Seminole Smackjack

Long waits. Elevating stakes. Strained relationships. What more could a girl ask for?

I caught up with two men who had just left a blackjack table.

"So, how's the blackjack?" I asked.

"I love it," said Ron, a big, bearded man in a black buttoned-down shirt. "You're playing against the house, so you develop camaraderie with the people at your table. I played blackjack in Vegas once for three days straight."

"You guys come to the Hard Rock a lot?"

"Yeah, I come about three times a month," Ron said.

"No — he's here about three times a week," his companion, Corey, chimed in. They exchanged a meaningful glance, full of contending varieties of reproach.

"Do you guys set aside a certain amount of money every month to play with?" I asked.

"No," said Corey, a thin and bespectacled man. "But that would be smart, wouldn't it?"

His sarcastic tone immediately suggested I'd stumbled upon a sore spot in their relationship. Poor Ron was heading for the doghouse.

Blackjack: My friend finally got his ass in a seat. He gave me a quick rundown on the rules. I learned that the aim of the game is to do what I spent my teenaged years doing — trying to get to 21. I could almost feel all that greasy, gamblin' adrenaline oozing from my companion's skin as the dealer slid the first cards out of the shoe. He got a ten and a nine — 19. Not bad, I thought. I figured we were about to get $15 richer (and in my situation, every little bit counts) when the dealer turned over a 19 of her own. A push. All this buildup for that?

An elderly Asian-looking man at the same table was betting tall stacks of green chips worth $25 each. At one point, he bet nearly $100, then doubled down. When he won, he calmly smoked a cigarette and did the same thing on the next hand. Immediately, I saw the real lure of the game — he made almost $700 in seconds.

My friend, who ended up losing, uh, moderately (no reproachful looks here), fluctuated between good hands and bad hands, often making what he told me were "smart moves." Hitting when he had 16 and the dealer had seven? Yeah, smart. He wasn't at the table for half an hour, though, when a pit boss came over and announced that they were switching the $15 tables to $25. Too steep for my gamblin' man... and everybody else at the table.

Enough is enough. Yeah, the place is full of smoke and strange characters, and blackjack is fast-paced and fun, but seediness wears me out, you know? I'll be back, though. Want to bet on a sure thing? Bet the farm: It won't be long before the Seminoles come up with something new to make me forget all the reasons I stay away.

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