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Copyright © 2004-Jeffrey R. Stern

All Rights Reserved.

I am not a gambler. Other than a regular poker game with the guys, in my youth, and an occasional “Las Vegas Night†at a local charity, I had never gambled at all. I used to go to Jai Alai, and play the $3.00 quinella, once in a while; and there were the office World Series, and Super Bowl, pools; and the lottery…..

That first night, as I entered the Casino, the lights and sounds were mind-boggling, and the machines and tables all called out, “play me…play me…play me...†I walked from table to table (“…play me…play me…â€Â) watching, totally fascinated, as chips went back and forth, mostly forth.

I stopped at a game which had just come from Aruba, where it was born. At the time it could only be found in its native land and on Carnival ships. It was called Caribbean Stud, (“…play me… play me…â€Â) and was on the ships on a trial basis.

The roulette table was familiar, (“…play me…play me…) since I had played it with my kids, for jellybeans, when they were little. I really didn’t enjoy losing my jellybeans, so I figured I’d like it even less if I lost real money…

I, then, came to the blackjack tables, and succumbed to the call….â€Âplay me.†I did.

Beginner’s luck, I guess, and a few hours resulted in a nice, little, net gain.

I haven’t mentioned the crap table, yet, which eventually became my favorite table in the house, because it wasn’t until several cruises later that I mastered the basic intricacies of the game. All in due time.

A few days into the cruise, during a day at sea, the Casino was practically empty. In order to stimulate some type of action, they opened a $2.00 blackjack table. Boy, it was like playing with a group of friends.

With $2.00 stakes, there was lots of kibitzing at the table, and we all became fast friends. We all joked, back and forth, and were, generally, having a great time. It didn’t hurt that the dealer could do nothing right, for himself, and after an hour, or so, we were all, a minimum of, fifty-dollars, or more, ahead. This is quite a feat, at a $2.00 table, where the players really played only the $2.00, with an occasional double-down or split.

At one point, I was dealt a pair of jacks, to the dealer’s eight. Someone at the table began to laugh, and said, “Why don’t you split them, Jeff.†By this time, most of us were on a first-name basis. Another player prodded and teased me, and, laughing along with them, I split the jacks…

An older woman, at the table, sucked in her breath, and began a tirade, “Sir, I’m a serious player… this is no place to be fooling around, since you destroy the odds for serious players… this is a serious game, and it’s no place to be playing games…†On and on she went, without exaggeration, for a full three or four minutes. The other players, and the dealer, were looking at her in utter incredulity! Eyes were rolling like marbles spilling out of a broken bag. She ranted, and raged, on-and-on-and….

I could not believe her outburst, at this very friendly two-dollar table. One minute, we were all goofing around, having a great time, and winning some money; the next, Ms. Serious Two Dollars was throwing a tantrum. Finally, I turned to her. “Look, lady, if you’re such a f***ing serious player, what are you doing at a two-dollar table?†(Sorry, I used the “F†word, but it wasn’t the first time it was heard in the casino, that night, and not the last. After all, this was Carnival in the 70’s…). Turning red, and not saying a word, she grabbed her chips, and left the table. I turned, and was about to apologize to the others at the table, when the dealer, with his very proper British accent, and all, looked at me and said, “Thank you, sir. She’s been a bore this entire cruise….(actually, he used a different “B†word, but we’ve had enough profanity for one reading).â€Â

To this day, I swear that the thing that really annoyed her, most, was that I pulled two “twenties,†the dealer “busted,†and everyone at the table won, except you-know-who, who also “busted…..â€Â

One of the dealers taught me a very important lesson, on that first cruise. These three “rules†have probably kept me “ahead†more than anything else, with the exception of being very lucky!

The first is based on a very simple premise. When you are ahead, the winnings are your money! That money, once it’s on your side of the table, belongs to you. It is not the “house’s money,†“their money,†or anyone else’s. If you pick it up, and walk away, nobody can stop you. You can cash in the chips, put the money in your wallet, and spend it any was you wish. When you play with the money you’ve won, you play it no differently than the money you took out of your wallet.

The second is just as easy. When you walk up to the table, set a “high-low†limit. Decide, in advance, how much you are willing to lose, and purchase only that amount in chips. If your luck is running bad, and you lose that stake, walk away. Don’t ever reach into your pocket for more. Consider it the cost of an evening’s entertainment. Conversely, set a “winnings†limit. Usually, a good number is twice your original stake. You can adjust it, but stick to it. When you hit that number, walk away and cash in.

