No matter how often Iíve been to Vegas, I still get excited about the idea of going there. I was just in Tunica a few weeks ago, and a few weeks before that I was in Atlantic City. I mean I get plenty of casino action, about 60-120 days a year. But Vegas is special. I guess itís the difference between going to church at the local wood-framed house of worship and going to St. Peterís Basilica. It has something to do with scale.
For my wife, the beautiful A.P., and me, Las Vegas has been our savior. From 1990 until 2002, we never lost on a trip to Vegas. Thatís not bragging, because when I finally did lose in April of 2002, it was a staggering loss and put my growing gambling ego and me in perspective. That whole trip, my first losing one to Vegas in over a dozen years, was a disaster from the get-go.
Hereís an article I wrote for Midwest Gaming and Travel about the trip:
My Vegas Vacation
I donít have a therapist who gets paid to listen to my whines, moans and complaints. For that, I have you, my indulgent readers. So, please indulge me, because this column is all about me. This is a column I knew someday I would have to write: I was just hoping that someday was somewhere over the rainbow.
Here goes: I finally lost on a "trip" to Las Vegas. Thatís right, in more than 12 years of going to Sin City, in trips as short as four days and as long as two months, I have always come back ahead, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, but always with more. My wife, the beautiful A.P., and I referred to this as "the record" or "the streak." I never wrote about it (that would be bragging), and only a few of my closest friends, such as John Robison and Walter Thomason, even knew about it. I canít say the same for any other casino venue that I have visited. Iíve had plenty of losing "trips," but not Vegas.
My friend, Fred Renzey [author of 77 Ways to Get the Edge at Casino Poker and Blackjack Bluebook] would think me foolish for even considering the concept of a "trip" as anything more than some moments in a continual session. Heíd say, and rightly, that the cards and dice have no idea when my "trips" begin or end, itís all one game. So you are either ahead of the game at any given time or behind at any given time. I wish I could really feel that were true, but my emotions wonít buy it. Like a baseball team, I divide my play into winning and losing games (trips), as well as total runs scored for or against (the overall bottom line of my gambling to that point).
The trip from hell began with omens and ended with an oh-man.
At Kennedy Airport in New York, wending our way through the metal detectors, the alarms started sounding. I figured it was some idiot who hadnít taken off his jewelry. No. It was I.
I was pulled over and had to be given the full wand treatment and frisking, with all the other travelers looking at me as if I were some kind of deviant. What set off the alarms were a key, a roll of peppermints, and, of course, my $11.50 watch. I was spun, wanded, frisked; spun, wanded and frisked some more. Omen.
We were traveling first class using our upgrade miles and expected to get a good meal on the plane. Then, just before we boarded, an announcement was made that no food would be served on the flight. Imagine five-and-a-half hours to Vegas and no food. Omen.
So we bought some sandwiches to bring on board. Arrived at Las Vegas and the car that was supposed to pick us up was not there. Omen.
Finally, the car arrives, takes us to our hotel, and the room isnít ready. Omen.
I wasnít going to play until I had showered and napped, so we hung around for a couple of hours and talked about "the streak."
"You donít think all these little snafus are omens, do you?" I asked A.P.
"What would Fred Renzey say to that?" she countered.
"Right," I said.
That first night of play I lost more money than I had ever lost in any trip to any gambling venue in the country. Thatís how bad it was. For four days I slowly dug myself out of the hole and was ahead a few bucks before the second-to-last day (I never play on my very last day in Vegas, for discipline). Then the roof fell in. I had a last playing day that was even worse than the first. That night I slept in the fetal position. I would have sucked my thumb; only my $11.50 watch glows in the dark and it would have been right in my eyes.
That morning, the very first thing I said was, "I canít believe the streak is over."
"No big deal," said A.P., "it had to end sometime."
"Weíll have a nice breakfast, get some sandwiches for the plane, and youíll live to fight another day."
"Weíve taken a beating. I should have known this was going to happen from all those omens," I bemoaned.
"Donít be superstitious," she said.
So we went to the airport that afternoon to catch our plane. I made it through the metal detectors, no problem, as I had taken my watch, my belt, my roll of peppermints, my key, my empty wallet, and dumped them all in the tray.
"At least I wasnít given the wand treatment," I said to A.P.
When they called for the first class passengers, A.P. and I stepped forward. I handed my tickets to the attendant and then I heard: "Sir, step aside, please." A security guard.
