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Modern Blackjack nth Edition

Musings: Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

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Back in my “car” days (decades ago), I’m embarrassed to say I racked up a rather large number of traffic tickets. Not just that I had a lead foot, but at one time or another I had three Italian, mid-engine cars that looked like you were speeding while sitting at a stop light. Indeed I once got a speeding ticket while washing my car. The cop didn’t like my hair. A NY judge later apologized to me for the incident – and then disqualified me for jury-duty. (But, that’s another story.)

So, as I was a bit of an anarchist at the time, or passive aggressive, or just plain lazy, I failed to pay many such tickets. As a result, the gendarmes showed up at my apartment one day, hand-cuffed me, and trotted me off to jail. From there, I was transferred to a prison in full shackles. One of the cops said “If you make a break for it, I’ll shoot you in the back.” Seriously, for traffic violations.

So, I checked into the local hotel. After the thorough examination of any and all orifices, and the speech that goes “You all know the rules” (HUH?
HOW?), you pick up your mattress and haul it to the upper tier to your assigned bunk. (Those that have met me can laugh at me carrying a mattress up a flight of stairs.) Met my new bunk mate. He seemed pleased to tell me he was in for murder. Couldn’t have been older than 18. “What are you in for?” I felt like I was in Alice’s Restaurant. Actually, seemed a rather nice fellow. Told me that they would cut my hair, gave me a rubber band, told me to tie it up and stuff it down the shirt that the county was kind enough to loan me.

It was fairly late, so soon after, I slept. Next day, I was allowed to the lower common area. Played a sort of chess (handmade pieces – at least that part of movies is real) with a kid that had been in for five months awaiting trial. Chatted with several people. Most everyone was very young or very old. Everyone was poor. Heard that there was one guy in solitary for refusing to get his hair cut. That was ominous.

The day passed fairly quickly as I was interested in the stories. Then came the “bed check.” We were marched to our beds. On the way, a guard noticed the lump down my back, pulled out my hair, and said “That’s gotta go.” I replied, “I need to make a phone call.” I bailed myself out.

OK, what is the purpose of this story? I could have left the facility at any time. I had the bail money on me when I was pulled in. Like most Poker players, I nearly always had a bankroll on me. You can never tell when a Poker game (or Gin) will appear. I choose to spend the night, and perhaps more nights (until the threat), because I believe in accumulating experiences. I want to know what makes people tick. You cannot get this information by watching today’s hype-filled TV and movies. You cannot feel it by reading posts. I once made a post about playing in the Bahamas (as an example) saying that one should take the time to explore the local sites. And, was criticized by one of the “I’m a pro and no one else is” crowd for wanting to be friends with dealers. Nothing to do with friendship. I want to know something about the culture of the people with whom I am dealing. Wherever I travel, I like to get there a day or so early, and walk the streets and haunts. I don’t want to be the ugly tourist. In St. Martin, the time I spent with the locals brought me to the conclusion that they (and that includes dealers) generally don’t give a crap about their employers. That is useful information. It also gave me a better sense of how I should act in a casino to make the casino more comfortable with my play. I believe that one should always acclimate oneself to the local culture before diving in. I don’t mean you should fake like you are a local. But, whether you are vising the islands, Australia, Pacific Rim, Europe, South America, whatever – you should not act like some guy that just came in to take money from casinos. “Tourist” is a bad act. Better to act like someone familiar with the locale. Further, in my mind, you should learn how to deal with unfortunate events, just as much as you should learn to play cards.

This is why, many years later, my lovely night at the Clark County Detention Center (Las Vegas jail) didn’t bother me. Well, sleeping on a concrete floor while I had a girl from a local club waiting for me wasn’t great. But, that’s another story.

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