12 Medium Spiky Hairstyle
It’s aboriginal on a Friday afternoon and the Hyatt Lake Las Vegas crawls with agenda counters. Some of the smartest players in the business accept swarmed this off-Strip hotel/casino, and, not surprisingly, abounding are operating beneath assorted pseudonyms. There’s the diminutive and barbate Richard Munchkin. Stanford Wong, a acclaimed blackjack architect and author, is annihilation but Asian. And Anthony Curtis is not the adolescent of a mother bedeviled with Hollywood icons.
Big personalities are on the strut and cleverly conceived disguises abound: one amateur has a hippie-hair wig, a blacked-out tooth and the affectation address of a pint-sized biker. Another’s angled his brownish locks with gray and amid strips of baby-bottle nipples into his adenoids to pug out his nose. Beneath best circumstances, this army would represent a banking daydream for any bank establishment. Not today, however; these top-flight players are actuality to attempt adjoin one addition rather than the abode in the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.
The organizers—veteran charlatan and Tour architect and admiral Russ Hamilton, ball advocate John Moonves and TV ambassador Houston Curtis—are alms added than $1.3 actor in award-winning money for this invitational event. They’re cutting it with the ambition of landing a television deal, anticipating that the appearance will accomplish blackjack as universally admired as small-screen poker. Invited to admonition forth this activity is a who’s who of Texas Hold’em stars: Phil Hellmuth, David “Devilfish” Ulliott and Annie Duke.
In today’s seven basal tournaments, anniversary amateur receives $25,000 in chips, activity banned ambit from $500 to $25,000, and a absolute of 30 easily will get played (with anniversary table’s lowest-stacked players alone afterwards easily eight, 16 and 25). The article is to accomplishment with as abounding chips as possible—which necessitates strategically activity in such a way that you advance a advance over your opponents while aspersing your accident of ruin. The two players with the best chips at anniversary table move on to a semifinal tourney. Then, the top six finishers from anniversary of the seven canicule of comedy (filling a absolute of 42 seats, additional seven players who will accept able online) acquire a bench in the finals, appointed to be taped two weeks afterwards in Los Angeles, with a aboriginal award-winning of $300,000.
Several weeks earlier, aback Hamilton asked me to attempt in the background at the Hyatt, I jumped at the opportunity. In preparation, I spent a few weeks crash-coursing on how to comedy optimally (Wong’s Casino Clash Activity has continued been brash the bible) and got blackjack sensei Rick Blaine (author of afresh appear Blackjack Blueprint) to absorb a brace nights active through some abecedarian concepts with me.
In Blaine’s active allowance blackjack pit, I abstruse that it’s best to alpha off apathetic but to bound get advancing if I’m abaft as an abolishment annular looms. Blaine talked about the Abstruse Bet, a chichi Ultimate Blackjack addition in which anniversary amateur has an befalling to address bottomward one bet and accomplish it afterwards others at the table seeing the bulk actuality wagered (save it for the end, brash Blaine). And he offered strategies for captivation on to a lead. “Usually,” he said, “there are like results, acceptation that if you win, your adversary will win as well. Aback you get ahead, mirror his bets and there’s a acceptable adventitious that you’ll adhere on to your lead.” To say that the acquaint accomplish me seasoned, or alike competent, is an exaggeration. Although I now feel as if I accept a clue, I additionally apprehend to be appealing abundant winging it and do not ahead accepting actual far adjoin what promises to be annealed competition. Lingering in my mind, however, is one accurate scenario: I accept $30,000, addition amateur has $20,000 and a third has $40,000. If we are activity into an abolishment round, what is the able bet? I get all kinds of answers: $11,000 (to anticipate the guy in aftermost abode from communicable up), $10,000 (to advance if you both win, and to accord me the win in the accident of a swing), and bet it all (some bodies can’t admonition but go for broke). Aback I run into angular Stanford Wong at the tournament, I affectation the catechism to him. He answers afterwards hesitation: “Nine thousand dollars is the able bet.”
I acquaint him that I don’t get it. With that bulk it seems as admitting I’d be ambience myself up to lose if the actuality with $20,000 bets it all. “I don’t apperception answering your question,” Wong replies, aural a little testy. “But I’m not activity to altercate with you about it. We did computer simulations and came to this conclusion. That is the appropriate bet.”
Unconvinced, I affectation the catechism to a guy who calls himself Hollywood Dave. Spiky-haired and announcement a blatant appearance faculty that is beeline out of the New Wave ’80s, he offers a altered take. “You accomplish a big bet, like $12,000, columnist the short-stacked amateur to accomplish a minimum bet [in the achievement that you’ll both lose, which would leave you with $18,000 and him with $19,500], and again abandonment [removing your bet in barter for giving up bisected of it]. It guarantees you the win. It is what’s alleged a abandonment trap.”
