My Favorite Place to Play Blackjack, Part 2

More from Michael Kaplan on his favorite place to play blackjack

About 17 years ago, a guy named Rick Blaine had written a book called “Blackjack Blueprint: How to Play Like a Pro… Part-Time“.

He wanted me to do an article about the book and we agreed that I would do it in the course of him teaching me to count cards, using techniques explained in “Blackjack Blueprint”.

It worked! I wound up joining a card counting team, bankrolled by affluent Wall Street guys and designed for us to make lots of money. We made some money. And then we didn’t. But it was still a gas. Especially when I played at my favorite place under my favorite conditions and circumstances.

I’d usually fly to Vegas from NYC on a Friday, play all day and night, and try to do the same on Saturday. But sometimes, I’d get tired by the early evening on Saturday. So, I would crash for an abbreviated night’s sleep, wake up at like 4 a.m., put on my clothes from the day before, grab a Hemingway Short Story cigar and head for a casino that we’ll call Morning Delight.

I would show up at MD with pockets bulging, cigar blazing and a dissolute drunk act in full effect, pretending that I had been up all night, gambling and drinking. I’d be in the high-limit room, which was sparsely populated at that hour, and would quickly be asked if I wanted a drink.

“No way,” I’d tell the taken aback cocktail waitress. “I’ve been at it all night. If I order a cocktail, feel free to tackle me. I need a double espresso and a bottle of Panna.”

A giant, glass bottle of water and caffeine were perfect for a person who’d recently woken up and was starting his day by card counting – under which circumstance, I would eschew alcohol anyway.

The dealer and his boss were thrilled to see a drunken loudmouth who they were sure would spew money on blackjack and pack the casino’s coffers. Sometimes it would start out that way, with me hitting a string of unlucky hands and blowing cash. That invariably brought about the fake sad face from those in the pit, with a casino host strutting over to make sure I didn’t need anything, sometimes slipping me a fresh cigar.

Often, things would turn around (this casino, for some reason, seemed to be lucky for me) and then I would see the real sad faces. They’d cringe when I was dealt an Ace and loudly called out, “Paint!” or “Monkey!”, slamming the table and demanding a 10-value card. I was obnoxious and nobody really liked me when I won.

Sometimes the phone would ring, the pit boss would look my way as he conversed with a surveillance worker. That served as my cue to announce being ready to color up and get some sleep. By that point, the host was not coming over and asking me if I needed anything. In truth, I didn’t. I just wanted to get the hell out, before someone saw through me and said that I couldn’t play anymore.

One time, I headed to the cage, with chips in one hand of the remains of the Panna in the other. I held the bottle by having my finger in top and absently swung it around. As the cashier put together my payout, the bottle somehow slipped, hit the marble floor in just the right spot and broke.

I jumped back from the shattered glass. The woman in the cage handed me my money and, with no small amount of annoyance,
called for a janitor to clean it all up. This did not make me popular at the casino. But it did make the drunk act harder to question.

Readers of Techopedia’s Gambling Blog can also check out Part 1 of Michael’s memories of his favorite place to play blackjack in Vegas.

Michael Kaplan

Michael Kaplan is a journalist based in New York City joined Techopedia in November 2023. He is the author of five books ("The Advantage Players" comes out in 2024) and has worked for publications that include Wired, GQ and the New York Post. He has written extensively on technology, gambling and business — with a particular interest in spots where all three intersect. His article on Kelly "Baccarat Machine" Sun and Phil Ivey is in development as a feature film.