Every now and then a reader will write and ask me if I have ever come across a sure thing in gambling.
Such a question always makes me smile. A sure thing? If such a game existed, Las Vegas would be flooded with people and the town would go broke. Prof. Edward O. Thorpe invented a near sure thing when he cae up with his card-counting system that ended single deck blackjack. The card rooms couldn't beat Thorpe and the people who learned his system by reading his book, 'Beat The Dealer,' so they invented the shoe and began dealing blackjack from multiple decks. While card counting still exists, the system is not nearly as powerful as it would be with a single deck.
But to answer a recent question from a member of this website, yes, I did come across a sure thing once. It happened at an out-of-the-way place 30 miles from Las Vegas and I will share the story with you.
The Railroad Pass Casino lies just over the Nevada state line about 30 miles north of Wikieup, AZ. It has a large flashing neon sign offering $4.95 prime rib dinners and low-cost rooms for the passing tourist.
I have never gambled there seriously. Outside of slot machines, a dice table and some table games, the casino doesn't really have much to offer. But I do stop there occasionally for a cup of coffee and the waitresses are always friendly.
One Friday night when I was on my way to Las Vegas for the weekend, I pulled my car off the road and entered the casino. The place had only a handful of customers and I took my customary seat at the counter. The waitress, a cute redhead named Rita, took my order. When she served me my coffee, her face took on a conspiratorial grin.
'See that couple over at the video poker machine,' she whispered. Her eyes directed me to a middle-aged couple who were bent over the machine playing it. Their bodies were positioned to block the machine from view. A tall security guard, his arms folded, stood a short distance from them.
'What about them, Rita?,' I said, sipping the coffee.
'They can't lose. The machine's broke. It's been paying them off on every hand for the past hour.'
That grabbed my attention. She explained that under state law, the casino could not shut down the machine until the couple left or it ran out of money to pay them.
'Well, I'll be darned,' was all I could say.
I watched the couple feverishly play the machine while the security guard glared at them wordlessly. Finally after nearly an hour, the machine was empty of cash. The couple quickly picked up their winnings and fled out the door like two people who had just robbed a bank. Just as quickly, the guard hung an OUT OF ORDER sign on the machine.
I paid for the coffee and added a tip.
'Just goes to show you, some people have all the luck,' I said.
Rita grinned. 'They sure do.'
'What did you think of it -- the couple's experience I mean.'
Her grin widened. 'I loved it,' she said. 'This time the sheep slaughtered the butcher.'