The following stories are true. I can verify that I saw these with my own eyes.

I was sitting in a sportsbook when a friend came over breathlessly to announce that the most amazing thing was happening right down the street. It seems that a street-person, a man who didn’t appear to have much in the world, his possessions stuffed into a shopping sack, unshaven, lavatoraly-challenged, his clothing stained and soiled, had wandered into one of the newer casinos at the time, sat down at a blackjack table, bought in for forty dollars, and proceeded to win like he would never lose.

Blackjack Tales

This went on for hours. He had amassed stacks of racks of thousand dollar chips before I wandered over to see the commotion. There were velvet theater ropes and security guards surrounding the table keeping the growing crowds away as news of the magic act and performance by this man who, by his looks, had given no indication of his prowess or elevated understand of something so elusive as blackjack.

This fellow managed to accumulate close to $1,000,000, all the while drinking like a fish, swearing like a sailor, and throwing things when he sometimes lost a hand, like a two-year old terrible tot. He was escorted after this had had grown thin and given a hotel suite, with a strong suggestion not to return for several hours.

He must have napped, because he returned after a while, and sat down with his chips to recommence play. His actions belabor the point: how much is enough? He proceeded to give almost all of it back, drinking and swearing at all concerned. When he was down to his last $40,000, the casino owner came over, grabbed him by the collar and personally escorted him and his chips out of the hotel’s side door.

I was playing one day at a table in a casino which faces the hotel front desk. There is a universal rule for the dealers, that they are not allowed to turn around. They are only allowed to look forward and to the side.

As the dealer was handing me an ace for the first of my two cards, a man rushes in from the street waving a gun, being chased by all types of security guards and police, no more than 15 feet away. I calmly looked at the dealer about to pitch my second card, and said calmly, “Please paint me (give me a ten to go with my ace for a blackjack) and pay me quickly! Don’t look but there’s a man waving a gun right behind you. I’m sure it will be be under control shortly, but pay me fast just to be sure.”

The cards had been coming fast and wrong all day. I couldn’t get anything going at all. My patience was disappearing with my money faster than I wanted, and was looking for something, anything to make it better. I had tried everything: switching tables, stopping for lunch, a different casino. Nothing was working and I was about to throw in the towel when the cards started to turn my way.

I won one hand, then another, then another. I hadn’t won more than one in a row all day! With the biggest bet I had made all day, I was given an ace and a two versus a dealer’s 10. I hit the soft 13 and got another ace to make 14. I hit again and got another 2 to make 16. Then I got another ace to make one very soft 17. I had five cards so far and still most likely a losing hand. I hit again and got a five to turn this mess into a 12.

A dilemma on a difficult day. I had a run of 6 cards in my hand. A ten was sure to show any card now. But a twelve versus a dealer’s ten doesn’t bring home the bacon. What to do? Hit and duck. I got a three. I had never, in 30 years of blackjack play seen anything like this.

I had seven cards, and still nothing to show for it. I hit again, closing both eyes at first, then cracked one slowly to see the 15 turn into a seventeen with a two. Now there was nothing to do but sit on an 8-card 17. Exasperated, I watched as the dealer turned his hole card up revealing a 6. I smiled in satisfaction because any one or two of my cards would have made his hand, and beaten mine.

Now I watched as the drama unfolded below my furrowed brow. The dealer reached into the shoe, slid his card out and shook his head. He had drawn a beautiful 6.