with the high cards, but overall it was a high percentage play favoring the player. So, I guessed, maybe this was how Paul got that extra edge at the Maxim game because he could follow a couple or several cards even in a single-deck game.

Yes, Paul Keen was an elite player; truly the best I ever saw and I have seen some other great ones. You could understand why he was a threat to the casinos – that is, if he had enough of a bankroll to play. Even Paul Keen, the best blackjack player in the world, was closer to broke than break even.

Keen’s lack of money didn’t allow him to play up to his potential. With the casinos banning high bets, his spectacular early career ended with a whimper. So here was blackjack’s greatest player on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Such is the sad irony of life.

No books would be written about him. No young players would think, “I want to be the next Paul Keen.” No great gambling writers would flock to Vegas to pick his brain. He was Ozymandias, a broken, wind-whipped statue in the desert but, yes, he had been the true king.

Frank Scoblete’s newest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage Play Blackjack! and I Am a Dice Controller!  Join Frank on his web site at www.frankscoblete.com.

 

 

My Neighbor versus My Landscaper

 

I was relaxing in my special chair meditating before I was about to write an article. I do that most days. When my mind is allowed to relax in meditation, I find that – My doorbell rang. Crap! Who the hell is that?

“Hey, hey, Frank,” said my next door neighbor. “Don’t mean to disturb you.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” I said.

“You know your landscaper,” he said.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “He finally got around to raking my leaves today.”

I have a corner property, thankfully no sidewalks. Our village has been designated Tree City USA; we have a lot of trees. I have giant ones on my property; so does my neighbor; although he did cut a couple of big, leafy ones down recently.

“He left some leaves on the edge of my property,” said my neighbor.

“Isn’t he your landscaper too?” I asked.

“I fired him. He didn’t do a good job so I got rid of him. I prefer to do my property myself. It’s done the way I like it when I do it. No leaves at all when I do it.”

“Did he blow them onto your property?” I asked.

“No, they are on the edge, just past your property line. Touching my property.”

“Ah.” (“Ah” is a great way to respond to something that you don’t know how to respond to.)

Now my neighbor is very particular about his house and his property. When I start writing at five in the morning I see him outside – in the dark – raking his leaves up. After he rakes, he vacuums his back yard and his front yard with his outdoor vacuum cleaner. In the fall, you would be hard-pressed to find a single leaf on his property. He rakes quite a few times a day.

Once at 3 AM, the cops stopped at his house to arrest someone that they thought was a burglar trying to gain entrance. Someone had reported some dark figure using a flashlight on the property. It was my neighbor with a miner’s cap on his head, the kind with a light on it, raking leaves. He explained to the cops that he was keeping his property clean.

The police left satisfied that he was not a burglar.

My neighbor also climbs a tall ladder to go up to his roof and clean the gutters; I’d say he does that at least twice a week. Once, when a nor’easter was heading towards us, I heard some kind of large animal on our roof. I went outside to see. I didn’t want any raccoon trying to gain entrance into my house. We sometimes have families of raccoons hanging around.

I had nothing to fear; it was my neighbor cleaning my gutters. “You want to make sure these are clean,” he said. “When that storm hits you don’t want your gutters overflowing.” He was right, of course; I didn’t want my gutters overflowing. Our gutters were slated to be cleaned the following week but they were now full of leaves.

“I called the police on that landscaper,” said my neighbor. “He’s doing this leaf thing to annoy me. I also called the village to complain about him. You have to have a license to do landscaping in this village and I want his license revoked. He did awful work for me. He shouldn’t be allowed to garden in our village.”

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll give him a call and tell him to come back and get the leaves on the edge of my property.”

“Do we really want to keep him if he’s causing so much trouble?” said my wife, the Beautiful AP, entering our foyer. “I wasn’t happy he waited so long to rake up.”

“We’ve had him for twenty-five years,” I said somewhat quietly.

“I fired him,” said my neighbor. “I didn’t think he did good work.”

“Maybe we should get a new landscaper,” said my wife.

“Ah,” I said.

“They are all way too expensive,” said my neighbor. “The company that does the house across the street charges way too much, almost as much as yours.”

“Well, ah, you know our property is basically one big Japanese garden. It takes a lot of work, uh, a lot, you know,” I said.

“We should look into getting another company,” said my wife.

“Well, first I’ll give him a phone call and get him over here to clean up what remains,” I said. “Show him,” I said to my wife meaning show my neighbor, “my big fish tanks while I call the landscaper.”

My wife took our neighbor into my office where my 210-gallon tank resides just behind my desk along with a 55-gallon and a 20-gallon. I’ve always loved fish. I also love looking out the windows of my office, which is three-quarters windows. I see the birds in front and to the sides of me; I see my fish behind me when I take little breaks from writing and I see the damn cats people let loose trying to get at the birds. Also squirrels and raccoons, and possums, and occasionally I spot a field mouse scampering by on my deck.

