by David Clasky
I was working in the casino on a cruise ship sailing around the Caribbean. One day on shore break we went for a punt at the Casino Rouge et Noir in St. Maarten, a noisy, windowless room filled with tables and the chaotic din of slot machines. Playing blackjack at a packed table, I put down two five-dollar chips. My co-workers were standing behind me. Tough cockney Jill exclaimed “I’m in!” and slapped ten down on my hand. Someone else said, “all right!” and put fifteen next to hers. The floodgates opened; people I knew and some I didn’t started dropping chips in a frenzy. Everybody’s money now rode on my hand. The dealer dealt the table. He had seven showing. I had a queen and a three: 13. I considered this for a slow minute as my colleagues watched, then waved my hand to stand pat. Behind me an audible gasp. The dealer dealt in the rest of the table, then turned over his card. He had a four, which equaled eleven. Any ten or picture card would give him 21. Anything higher than six and we all lose. He dealt himself a four; 15. He had to take another card. Quickly, a seven! Bust! A cheer went up as the dealer mechanically paid out our chips and everyone took their share. “I was ready to kill you when you didn’t take a card, mate!” Jill said with a slap on the back.