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A special preview... Blackjack

Chapter 21

A brief reflection was in order before rushing into weekend action. My self-examination uncovered one indisputable fact. My losses thus far were unrelated to any poor decisions on my behalf. Enduring a bad beat represented a job hazard in our profession. Fully aware that my keen abilities were sound, I went downstairs and joined a twenty-five-dollar two-deck game.

Jon welcomed me, saying, “Good luck today, Willie.” He then said

Andy came to Shawshank in 1947 for murdering his wife and the fellow she was bangin.’ He’d been vice president on the outside. Good work for a young guy.

The early hands came my way, allowing me to increase my chip stack considerably. My focus was so intense that I’d hardly realized two other players at first and second base. I was playing third base. Surprisingly, within a few moments, the cards reversed toward the house. This unexpected change in the cards seemed impossible to understand.

While Jon began preparing the next deal, the two gentlemen and I began chatting about our bad beat of cards. One guy mentioned the recent NFL Draft. Both offered remarks about a high draft pick from the University of Arkansas. Utter panic struck me in the gut.

Very cautiously, I asked, “Are you guys Arkansas fans?”

Both screamed in unison, “You got that right! Sooie! Go Razorbacks! Sooie! Go Hogs! Sooie!”

I glanced over to notice both men guzzling one beer after another. I felt embarrassed, humiliated, and unprofessional. What school of higher learning would have a 380-pound Russian boar named Tusk as a mascot? The guy playing first base probably outweighed the mascot by a few pounds. He slammed down another beer.

Upon leaving the table, both men screamed, “Sooie! Sooie!”

I scanned the casino floor for another game. The $100 table looked attractive with a sharp-looking man playing third base. This guy projected a professional appearance. We began playing and holding our own. The count spiked to plus-nine. When increasing my wager, I received my expected blackjack. The man at third base confided that he lived in Huntsville. He was a highly skilled cardiothoracic surgeon.

This brilliant man shared information about completing over ten thousand of the complex heart bypass operations. It felt reassuring to be playing alongside such a highly intelligent individual. We were having moderate success while chatting about the advances in heart surgery. However, something unusual transpired at our table. The surgeon was dealt two fours against the dealer’s up card of nine. He split the fours without hesitation. We lost our wagers.

The brilliant doctor said, “You win a few; you lose a few. The dealer is supposed to bust on that hand.”

Are you kidding me? Every professional realized that splitting fours against the dealer’s up card of nine was nonsense. Anyone would assume the dealer’s hand to be nineteen. I pondered if the doctor may have experienced a mental lapse. He was probably worried sick about his patients recovering from surgery.

However, another unusual situation occurred within the next twenty minutes. The heart transplant surgeon was dealt two face cards for twenty. The dealer’s up card revealed a six. My hand was a solid nineteen, thus requiring no action. This surgeon split face cards. He said, “I like to double my money when the dealer shows a bust card.”

My immediate thoughts were that his services might be required at a moment’s notice after this confusing decision. The surgeon displayed a wide grin upon receiving two face cards for two hands of twenty. However, the dealer revealed a face and pulled a five for twenty-one. We lost.

My playing companion said, “This is the risk you take.”

The heart surgeon took the dealer’s bust cards. The gifted man was an amateur in our field. My thoughts envisioned myself in the operating room performing heart bypass surgery. A major bleeder was encountered while grafting the veins around the blocked coronary arteries. Would I know how to clamp the bleeder? Of course not. The surgeon was in a similar situation.

Upon leaving the table, I said to the nice doctor, “Good luck to you.”

His response was alarming. He said, “Thanks, but this game is skill, not luck.”

Are you kidding me? This gentleman was a heart surgeon. I left the table in mental confusion. While ambling to the lounge, an old Japanese proverb came to mind. The proverb: “In life, each of us must sometimes play the fool.”

This surgeon was playing the fool but didn’t know it. Now, the casino floor was suddenly being overrun with beer-guzzling, rowdy morons. Where did these unruly idiots come from so quickly? I had no clue.

While in the lounge, an attractive girl sat to my left and said, “What’s going on, Willie Boy?”

I turned to see a dazzling, stunning, and gorgeous Lisa Price. She was dressed in a formal red dress exposing heart-stopping cleavage. While the surgeon’s skill in blackjack was limited, it was reassuring to know that he was on the floor in the event of heart arrhythmia.

I said, “You look, er…er…pretty tonight.”

She responded, “Well, thank you, Willie Boy. Today is my friend’s thirtieth birthday. We are going to have a blast.”

I then asked, “Do you have time for dinner?”

“Sounds great,” she replied.

After receiving our order, Lisa asked, “Willie, are you willing to listen to some family issues?”

“Of course,” I answered.

Lisa began, “I am the youngest among four children of Dr. John Floyd, OB-GYN in Tupelo, Mississippi. I am estranged from my parents and my siblings. I dated the football star in high school named T.J. We were in love, and I ended up pregnant my senior year. My folks demanded I have an abortion. I refused. Mom and dad became enraged.”

I asked, “Wow, this is a delicate situation. What do you do?”   

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