Friday, May 07, 2010

The Streak - 80

I enter the ornate high-stakes lounge, mostly empty but for Kyle sitting alone at a blackjack table, fidgeting his leg and hulking over his chips. The dealer's a tall, pale man in his fifties working quietly, with ruthless efficiency. Jimi Hendrix sings about the purple haze all in his brain.

"You got dragged in by the cat," says Kyle as I sit down.

"How much you down?"

"A hundred. A thousand. A hundred thousand."

A cocktail waitress in a tight, skimpy dress and fishnets walks over. I wonder if it's more demeaning to dress like a whore for a quarter the pay or just to be a whore. I make a mental note to discuss this with Kyle.

"Johnnie Black on the rocks," I say.

I sit and watch a while. The table minimum is a hundred bucks and the hands are flying on account of there being just one player. Kyle plays two or three black chips at a time, sometimes more, no rhyme or reason. He barely has time to make his little stack before the cards are face up and the dealer – dispassionate, serene – awaits his signal.

Kyle is getting brutalized. King-four, stand on seventeen, dealer nineteen; nine, double down, fifteen, dealer twenty; dealer blackjack; split twos against a three, win a hand but lose the other.

I peel twenty hundred dollar bills out of my billfold and lay them on the table in the only available moment, that brief pause when the dealer acknowledges the presence of a bet with the faintest tap of his fingers on the felt. It's like getting on an escalator going down.

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