Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Case of the 2-Armed Bandit

By Carl Van Eton

Courtesy Public Domain Pictures
Anyone who has read my Blackjack Express book, has heard me tell of one of the more colorful characters with whom I have played over the years named Joey.  Joey is one of those players who enjoys stalking through the green felt jungle long after the rest of us have called it a night. While a capable card counter under ordinary circumstances, Joey sometimes lets the siren song of a hot table get the better of him.  He'll either play until he doubles his winnings, or he'll play until the Sun comes up while chasing a loss.  In short, Joey loves the action more than he cares about the win/loss.  Add to this syndrome the fact that Joey has a system for practically every game in the house and it is little wonder that I keep him on a short leash any time we are playing blackjack with a joint bankroll.

Like most gamblers, when Joey goes on a bender he sometimes beats the odds.  Case in point: After a marathon session at the craps tables in Harrah's Marina, Atlantic City in 1990, Joey suddenly realized the chips in his rack and in play on the layout had somehow managed to parlay themselves into something in the neighborhood of $7,000.

"Take me down!" Joey hollered to the dealer before the dreaded seven reared its ugly head.  Patting himself on the back for exercising self-control, Joey colored up and cashed out.  Then he did something uncharacteristic for him.  He passed Go and made a beeline for the parking garage, instead of trying his luck at the other games the casino had to offer.

It was only as he was driving home on the White Horse Pike that good fortune turned to bad. Pulling over to fill up at an all-night convenience store in Absecon, he decided to phone his wife to tell her  he was on his way home.  Ignoring the fact that it was nearly midnight, he sauntered over to a pay phone to give her a jingle.  No sooner had she answered when Joey told her, "Honey, you won't believe my luck tonight!"

It was at that moment that he felt the cold, hard steel of a gun barrel press against his temple as a deep voice announced from close proximity, "Me either."

It turned out that Joey had been tailed from the casino by a bandit who was intent on relieving him of his winnings.  After handing over the cash, the mugger jumped into his own car and sped off. So flustered was he when tha police finally showed up about an hour later, that Joey's description of both the robber and the getaway car were more than a little hazy.  In short, Joey had gotten his first lesson in the fine art of covering one's assets.  And as they say in the halls of academe, education doesn't come cheap.


Image courtesy of flickr
When Joey related his sudden turn of bad luck to me a few days later, I asked him why he hadn't simply deposited his winnings with the casino, seeing as he was a regular.  Shaking his head, he gave me one of those "Now you tell me" stares before admitting, "I guess I was too absorbed in the heat of the moment to realize someone was watching me.

Ever since casinos were invented, there have been thugs who made their living by preying on the winners.  While some are brazen enough to drop the hammer inside the casino itself, most wait until their hapless victims depart the premesis.  Not all  thieves are as patient as the one who followed Joey half way home.  On more than one occasion, people have been accosted in parking garages, restrooms, elevators and even their hotel room.


Another of my students from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi was once robbed at gunpoint while walking between adjacent casino properties in broad daylight.  Luckily for her, the mugger had not chosen to relieve her of her purse an hour earlier when she had passed in the opposite direction.During the first trip, she had been carrying more than $3,000 in cash which she had used to pay off a marker.
After the daylight robbery, the 70-year-old took to carrying a snub-nosed thirty eight in her purse.  When I asked her if she expectd the next thug who targeted her to wear a t-shirt emblazoned with "Mugger at Work," or if she intended to shoot the next passerby who happened to ask her for the time, she told me bluntly that she had every right to defend herself.

While I won't refute that fact, especially not to a heavily armed grandma, I believe there are other alternatives that are just as effective.  They also are less likely to land you in jail.


Unlike the bad guys, many victims have a tendency to telegraph their intentions.  While I am not saying that players are advised to appear down at the heels, many times victims make themselves known to potential predators long before they wind up in a stick up.  The five don'ts that I teach my players are listed below.
  1. Don't flash your cash
  2. Don't wear expensive jewelry
  3. Don't carry your bankroll in your pocket or in your wallet
  4. Don't cash out if yuo hit it big
  5. Don't walk alone to your car, down the boardwalk or between casinos
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
By usiong a pinch of common senseand a dash of paranoia, my teammates and I have managed to regularly milk the casino cow without once being robbed.  At times, any one of us has carried thousands of dollars in bankroll and winnings on our person. With the exception of our session bankroll that is carried in our front right pockets and less than a hundred dollars in cash contained in our wallets, all the rest of our cash is stashed in hidden pocktes or folded away unobtrusiely in our socks. (A detective of police in Cherry Hill, New Jersey taught me that last one.)  The bottom line is, better safe than sorry.

Paranoia has also proven to be an asset over the years.  One time while exiting a Gulf Coast casino with a female teammate in tow, we were approached by a gentleman who affected one of the worst drunk acts I ever had the displeasure of witnessing.  Staggering in our general direction, the "drunk" accosted my teammate, while babbling something about needing cabfare.

Grabbijng her by the wrist, I pulled her quickly into the first door I came to which happened to belong to the casino's giftshop.  One we were both safely inside the property, the drunk sstaggered off to bother someone else.

"What was that all about?" my teammate wondered aloud.

"If you ask me, I think we were being sized up for a mugging," I told her.

Meanwhile in my mind I was rewinding the tape to determine what had made us look like shark bait.  We hadn't flashed a lot of cash or made an inordinately large win.  We hadn't been drinking or in any other way seemed to stand out from the herd.  It was about then that I glanced down at my teammates hand and caught the glitter of the 2-carat diamond ring that graced her finger.  Taking her by the hand, I held up the offending bauble.

"I don't care if you hae a death wish, Jolens," I told her, watching the stone catch the light.  "But I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't try to take me with you.

Blushing, she looked from her hand to the door through which I had pulled her to safety.  "Does this mean I'm off the team?"

"That depends," I told her while at last releasing my grip on her hand.  "If you ever hope to play on our team again, you'll either have to leave the crown jewels at home, or you'll have to rent an armored car to take all of us from one casino to the next."

Over the years, I have seen and heard other war stories from other casino partrons who have had their pockets picked, had chips snatched right frm under their noses at the table, or left their chips unattended on the table only to find they were gone when they returned.  I have also heard horror stories of misadventure from players of both sexes who have had other casino patrons come onto them, only to slip them a Mickey into their drinkbefore relieving them of their winnings.  While the stories of victims are far too numerous to enumerate here, allow me to offer you two pieces of advice:
  1. Always watch your back
  2. Never, ever ask little old ladies for the time
Want to learn more?  Carl Van Eton has more than 20 years of professional playing experience.  If you want to stop visiting your money every time you go to the casinos, check out his website at

1 comment:

  1. Some wild stories. I glad I'm reading about them and not living any of them.