In the Spring, Anne told me that her Mum and her brother wanted to come for a visit. Her Mum had been to the States before, but Allen had not, so we set about planning where to take them. We finally settled on a number of short outings, but the highlight was to be a week long cruise to Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico, flying out of Miami, FL.
Anne’s mum and brother were great people, and we hit it off immediately. The cruise promised to be a lot of fun. Allen was looking forward to hitting the casino, as was I, while Anne and her mother just wanted to enjoy the poolside and the dining room.
I was back in Dallas by that time, so when Anne and her family flew down to Miami, I hooked up with them in St. Louis, so we could all continue together. We boarded the ship, and a couple of hours later, we were on our way!
Allen and I shared a stateroom, while Anne bunked with her mother, in the interest of propriety. As soon as we had a chance to freshen up, Allen and I headed for the casino, to try our luck before dinner. Mine was lukewarm, at best, while Allen fared a little worse. By the time we had left the casino that night, after dinner, he had exhausted his gambling budget! I won a little, lost a little, won a little more, then lost most of that, for three or four days, so by the time the ship started heading north to Miami a week later, I was close to even.
As we started back, all the passengers were given several small envelopes, for the tips one customarily leaves for the cabin boy, table waiter, Maitre D’, etc., so I sat down to prepare those. When that was done, and I had squirreled away enough for cab fare back to the airport, I still had forty dollars, so I decided that I’d make one more foray to the casino.
Blackjack is my game of choice, so I sat down at a $100 table, and started out with ten dollar bets. Things were going pretty well for me, and I had a few hundred dollars built up, when Allen came by to tell me that Anne and her mum wanted to grab an early dinner seating. I wasn’t about to quit while I was still winning, so I asked him to tell them that I was going to pass on dinner.
About twenty minutes later, Anne showed up, to try to convince me to join them. By that time, I had changed to a $1,000 table, and I had over three thousand dollars in front of me, and was feeling lucky! She was obviously disappointed, and left, saying they’d gather me up after dinner.
Things continued to go well for me, and by the time they all showed up from the dining room, I had put my original forty dollars back in my pocket, and was playing with nearly thirty five thousand in pure winnings! Anne was dumbfounded, and told me I HAD to quit, NOW! I looked at her in disbelief, and told her she was nuts. She retired a few yards, and watched me in horror. When the last player at the table besides me left, I asked the dealer to raise the limit to $5,000. He got the pit boss’ okay, and my limit was raised.
After a few hands, Anne approached, and pushed through the crowd that had formed to watch my table, and again urged me to leave, while I was so much ahead. I explained to her that I had started with $40, which was back in my pocket, and that I had no intention of leaving while I was still winning. She stormed out of the casino, mumbling and shooting me dirty looks over her shoulder.
I doubled up, and requested another bump to the limit. The dealer looked to the pit boss for an okay, and got it, and my limit was raised to $20,000! I made both hands, and then another one. Two or three more after that, and I was beginning to get giddy! About that time, Anne showed up again, but this time, just to glare at me from the other end of the table. I had over a hundred thousand in front of me, when the dealer dropped me an eleven, and I asked to double down. The pit boss said he couldn’t authorize any more, so I asked him to get the floor manager. The floor boss showed up, conferred briefly with the dealer, and okayed my bet. The dealer gave me a queen, and hit his own fifteen with a king! I couldn’t believe it! Anne gasped when the dealer busted, and looked at me pleadingly, but I winked and turned to the floor manager and said I wanted to let it ride. He kept a straight face, and asked me if I was sure, and then nodded, as he took over for the dealer.
He gave me a six and a ten, and showed a three for himself. My gut wrenched as I realized I was all in, and had to make a decision. I could play my hand, or I could bank on him busting. I decided to play it, and tapped my cards for a hit. He slipped a card from the shoe, and dropped a four on me. I felt a little easier…at least I hadn’t busted, and held a decent hand. Still, I’d prefer to see him bust, rather than take the chance on being able to beat him. When I waved him off, he flipped over his hole card, an eight. He then slipped another card for himself, and paused slightly, before dropping it next to his cards. My heart stopped! If he hit a ten or face card, I was cleaned out!