"But Iím first class. Iím not jumping the line."
"Come with me, sir," he said. "Bring your bags." A.P. came with me. "Not you maíam, you get on the plane," said the security agent.
"But heís my husband."
"Get on the plane, maíam."
Then in full view of all the other passengers, Mr. First Class, Mr. Big Shot, Mr. Big Gambling Writer, Mr. ME, got the damn wand again. Had my belt removed. Was frisked. And then had to open my carry-on bag (dirty underwear and socks on top for all the world to see).
I was finally allowed on the plane when the security agent discovered nothing more dangerous in my bag than a book I had written about how to beat the casinos at their own games. The irony was not lost on me.
Seated next to A.P., at last, I just looked at her: "Do I fit some kind of profile?"
"Look at the way you dress," she said.
"Yeah, well that guy over there dresses worse than me," I said.
"Thatís a woman," she said.
"Oh, oh yeah, right. Do I look like a terrorist?"
"No, itís just been one of those trips."
"Yeah," I said.
"It started with all those omens after all," she said.
"Oh, man," I said and promptly fell asleep.
Until that time, Las Vegas had been our own personal paradise. God, I was so smug by April 2002 that I honestly thought that I couldnít lose. Oh, I could, and did, lose on some trips to Atlantic City and elsewhere, but Vegas, Vegas belonged to me.
I made the transition from being a red chip blackjack player to a black chip player Ėin one summer at the Maximís famous single-deck game. Check out these rules: you could resplit aces, you could split any first two cards, resplit up to three times, double on any first two cards and on all splits, dealer stood on soft 17, surrender was allowed, and if you got a blackjack with $5 or more wagered, you were given a coupon worth one dollar that could be used as cash at any Maxim outlet or restaurant. I averaged about $50 a day just in coupons. How? I played two hands for eight hours a day and the beautiful AP also played two hands for eight hours a day. When we arrived at the Maxim, we were $5 players, spreading from $5 in neutral and low counts, to $25 in high counts on each of two hands. By week eight, we were playing for five times those amounts. And no heat whatsoever from the pit who knew we were counting cards!
When we were getting ready to leave in late August to return to New York, A.P. had to sew the money we had won into the lining of my sports coat because I was paranoid about having so much cash on me. In those days I was skinny but all that money made me one fat, and contented, cat on the plane.
Not every trip required such extraordinary measures. One trip I only won $16, after expenses, but a win is a win.
I never wrote about the true nature of my Las Vegas gambling successes in any of my books because nobody likes a braggart. And I could just hear the critics: "Not only has he invented this godlike creature he calls the Captain but Scoblete claims he has never lost on a trip to Vegas! Who could possibly believe such baloney?"
Of course, I am no longer quite so confident in my ownership of sin city. Having taken that first hammering in Vegas and knowing that I am not invincible, I look with joy, anticipation and trepidation to this upcoming trip.
Not the least of my reasons for fearing this trip has to do with the fact that Iím writing this diary. I donít want to fall flat on my face in front of my readers and have to write: "Well, even though I lost [fill in the amount here], I still had a good time." A few weeks ago, I squeezed out of Tunica with a small win, after a disastrous couple of evenings at Samís Town and one horrendous night at Sheraton. I had no one to blame but myself for those awful beatings Ė had I used the 5-Count on my fellow GTCers, I would have been at least even on those nights and then I would have won a substantial amount by the time I left Tunica.
A.P. and I are looking forward to this trip for other reasons, social reasons. A.P. will be meeting one of her best friends, Penny, and the two of them intend to hit the museums and points of interests that have nothing to do with gambling (yes, I know that is weird! But AP actually goes to the public library when sheís in Vegas) and then A.P. plans to write about "the cultural Las Vegas." Women!
A.P. and I donít need to win at gambling anymore. My two sons are grown up, oneís married and just bought a house, and the other has just landed a great job.
Of course, Iím excited for other reasons as well. Itís a chance to play with Dominator for two straight weeks! During the time weíre giving our special GTC class at the dealerís school. For me then, itís not all about the money anymore; itís camaraderie and then cash. It used to be only about the cash.
Everyone prepares for a trip in his own way. For me, I fantasize about the perfect roll. I see the dice in the center of the table. I watch the stickman push them to me. I select two; set my 3V, take a breath; grab, grip, aim, and deliver the dice softly and with just enough back spin to land them with a breaking element so that they die at the base of the back wall. In my mindís eye I see roll after roll, and I see them step-by-step, element-by-element, and they are perfect.