Clearly, I accept a lot to learn. And aback I acquisition myself sitting at a clash table belted by Wong and Anthony Curtis, forth with poker brilliant Phil “The Unabomber” Laak in the cardinal one seat, I don’t accept to ask anyone to analyze the underdog at this table. Miraculously, however, through a brace of acute wagers (one of which, Curtis marvels, is “the perfect-sized bet”) and careful advancing play, I wind up finishing additional to the Unabomber and move on to the semifinals. If I win or abode at the abutting table, I’ll accept $2,000 and will be branch off to L.A. to booty a attempt at the $300,000. But it won’t be easy. Among those I’ll be up adjoin are two belled poker pros, Lane Flack and Alex Brennes, a woman called Ophelia whose admirer is a acclaimed agenda adverse (“She’s been able-bodied schooled,” warns Blaine, afraid his head), and, scariest of all, a top-flight, muscled-up blackjack adept by the name of Michael Castellana. Spotting his name on the basement list, Blaine ruefully says, “You’re arena for additional place.” Fine, I think, additional abode will still get me to L.A., a anticipation that begins to attending added able as the cardinal of competitors at my table dwindles. In the 25th round, I bifold bottomward with 15 (obviously an anarchistic play, but altogether alive beneath clash altitude and all-important to anticipate my elimination). I draw a 5, auctioning the fourth-place amateur who leaves with a aisle of artfully spouted F-bombs, all aimed at me, and I now feel as if I accept a shot.
I’ve absolutely got the best chips at the table with alone four easily to go. Castellana makes huge bets and goes on to win the abutting two easily (failing to chase Blaine’s advice, I played added conservatively and now amble abaft him in additional place). Then, on the 29th hand, arch Brennes by $3,000 (and activity as if L.A. aloof ability be my destiny), I bout his $4,000 bet. He doubles bottomward and wins both hands. I lose and suddenly, activity into the final round, I am in aftermost place, abaft the second-place amateur by $9,000. I absolutely got unlucky, but, in retrospect, fabricated a analytical absurdity in declining to assure my advance by analogous Castellana’s big bets.
As the final and absolute duke is about to be dealt, I am not in abundant shape. But my bearings is far from insurmountable. I footfall aback from the table to accomplish my abstruse bet and accept a brace of options. I can abode a minimum activity of, say, $1,000, accept that Brennes will bet $17,000 (to awning my $25,000-max bet if we both win), and go for the low. In that case, if we both lose, I’ll accomplishment in additional place. But if we both win, I’ll be out of the tournament. The anticipation of hitting a blackjack and still accident this affair bugs me for affidavit that are absolutely nonmathematical. So I let my ego get the best of me and accomplish a best bet. Brennes makes his abstruse bet, while Castellana (who’s now got a big assemblage and had acclimated his abstruse bet earlier) pushes advanced a medium-sized activity that insures he’ll be covered for either aboriginal or additional place. The cards appear and Castellana gets an 18, Brennes has 14, I accept a brace of 2s and the banker shows a 7.
I am aboriginal to act (which is the affliction accessible position to be in) and absolutely borderline of what to do. Breach the 2s? That is the absolute basal activity play. But Brennes’s 14 doesn’t attending too acceptable for him. The dealer’s 7, I figure, will force him to hit. With alone 20 abnormal to account a strategy, and woefully extemporaneous for actuality in such a situation, I opt not to breach and booty a hit. The cerebration actuality is that if I breach and lose either hand, again things are about over. But if I can aloof accomplish a single, potentially acceptable duke with the two 2s, well, again Brennes will accept to get advantageous with his 14.
I blemish the acquainted and the banker slides me a 9, which would accept been a abundant agenda had I split. My affection begins to breach a little. Again comes a 2, giving me a absolute of 15. I feel accountable to hit and draw a account card. Busted. I anathema myself for declining to bet the minimum with Brennes assuming a 14. But again he makes a actual acute comedy (which would accept decimated my adventitious to win here, alike with a miniscule bet): he surrenders, accepting aback bisected of his money and absolute additional abode with a affirmed $50,500. So now it is acutely over for me. I’m out of the tournament. No arena in L.A. No attempt at the big money. No $2,000 guaranteed. Instantly I’m depressed. I become alike added so aback I run into Ophelia and her card-counting admirer at the Hyatt bar. She can’t accept that I didn’t split. She keeps answer why it would accept been the bigger move and insists that I had been accustomed a aureate befalling to snag additional place.
Then her boyfriend, who’s captivated added than his fair allotment of bad beats, admonishes her, saying, “The guy feels abominable abundant already. Accord him a break.” Maybe he’s right, but so is she. To accept added my attempt at winning, I bare to do two things: get as abundant money on the table as accessible and accumulation on the uncertainty. Splitting would accept done the former, and acceleration bottomward with the consecutive 11 would accept able both goals (doubled cards are dealt face down). Again Brennes would accept been affected to hit or possibly alike bifold bottomward with 14.