I glanced over at Anne, and saw her holding her face in her hands, and speaking furiously to her mother. No help there! Allen had a glazed look in his eyes, and Mum was just plain bewildered.
Frankly, at that point, I was a little bewildered, too. What the hell was I doing? I had a hell of a lot of money in front of me…well over a year’s salary! I had no business playing on! But it was too late to think about that now. I watched with dread, as the dealer’s hand grew by another card – another three! That was a little better, but my heart was still pounding fiercely. The floor manager looked at me, and with a smile, pulled his fourth card.
Since that day, I have considered a nine to be my lucky card! The crowd started cheering. People were clapping me on the back. I looked up to see Anne, staring at the dealer’s hand in total shock, with a slight smile forming. Allen was going nuts, and ended up showering most of his drink over everyone within a few feet. I downed what was left of mine, and when the waitress put another in front of me, I downed that one, too!
I tried to estimate how much I had, as the floor boss placed a tray full of chips in front of me. I was totally flabbergasted when I heard someone say, “All in?”
Mostly, I suppose, because I realized it was my voice.
“You don’t really want to do that, sir,” said the floor manager.
“Yes, I do,” I answered. “I’ll probably never have a chance to play like this again in my life, and I want to remember it!”
“If you walk away now, sir, believe me, you’ll remember it.” he said quietly. “Please.”
I looked over and saw that Anne (and her mother) had the look of someone that had just witnessed a heinous crime. As I looked over at her, Anne shot me a look of disgust, and spun on her heel, nearly toppling Allen, as she stormed out for the second time that night. Her mother trotted dutifully at her heels, barely able to keep up.
“Sir? Can I help you with your winnings?” asked the dealer.
“Not just yet,” I said. “I’m still waiting for an answer.” (Where was that damned voice COMING from?)
“Sir,” began the floor manager/dealer, “please let…”
“Yes or no?” I interrupted, hoping he would say no, and save me from myself.
He thought for a moment, eyed my chips, and finally said, “Win or lose, sir, this will be your last hand.”
“All in, then!” I responded, as the crowd started shouting, clapping, groaning and yelling. Some were encouraging me, others seemed to think it sad. I was just numb.
I looked up again, hoping to see Anne, but she was nowhere in sight. Only Allen remained, and even he seemed subdued. I thought briefly about changing my mind, and gathering my winnings, but by that point, my pride wouldn’t allow it. I had said I was all in, and I had to stick with it. Unfortunately, I still didn’t realize exactly how much I was gambling.
My dealer brought out a fresh shoe, and quickly dealt us both. He showed a queen, and I had a five and a six. I had nothing left to double down with, so I tapped for a hit, and he gave me a jack. I felt pretty good now, particularly since he had already told me that this was my last hand. I could walk away a winner, and nobody could say I didn’t have the guts to play it out.
Then the dealer flipped over his hole card.
It was an ace.
Appropriate, I suppose.
I thanked him, picked up what was left of my drink, and made my way out of the casino, and up to the Lido deck. I got another drink at the bar there, and sat for a while, while the shock wore off.
STUPID! I’d accumulated nearly three hundred and fifty thousand dollars! From FORTY! I had PLAYED! Aw, what the hell, I told myself…it wasn’t like it was REAL money…it wasn’t mine. I still had my forty bucks. I’d been lucky enough to have an experience few people would ever enjoy, and it hadn’t cost me a cent!
STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!!!
When we debarked in Miami, Anne continued to avoid me. They took a separate cab to the airport, and Allen came over to suggest that I might want to swap seats with someone, as it might be a little “awkward”. I opted for the next flight, instead. I never saw Anne again.
It still doesn’t bother me that I lost that last hand. At least I had a chance to really play!
What bothers me is that I couldn’t help myself.