Finally, is the “three play†rule. Whether at a table, or a machine, if you don’t win one hand, in the first three, walk away.

These suggestions have done well for me. In all of our cruises, I lost one two hundred dollars, once; fifty-dollars, twice; broken even, twice; and have come out ahead on all of the rest. It might have been ten-dollars, over a seven-day cruise, but it was a win. Several times the figure went over the thousand dollar mark, but I won’t say by how much. It’s my secret ‘lucky charm.’

On this first cruise, I was fortunate enough to walk off the ship with a nice few hundred dollars in winnings. My money!

The favorite lesson I ever got, in a casino, was the session where I first learned the basics of the crap table. And, things would never be the same, again….

I was in the Casino aboard the Caribe I, on the afternoon of a day beautiful at sea. The casino was practically empty, and the dealers were visibly bored. I was standing near the crap table, looking at all the funny boxes, and circles, with their attendant hieroglyphics, totally and completely bewildered.

Suddenly, I heard the dealer’s voice, “Would you care to play, sir?†I looked up and responded, “I don’t have the slightest notion, in the world, of how to play this game.†Without missing a beat, he replied, “That doesn’t stop the most of the people who play this table every night.â€Â

OK, I figured, it was time to learn. He asked if I had fifty dollars I was willing to risk, and I bought fifty dollars worth of chips. He started with the simple bets, the Pass Line and the Odds bet. I threw the dice, until my arm was sore, going up and down for the first few minutes. He then showed me how to “cover the six and eight,†and admonished me to always play the six and eight separately, and not play the “6/8†on the corners. Most tables have removed them, but the odds are lower, for the same bet, if they are still there and you play them.

After a short while, when I was very comfortable with the initial three bets, he showed me how the play the “Come Line.†It turns out it’s really not all that complicated.

So, now I knew how to play the Pass Line, Odds bet, Come Line and cover the six and eight. What’s next? “Nothing,†he tells me. Once I had those basic bets down pat, he showed me a modified “system,†using a combination of the four plays. The other bets from the Horn Bet to the C & E, including the “hard ways,†are ALL house bets! Playing any one, or a combination, of those bets only increases the house’s odds of winning and, obviously, you chance of losing. Technically, you don’t even know what they are, how they work, or what they are called. Act as if they are not even on the table.

Once I had those basic bets down pat, he showed me a modified “system,†using a combination of the four plays.

Speaking of losing, it took me about an hour to lose my fifty-dollar investment, and it was fifty-dollars well spent. First of all, I learned the rudimentary play of the game which has become my favorite. Second, the dealer’s sense of humor turned out to be as amusing as his opening line, and we had a great time.

Although the crap table has become my destination of choice, I wonder if that would be the case if I had come back, that evening, and lost another fifty, or hundred, dollars. In any event, that wasn’t how it turned out. I was fortunate enough to win back the fifty I had lost, during my afternoon lesson, and an additional fifty.

One other important thing to remember is to always “toke†(tip) the dealer. Placing a one-dollar bet, for the dealer, at the blackjack table, throwing a dollar chip down onto the Pass Line, for “the boys (and girls, nowadays),†at the crap table, or tossing a chip to the dealer at other tables is more than a nice gesture.

Many players, myself included, play a modified “system,†at the crap table. Very often, the action gets hot and heavy, and a regular bet is not placed, in the frenzy of the game. On more than one occasion, I have had a dealer remind me, “Sir, did you want to place a ‘come bet?’†Yes, the forgotten bet gets placed, and, more often than not, pays off! All for a little toke.

The dealers appreciate the tips very much, and tend to remember the “generous†players. Very often, they will ask your name, and, whenever you return to the Casino, they will address you, by name. It just makes for a friendlier atmosphere.

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Gosh, mebert, you make me blush….

alt text

Thanks for being my biggest fan (after my 2 Lisa’s)!

I originally wrote my Sea of Memories as a diary of my

cruises, for myself. I would read it, from time to time,

when I got a case of the “CruiseBlues….â€Â

A few years ago, I edited it, rearranged it and posted

on the board. As I’m reposting it, now, I’m doing a

little more, minor, editing… Y’see, it’s still my little

baby, and I enjoy writing, and rereading, it.

I’m glad it brings back memories for some others,

Because what good is a memory, if you can’t share


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