Black crowned night heron © Robert Sommers 2023

Friday, November 27, 2009

Skinny Dugan

I got a telegram this morning. Time to pack that leaving trunk. I said I got a telegram this morning. Gonna pack that leaving trunk. I used to dream big, Momma, but now all my dreams are sunk.
Found on a boxcar
Fearless Eye Fleagle
Des Moines 1933

I am a gambler. I have gambled my whole life. I took several significant chances with the greatest possibilities of crashing and burning at a very young and inappropriate age. I made friends with the edge. If it was simple and square I wanted no part of it. Had to have the remote possibility of bloodshed, physical or emotional.

I had a bookie in the seventies. She taught me how to pick horses. Her strategy was to bet large amounts on the show bet.  Also had a lot of action on college basketball, once picking 18 straight games in March Madness.  My brother and I used to come up to the Sahara a lot, first with our dad, who was a mathematician and expert blackjack player. He taught us the game and I am actually pretty good. Not a basic strategy guy, more of an intuitive vibes type player. Will double on all sorts of combinations, almost ace - anything. Will hit the sixes when I have to and take my beating.  The bookie, whose name was Suzie, eventually lost everything she had including her house, when she leaned the wrong way on some action. Couldn't cover.

I only play at  the Venetian, Frankie's section - what can I tell you, it's been lucky for me. They used to comp me but now it's only meals. They want a $400 dollar average bet for four hours and I play 50 - 50 - 50 - 200.  Have what I believe is one of the highest win rates around.  I am smart enough to only go twice a year. When my wife is at her fashion apparel show. If I had to depend on it, who knows? I met blackjack pros up there that cleared about 3g's a day. I think that I could hang with them but guess I would have to do it to really find out.

When I was young I would play all night long. The dealers would freak when they saw me still sitting there at the beginning of the new shift. Saw fortunes rise and fall right in front of me. The enemy is always getting up and saying enough. Losses or wins. My brother and I went one time and were lighting our cigars with benjamins and playing 500 bucks a hand. We found a hotel with a free cab to the airport and split a hotdog with the last two bucks to our name. Laughing like madmen. He says that I stole a newspaper from a sleeping bum but I honestly have no recollection. And catastrophic falls read so much better in the novel of one's life, no?

I had a friend named Tony Chula who managed a spa in Vegas for a couple of years, think it was the Paradise. He told me a story that I will never forget once about a very genteel and polished man who used to come in for a manicure every week in his immaculate suit and french cuffs. When Tony's job was over, he happened to glance over at this very same gentleman, now sitting on a trunk and thumbing a ride out of town.

I rarely go to the indian casinos. We got ourselves a heap of them here in San Diego County. When I do go the strategy is play a couple hands until they buy you a good steak dinner and split. We have a friend named Jean who is the luckiest woman alive in terms of games of chance. Slot Goddess. The machines bow down and spill their guts in her eminent presence. I can't focus properly unless I am in Vegas. Weird.

I hit 5k a couple years ago and the wife came by and I gave her a grand. She demanded all of it and I told her where to get off. And then promptly lost all of it. I got such a ration from her, she demanded I go and get the money back and I won 7k. Fear is such a motivator.

I thought about trying poker but blackjack is really my game. The human element of poker brings in too many variables. When I have a nice table and am sitting in last position and everybody is loose and happy, things just hum along in blackjack. I like to play fast and often play two handed. The money numbers become meaningless. It is all units. You ease into a zen satori like detachment. If you are playing with too small a bet, the wins don't ever seem to add up and make a difference.

Business is also a gamble. You sit back and play the game too tight in my racket, you lose your edge and significance. You are all in all the time. Or you play it safe and slowly bleed to death. An interesting conundrum.  Life can be a gamble as well. I had the audacity to try to live a fairly unconventional life on my own terms from the gitgo.

You get inured to the edge, the danger sort of becomes blase after a while. Probably not a great recipe for a balanced and wholesome family life or marital relationship either, come to think of it.

Got a letter today that the lender wants me to pay the property tax on the building like right now. Thought I had some time to screw around but apparently don't have the luxury. Riding the bow in a confluence of discordant waves in what looks like what might be a perfect storm. Lash me to the mast, I think I see Ithaca. I will spit in the eye of the devil. You are dealing with a professional. Might be time to hit the Venetian...