My landscaper’s phone message system was full. I told that to my wife and neighbor as they reentered the living room.

“You should think of doing it yourself,” said my neighbor. I guess he could see the look of horror on my face. “Okay, if he doesn’t come by tomorrow I’ll do it myself.”

“No, no, no,” I said. “I’ll get him to do it.”

This was a Saturday and his phone messaging system stayed full until Thursday. By then my neighbor had raked up all the leaves and put them in the road outside my house. In a neat, neat pile, not even a trail of tiny little leaves. Also he had put some in huge leaf bags, totally full, in the street outside of my house.

I had asked my wife why she was so fierce about firing our landscaper. “I don’t want to get into a conflict with our neighbor. We’ve all been good neighbors for 25 years. If it’s a choice between our landscaper or our neighbor I choose our neighbor.”

“Well,” I said. “He did do a good job on our gutters before that big storm.”

I left a message for our landscaper about the leaves and the fact that our neighbor had called the police and the village about him. I said he had to make sure when he does our property not to get a leaf on our neighbor’s property. I didn’t want a problem with my neighbor.

Several hours later the landscaper called.

“Hello,” I said.

“All he does is complain,” said the landscaper.

“Ah.”

“Nothing was ever right with him when I was doing his property. He’d inspect everything as we did it. He was never happy. If a leaf blew down from a tree he’d start complaining. Leaves fall down from trees! Leaves fall down from trees all fall and even in winter! They fall! Jesus!”

“Ah,” I said.

“I’m coming there and going to his house to tell him what I think of him,” said my landscaper.

“You see, I still have this big pile of leaves in the street outside my house,” I said.

“You shouldn’t have raked them,” said the landscaper.

“I didn’t,” I said.

“He did! Jesus! He did! Oh, man, he did! He did! Jesus!”

“Ah.”

“You know when we do your property I make sure that we do some of his property even in summer when we are cutting the grass and taking care of everything else. That’s so he doesn’t bother you,” he yelled.

“Ah.”

“I am going to talk to that guy. Jesus!”

“Uh, can you come by and get those leaves?” I asked.

“Can you believe that guy raked up everything?”

“The leaves are on the side of the property,” I said.

“Come on, Jesus,” he said. “He raked!”

“There are two huge garbage bags there too.”

“He can’t just be an average guy? What the hell!”

“If you can come by and get them as soon as possible,” I said.

“I am talking to that guy. You can bet on it. Calling the cops and the village on me, Jesus.”

“As soon as you can,” I said.

“This is my job, you know. This is how I feed my children. I have four children! Four and my wife wants more. Can you believe her? More. I work like a dog and this guy wants to ruin my business? Jesus.”

“Okay,” I said. “Good talking to you.”

“Jesus!”

The next day I was meditating in my special chair and my cell phone rang. “Hello,” I said.

“Yes, it’s me,” said my landscaper.

My home phone rang.

“Just hold for a second,” I said to my landscaper. “My home phone is ringing.”

“Okay,” he said.

“Hello,” I said.

“It’s me,” said my neighbor.

“Listen,” said the landscaper in my left ear. “I’m coming by in five minutes to rake up.”

“Can I come over in a few minutes to talk to you?” asked my neighbor into my right ear.

My wife came in from the garage and stood in front of me. “So is everything straightened out?” she asked. “Why do you have a phone on one ear and a phone on the other ear?”

Because we live in Tree City USA!

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores. Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com.

No Machado, No Way

 

The New York Yankees are considering getting Manny Machado, who played for the Los Angeles Dodger for a couple of months in 2018 and who played for the Baltimore Orioles for several years. They might want him to play shortstop and then third base when Didi Gregorius returns from surgery.

He is an all-star and a terrific player. No doubt about that.

They would be crazy to sign him.

He is a lazy player, much like Robinson Cano whom the Yankees got rid of a half decade ago to no fan puzzlement or upset. Why you ask? Because Robinson Cano was not, and still is not, a hustler. He trots out infield ground balls and shows no inclination to put it all on the line when he runs. That Is not good for the game or for your team.

According to some baseball analytics if you run full out to first base on ground balls you will add 20 base hits to your season totals. That’s more than enough to encourage a player to bust it down the line. It’s good for your team and it’s good for the player. Add that to the fact that you should have pride in yourself and never dog it.

Mr. Machado even bragged that he is not a hustling type of player by saying, “I’m not the type of player who is going to be Johnny Hustle.”

No he isn’t. He is the type of player who can sew discord on a team and in the minds of fans.

The Yankees have right now a team of hustlers. Guys who seem to get along and have that team spirit. A lazy player who doesn’t hustle and thinks he is a precious gem belongs on any other team except the Yankees. Those other teams can have him.

To the Yankees, pass this guy on by. We don’t need another Cano.

All of Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books, and at bookstores.