The Velvet Blackjack

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The Velvet Blackjack
The Velvet Blackjack

I have a Canadian friend named Ace. He and I have a lot in common. We both love to gamble, we ride horses -- he grew up on a large cattle ranch in Canada -- and we appreciate beautiful women.

When we aren't playing poker, betting on the horses or shooting dice, we talk on a variety of subjects ranging from politics to the clever ways casinos in order to relieve people of their cash.

'They don't force you to give them your money,' Ace lamented. 'They make you want to do it.'

I asked him to explain himself.

'They hit you over the head with a velvet blackjack,' Ace said. 'It doesn't even hurt because it's made of velvet. Now I'm talking about beautiful cocktail girls in sexy outfits, free money for slot machine players, and special promotions that lure you into the poker rooms or blackjack tables. The casinos are offering special promotions, but they are just cleverly designed scams created to take your money.

'After they overpower you with the velvet blackjack, you wake up and wonder where all your cash went. Then you repeat your performance and give it another shot.' Ace shook his head. 'People never learn.'

Back in the 1800s when the West was overrun by prospectors searching for gold, gambling saloons sprung up everywhere. The games of chance varied widely from legitimate to crooked. Your chances of being cheated in a gambling saloon were about 50 percent.

While towns made an effort to maintain law and order, many gambling disputes erupted into violence. Some saloons even had signs posted directing gamblers to check their guns with the bartender or a security officer.

'What's really amazing to me,' said Ace, 'is the fact that so much money changes hands in a casino and yet the violence is kept at a minimum. I guess it's the velvet blackjack syndrome at work. People lose their bankroll and tap into their credit cards until they use up all their cash. Then they just shrug off their losses, go home, and when they accumulate more money they come back again for another session.

'Back in the Old West, the loser would probably have shot up the place and would have either ended up dead or in jail.'

I agreed with Ace's observations. Actually, I am very impressed with the way most gamblers conduct themselves, whether they are winning or losing. It helps, of course, for a casino to have good security personnel mingling with the gamblers and heading off trouble before it becomes violent.

During my many years as a gadabout journalist and gambler, I can count on one hand the incidents of violence I have witnessed in a casino setting. They were limited to fistfights and in one case a shooting at the Showboat Casino in Las Vegas. Nobody was injured -- the shooter was too inebriated from tequila to shoot straight -- and the person with the gun was quickly arrested.

Casinos have perfected the use of the velvet blackjack and I have to hand it to them. They know how to manage the show and how to keep the customers coming back for more. That velvet blackjack is a marvelous invention.

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About Bogdan Barbu

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