fondly known as "Casa de Mortgage," was built for parties
and we’ve had some doozies. So far, though, our best was this
year’s "Blackjack Ball" (an event I’ve held annually
for the past five years).
It’s mere days after the turn of the Millennium, and 75 of the
best blackjack players who’ve ever tricked a pit boss swarm the
house, loaded with high hopes and bottles of comped champagne (that’s
the price of admission).
Each one is primed, believing that tonight he or she can win the Millennium
Blackjack Cup and the title of "World’s Best Blackjack Player."
The joint’s buzzing as blackjack luminaries fill the betting parlor,
checking out the pari-mutuel board to see what kind of opening odds
they’re getting. The early line–yes, they’ll bet on
and against each other all night–brings a groan from the Hobbit
as he sees that he’s going off as the early favorite.
A Hollywood producer/director now, the Hobbit plays only on the big
weekends of late, but he was Mensa at 15, hit Vegas at 21, and–thanks
to blackjack–got out rich at 30 and set himself up in the film
industry. He won the Blackjack Cup three years ago. He’s to be
feared. And bet on.
Tommy Hyland, the brains behind the most successful blackjack team in
history, makes some courtesy bets on the eight first-stringers he brought
along and everyone nods approvingly. The catcalls fly when he’s
caught sneaking a few wagers on some of the MIT team’s long shots
and he’s hoorayed out of the room.
The line swings wildly and the noise builds as gambling writer and bon
vivant Michael Konik makes a huge win/place/show bet. On himself. There’s
no shortage of confidence here tonight.
The smart money starts pounding some of the "easy" prop bets,
such as "MIT beats ACES Team" at 6/5 (MIT gets all the action)
and "Winner is over 40" at 2-1; the money goes with the experience
and the latter is bet down to even money in minutes. "Woman will
win" at 25-1 doesn’t get a single wager. No surprises there.
This is a pretty exclusive boy’s club. The game that will determine
the winner is packed with guy stuff and the line would have to be at
least 50-1 to get a sniff of action from any self-respecting professional
in the know.
The room suddenly falls silent as two people walk in wearing paper bags
over their heads–in case casino surveillance crews are lurking
outside. The well-dressed guy can be just about anyone, but the woman!
She has a natural Victoria’s Secret body, swathed in Versace,
and she walks like a gazelle. The guys are sucking in their guts and
slicking their hair with their hands as she slowly slips off her mask.
Uh oh. Beautiful auburn tresses tumble past her shoulders and she coyly
flashes a Doublemint smile that makes my teeth ache.
The tote board doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. Now we all
stare enviously and wonder who the lucky guy might be. His mask comes
off and it’s the handsome Mr. Lucky. This guy never seems to lose
at anything, not since he started gambling 20 years ago. He lives on
the ocean in the Pacific and the rest of his life reads like a James
Bond novel, except he gets more girls. He introduces the 20- year-old
Olga–he found her while playing blackjack in Eastern Europe–as
his fiancée and they stroll off to the buffet.