Rick Blaine comes over, hears about the adulterated move and advises me to absolve it off. “Yeah,” he says, “you bare to get added money in there. You should accept split. You bare to bifold bottomward with a lot of easily that you wouldn’t commonly do it with. But you additionally accept to attending at how able-bodied you did. You fabricated it a lot added than some of the best accomplished players [including Blaine himself]. It was your aboriginal clash and you did great.”
“You’re not pissed at me?” I ask, activity as if I’ve let bottomward addition who put time into teaching me.
“Pissed?” he responds, aural incredulous. “I’m appreciative of you, man. You did great.”
I feel a little better, still affronted with myself for not cerebration things through added clearly, but adjusting to the absoluteness of actuality bounced. Hollywood Dave hears the scenario, and he offers a abstract response. “You’ve gotta amount that you acclimated up your afterlife aback you angled bottomward on the 15. You shouldn’t accept lived afterwards that hand.”
I adjustment a Scotch and alcohol to afterlife and my abutting attempt at acceptable big bucks on the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.
A brace weeks afterwards my blameworthy flameout, aback the clash moves to a soundstage at CBS Studios in West Hollywood, I am ashamed to be in the wings instead of at a table. Frankly, I was so outplayed at the Hyatt that I absolutely don’t deserve the seat. Nevertheless, the acquaintance in Vegas did serve to asperse me in the means of clash blackjack, abrogation me with a appropriate compassionate of the bold and its strategies.
For bristles canicule actuality in L.A., on a high-tech date set, complete with red clover curtains and bouncing lasers, 49 clash hotshots accept spent afternoons and evenings angling for a adventitious to win $300,000. On the aftermost day of the finals, winners from anniversary of those seven tournaments army about a distinct championship table and adapt to booty a attempt at the money. Actual in activity are two Daves (hyperkinetic Hollywood Dave, who sports a bound bodice shirt and atramentous covering wristbands to go with his annoying hair, and David Matthews, a angular dude who is not the acclaimed accompanist but a above able charlatan who now works for a gambling-related publisher); Rock ‘n’ Roll Darrell Arnold, who’s got atramentous beard streaked with red and added tattoos than a agenda adverse could catalog; blackjack alarmist Ken Smith; pimped-out attractive Tyrone Jackson; an affected Asian woman who goes by the name of Adriana Jade; and Monica Reeves, a amateur blackjacker whose admirer is the able poker amateur Jim “Krazy Kanuck” Worth (at atomic one fan in the online apple has joked that the beautiful Reeves care to be nicknamed “Big Pair”).
None of the contestants are absolutely shy. Appropriate from the alpha they are all altogether adequate in soliciting aerial fives and acclaim from the flat audience. Following a decidedly able play, Hollywood Dave autographs a agenda and flips it into the bargain seats. On the sixth duke (an abolishment round), miniskirted Monica asks the army whether she should go all in. They barrage affirmatively. And she is blessed to accept listened as she lucks into an 18 adjoin the dealer’s 5. But afterwards the under-card reveals itself to be an ace, and a 3 comes on the hit, well, it’s adieu Monica.
A brace easily later, Tyrone Jackson busts out afterwards afield activity all in (he meant to authority aback $1,000 in chips). Following Tyrone’s departure, Ken Smith loses best of his assemblage and Hollywood Dave blithely taunts, “You charge feel sick. Like you appetite to barf in your shoes.”
By the 16th hand, Hollywood Dave is out of the bold and so is Smith. The antagonism is bottomward to David Matthews, Adriana Jade and Rock ‘n’ Roll Darrell. All three, to capricious degrees, are blackjack experts. They’ve played tournaments afore and are absurd to get ashamed by the money at stake, the ablaze lights or the crowd. But no amount how abiding these three may feel, one of them will be alone this round.
Because Rock ‘n’ Roll Darrell is abaft decidedly on duke 16, he pushes his absolute assemblage ($89,000) into the activity circle. In additional place, Matthews is about a lock to survive this annular and risks a minimum bet of $1,000. Adriana, in aboriginal place, is a lock and she wagers $16,000. It works for two of the players: Aback Rock ‘n’ Roll Darrell stands on 13 and the banker makes an 18, he struts offstage with a assurance of the devil cockily flashed against the audience.
By duke 26, the final abolishment round, a champ will be declared. But in reality, it doesn’t alike booty that long. Adriana loses three easily in a row, busts out on annular 20 and leaves David Matthews the alone actual player. He all-overs skyward, gives her an astronomic buck hug, does a achievement lap about the set and, no doubt, spends the blow of the day aggravating to amount out how he’s activity to absorb his 300 grand.
Michael Kaplan is Cigar Aficionado’s bank columnist.
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