THE BOY WITH THE GOLDEN ARM

My friend Jae had a great run at the poker tables during the first couple of days of his visit here, and I made a little money, too.  Then disaster struck, as it always does in poker, sooner or later.  I can't go into the horrifying details, in case there are children reading this post, but Jae and I got deeply depressed and believed that we were unworthy of the game of Texas Hold-'em.

Then Jae got the bright idea of playing a tournament, which doesn't require risking much money but can pay off handsomely.  We signed up for a noon contest at the Luxor.  I had a panic attack before the first hand was dealt, but settled down and played well.  I got some breaks, as you need to do in a tournament, and made the final table.  I held on to finish fourth, which paid $125 against the $33 buy-in.

Jae didn't cash and felt even worse than before.  We wandered over to the Monte Carlo poker room, where Jae lost some more money quickly, and I lost my Luxor winnings, and then some — but very slowly.

While I was doing this, Jae drifted around the casino like a lost soul.  For some reason he put five dollars down on the pass line at a craps table and the dealer handed him the dice — the last shooter at the table had just crapped out and nobody was having any luck with the bones.  When Jae established a point, the dealer told him to back up his bet with another five dollars.  What happened next is already part of the legend of Las Vegas.

Jae started a magical roll that seemed to go on forever, making point after point after point.  He could do no wrong with the dice.  His initial ten-dollar investment kept growing.  After a while a woman who was betting heavily on his rolls and winning big started placing bets in his name.  He won even more.  Jae eventually asked the dealer quietly if he should give the money for the bets back to the woman, now that he had so much.

“She's made five grand on your rolls,” the dealer whispered.  “You don't owe her anything.”  The woman, at the other end of the table, kept glancing tenderly at Jae, as though he were a long-lost love.  A sudden windfall of five large can do that to a person.

When I finally busted out at the poker table and tracked Jae down he was up over $400 on his ten-dollar investment.  I pulled him away from the table and urged him to cash in — his winnings more than covered all his poker losses since he hit town on this visit.

The dealers at the craps table had been looking at Jae in awe.  “He made all that from a ten-dollar bet,” they'd say to anyone who passed the table, pointing at his chips.  One dealer said, “I once made that much on a ten-dollar starting bet.”  “Yeah,” said another dealer, “but we saw this run, so we know it really happened.”

Yes, it did.  In the real-life fantasy land of Las Vegas.

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