Of course, there are the mundane things to do. Packing the bags, making sure we have all our pills and paraphernalia. A.P. always worries about what sheíll wear and she worries about the fact that I donít worry about what Iíll wear.
"You have to start dressing like an adult," AP says to me.
"I want to be comfortable."
"You look like a bum," says A.P.
"God, youíre beautiful, you know that?"
"Donít change the subject."
"No, no really. You are just so beautiful."
"Stop. Stick to the point," says A.P.
"That is the point. How a beautiful woman like you could love a guy like me," I say.
"Itís the way you dress."
"Iím comfortable," I say
"Youíre not going to wear those same cargo pants every day are you?"
"I have a couple of pairs of them," I say.
"Two pairs of pants for fourteen days?"
"Iím comfortable in them."
"And when Dom and Laura meet us for dinner on Easter Sunday at the Eiffel Tower restaurant, what will you be wearing?" she asks.
"My ĎFuck Franceí button."
"I am going to ask Dom to outfit you," she threatens.
"Fine, just as long as Iím comfortableÖand you are too beautiful."
I donít know what it is about clothes and me. Iíve never liked to dress up. My regular outfits are sweat pants and t-shirts, preferably old and about to disintegrate. Thatís what I wear when I write and I write every day. To me wearing cargo pants is dressing up. I would have been comfortable in a toga in ancient Rome. I had a beautiful dinner with AP at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center wearing sweatpants and a suit jacket. So I can fit two weeks worth of clothes in an overnight bag.
We also have to take care of our bird, Augustus. Now AP really loves me. I am her favorite human. But the big love of her life is this damn little bird.
Augustus is a Quaker parrot, sometimes called a Monk parrot. Religious connotations aside, this "Quaker-Monk" can be hell. Heís bright, like a two-year old, and, like a two-year old, he wants what he wants when he wants it Ė and if he doesnít get it, squaaaawwwwccckkkk!!!!
He can also be an endearing little thing. He can say the following:
"Love King Scobe." (He tries to snow me with that one.)
"Iím a good little bird." (Usually after heís pooped on your shoulder, hand or head.)
"Eat." (Yes, when he wants to eat.)
"Drink." (Yes, when he wants to drink.)
"Eat and drink." (Yep.)
"Want a bath." (When he wants a bath.)
"I love you." (After heís done something really irritating.)
"Kiss, kiss." (Then he makes a clucking noise and does his version of a kiss.)
"Go to sleep." (When he wants to be covered for the night.)
And he also competes with any sound he hears. So if another bird is outside trilling away, old Augustus squawks his beak off trying to out-trill the outdoor bird.
But for the seven days AP will be with me in Vegas, Augustus will make his home with my in-laws who live about a mile and a half from us. My mother-in-law likes to talk (a lot) but Augustus is a good listener so they get along
I have to pack now. Iím ready. Iíll post this. The next post will be on Friday, it will be all about Thursday, as long as I can figure out how to use my new laptop and get on the Internet from afar.
ADDENDUM: So much for the new laptop! It arrived and Dell got the entire order wrong. Instead of a laptop with a 17-inch screen, I got a laptop with a 12-inch screen and a separate monitor with a 17-inch screen. I basically jumped up and down, called Dell every name I could think of that my mother told me never to say, and packed everything up and itís now sitting outside my house waiting for the UPS guy to pick it up and cart it away. So, I have no idea if Iím going to be able to pull off this diary as I planned it, day-by-day as it happens.
That is just my luck with electronic equipment of any kind. I never get the right thing on the first try. The computer I bought just before the one I am using had a virus in it. I took it back and the guy at the store said: "Gee, never saw that before." I bought a 37-inch television and when I hooked it up, the picture wouldnít come on. I had to bring it back. Same with my VCR, my DVD player, and new phones Iíve bought. The first cellular phone I ever bought, when they were those big models, melted. Some kind of "freak electrical happening" said the dealer.
Now, you can see why I am hesitant about buying a plane. I donít want to be up in the air when some "freak electrical happening" happens.
Wish me luck on this diary. Dom is going to take me to a store when we get to Vegas tomorrow and weíre going to buy a laptop there. Maybe I should buy two, so that when the first one explodes, the second one will work.
Again, wish me luck!
The complete text of Frank's 15-day Las Vegas Diary is available exclusively in the Articles section of The Craps Club.
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