The place is a posh casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ernie, a man in his early 50’s with graying hair and carrying a few too many pounds, most of it around his waist, surveys the scene from the center of the blackjack pit where everyone calls him boss.
It’s not the best crowd for a Thursday night, he thinks, but it isn’t bad either. There are a few too many open seats at the tables, probably shouldn’t have opened so many so early, but he finally had a full compliment of blackjack dealers on this shift and he didn’t want anyone sitting around doing nothing. In his 18 years as a pit boss, no one had ever explained to him how he was supposed to always keep just enough tables open to accommodate the blackjack clientele while at the same time keeping the tables that were open as close to capacity as possible, yet that is what they expect. “Easy for them to sit up stairs and judge, they ought to have to come down here on the floor and get their hands dirty and put up with what I have to day in and day out,” Ernie thought.
Ernie’s musings were interrupted when one of his Slot Online dealers called “Black Action”, which is their way of drawing his attention to a player who has suddenly increased his bet from playing lower denomination chips to higher denomination black $100 chips. Ernie sidled down toward the table where a young man who looked to be in his mid 20’s had just made the large bet. Might be a card counter, he thought. Better watch him.
While Ernie studied the young man in particular, his eye took in the whole scene. The young man sat in the middle of the table and studied each card carefully, in fact he never said a word or looked up. He played blackjack like a machine. Every hand was played methodically without thinking. “This guy is definitely counting cards,” Ernie said to himself as he tried to evaluate the potential threat the young man posed, if any.
Also at the table to the young man’s right was an attractive woman who Ernie guessed to be about his own age. Very refined and obviously pretty well off financially judging from the jewelry she wore. Yet she was only making $5 and $10 bets. Strictly tourist, just gambling for fun. Probably here with her husband who is most likely the real gambler of the family, at least that was Ernie’s evaluation. The lady laughed easily and was engaged in a casual conversation with the gentleman who was sitting in the third base slot at the table (immediately to the dealer’s right).
Ernie’s focus then turned to the man playing third base. His hair was completely gray. He wore a white pullover shirt with dark slacks and a beige windbreaker. Ernie never saw the older gentleman place a bet higher than the $5 table minimum, but he didn’t really seem to be that interested in the game anyhow. He was more interested in the lady sitting across the table from him as he continued to engage her with short quips and comments about the game. Probably just a middle aged guy out for some fun and maybe a little action if he could continue to hold Ms. Sophistication’s attention.
As Ernie continued his mental evaluation of the clientele and studied the young man at the center of the table, the gray-haired gentleman sitting at third picked up his drink and took a long lingering sip as he made a joke that no one seemed to get and then uttered a big belly laugh. Hey, Ernie thought, this guy is his own biggest fan.
Now, a tall slender dark-haired man in his early 40’s, very well dressed in a neatly tailored business suit sidled up to the table. His tie was loosened and his shirt collar open and his hair looked a little disheveled, but still basically neat. He tried to sit down and almost missed the chair. Obviously this guy has been partying for awhile, Ernie thought. He could even smell the booze on him from his observation point several feet away. Even though intoxicated, the man still carried himself with dignity and grace. The newcomer pulled out a huge wad of cash and bought in for $20,000. Ernie immediately was on the move and was at the dealer’s side in an instant. He watched closely as the dealer counted the money, then counted out the appropriate stack of chips and slid them over to the high roller. Ernie asked the man for his player’s card, thinking, “I’ve got to get a quick ID on this guy and find out who he is and what he’s about.”
The newcomer just waived Ernie off and said, “Hell, I just got off the plane a couple of hours ago, I don’t have one yet.”
“If you’ll give me your ID, I’ll have a card made for you right quick,” said Ernie. “I can’t comp you or help you if I don’t have you set up in the system.”
“I’ll talk to you about it later,” the man replied as he placed the table maximum bet of $5,000. The dealer drew a 20 to his 19 and the man groaned and lightly pounded the edge of the table.
Now Ernie moved to the man’s side where he could speak to him in a more confidential manner. “Are you staying here in this hotel?” Ernie inquired.
“I haven’t landed anywhere yet,” was the man’s reply.
Ernie took the initiative and persisted not wanting a high roller to escape from his casino. “I’d be happy to get you set up with a nice room here fully comped. And you really should think about putting that bankroll in our safe and just playing with markers,” Ernie whispered.
“Thanks, I’ll probably do that, but I’ll talk to you about it later. Right now, I feel lucky.”
Ernie backed away not wanting to antagonize a customer because he knew that when a man or woman wants to gamble they aren’t really interested in anything else, and besides, he had the man and his money in his casino right now. “Let’s see how much of it he leaves with us,” Ernie thought to himself.
The dealer dealt the next hand. Ernie was mildly amused when the high roller was dealt an ace and a face card giving him a natural blackjack. The high roller thrust his fist in the air in celebration as the man sitting at third base smiled broadly. After 7 more hands, 5 of which were won by the high roller at $5,000 per crack, the older gentleman who had been laughing and joking at third base suddenly raised his bet from $5 to $10. Ernie laughed at the absurdity of the situation. Two people at the table betting $5 and $10, one vacillating between $25 and $100 bets and one crazy drunk guy betting $5,000 a pop and winning. Apparently God does look out for fools and drunks.
Now Ernie was startled when the high roller suddenly pushed his chips over to the dealer and cashed in. As the well dressed business man left the table, Ernie instinctively walked in his direction but not too quickly as he didn’t want to seem like a vulture circling his prey. But, at the same time he didn’t want a potential VIP to take up residence in another casino, especially since the guy was lucky this round and had pocketed $22,500 of his casino’s money. But as Ernie approached the high roller, the business man changed directions and made his way straight to another blackjack table and sat down. Once again, the dark-haired man in the dark well tailored suit pulled out his horse choking sized bankroll and proceeded to bet the table maximum.
Ernie just smiled. Looks like business may be good tonight, his luck won’t hold for long, Ernie thought. Yet something was gnawing at him. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something wasn’t quite right. Then, in a flash, all of his many years experience, first as a dealer, then floor supervisor, and now as a pit boss came into play and Ernie knew what was bothering him. He walked to his desk and picked up the phone and called upstairs to the eye in the sky.