“Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ’Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action’.” ―Auric Goldfinger villain in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger
As I walked into the ship’s casino I was quite impressed. They had really gone all out with the historic old west décor. I vaguely recalled that there was a resurgence in games of chance over the past few years, but these were mostly full 3d holograms. But here in the Venture they had truly gone retro, there were real people standing at physical tables tossing actual dice, holding real cards, or watching the little ball go round the wheel. Unlike in the private holograms, here the people were interacting with and playing against each other. Even the slot machines were not digital, but recreations of the old mechanical machines of the old west. Looking around I half expected to see someone like Mae West or the Cisco Kid step into view.
Wandering around the room I came to the table where people were betting on the outcome of one guy throwing a pair of 6 sided dice. First he threw a 3 and a 4, the woman running the table (the dealer?) called out “7, a natural”, the guy throwing was given the dice again and rolled double 2’s. The dealer called out “point is 2”. I moved to the left of the thrower to get a better look as the dice were returned to the thrower. This time he threw a 5 and 3. Apparently he lost, so some people cheered others were less happy.
The dealer called for a new thrower, and looked at me and explained that I would need to place a bet and then could be the next thrower. I put down a 5 stellar note on the table where it said Don’t Pass. The Dealer then offered me 5 dice and said pick 2, which I did. I then shook them and tossed them as I had seen the previous thrower do. They bounced across the table and off the far wall. Two ones came up and she called out “Snake eyes, a winner,” and she 7 black chips on top of my 5 stellar note. Then said to roll again. So I did, and again two ones came up and she called out “Snake eyes, a winner,” and she put 56 more black chips on my note. This went on 4 more times until a manager came over and stopped the game, I now had a stack of 32,767 chips stacked over and around my note.
The manager was a light skinned woman, lithe and more than 2 meters tall. She looked at the dealer and then at my pile and shook her head. She had someone come over with a counting machine and then gave me a data card that she said represented my winnings as they could not let me take that many chips out of circulation, and suggested that I might want to try one of the other games. I took the hint, nodded in agreement, and then pushed the original note to the dealer as a tip.
The next table I came across was for something called Black Jack or 21. As the dealer explained the rules to me I handed my data card to him and said let me have 20 stellars in chips. He took my card, ran it across the old fashion scanner, and he handed me 4 black chips. I placed on down and he dealt us each 2 cards one face up and one face down. His face up card was an 8, while mine was a black ace. He called it a spade. I looked at the face down card and saw it too was a black ace. I asked what it meant if they were the same and he explained that for the price of another bet if you get two starting cards of the same face value, you have the option to split the hand in two. I said ok, put down another chip and turned the card face up. He looked at them a little strangely, but said ok and placed a face down card on each of them. Looking at the first of my new face down cards I asked if I could split again. By this time the same manager had walked over and explained that in some places you could, but not here. “Fine, just asking. Then let me have another card.”
As he put down a face up card he said “the term is ‘hit me’.” Looking down I saw that the new card was also an ace.” This went on until I had 10 aces showing and one card still face down and I said “I’ll stand on this hand.” By now we have gathered quite a crowd. The dealer looked at the manager who looked back and shrugged. This was repeated with my other (split) hand. By now the manager is looking very uncomfortable but nodded to the dealer who flipped his face down card. It was a 10. He looks up at me and says you need to beat an 18.” I flipped over the first face down card, and it was another ace. The dealer looks quite shaken, but he says “21, a winner. And the other hand?”
So I flip the other face down card and it too was an ace. The dealer looks at the manager, who has gone pale under her ruddy complexion, and says “21, also a winner.” The manager looks at the table and sees 2 hands, each made up of 11 aces and I can see him start to mutter under his breath “6 decks, with 4 aces each, that makes for 24 aces total, and he gets 22 of them? What are the odds?”
The dealer hands me my 2 original chips, and 2 more for my winnings and announces that he is taking a short break.
The manager looked at me, and before he said anything I asked would it be ok to play one hand of poker – I will not touch the table or the cards. In fact you can pick someone to hold my hands while the dealer places the cards face down.”
He thought about it for a few seconds and replied “Ok, I you have made me curious. Come with me,” and he led me to an empty table that was being prepared to open. My crowd had followed to see what was going to happen. As we get to the table he explains to the dealer “I want you to deal out one hand against this gentleman, 5 card no draw…”
“It is ok with me if he draws, “I interrupted.
“Ok, you get to draw cards once. But his cards are to be all face down.” He then looks around the crowd and calls out to the beautiful redhead who was sitting next to the Captain at dinner. “Fay would you do me a favor and hold his hands while this hand is dealt, Fay is the Captains daughter.”
She looked surprised, and responded “Just hold his hands? You don’t want me to marry him or anything more interesting?” Smiling she came over and held my hands as the dealer started to deal out the hand, “we missed you at dinner”.
I just stood there and looked into the deepest hazel eyes I have ever seen. It was like I could see every speckle of green or brown in them blown up like looking at a nebula through a telescope. “I got lost in the library.”
I was brought back to reality when the dealer called out “dealer takes 2, sir are you sure you don’t want to look at your cards?”
“No I will stand pat on what I have.”
“The library is only 1 room with nothing to block your seeing the 4 walls and the door. So don’t you mean you were lost in the contents of the library?”
He took his 2 cards, and smiled. As he started to flip them “Full house, 3s over Queens.”
Looking back at the table (when did my eyes drift back to hers) I lift my hands still being held by Fay, and asked him to flip my cards one at a time.
Ace of Spades
Ace of Spades
Ace of Spades
Ace of Spades
Ace of Spades
Looking over at the manager he says, “Five of a kind, a winner.” The manager just shakes his head and reaches down to draw the next card, and ace of diamonds. He shakes his head, “how is it possible?” and walks away.
Picking up my winnings with my right hand, Fay has not let go of my left hand, I look at her “yes that is more accurate. Can we go somewhere and talk?” Smiling she starts to lead me out of the casino.
Passing the slot machines, I slow down. She looks at me, “why not?”
So I take one of the chips and put it into the slot and pull the handle. As we stood there watching the first wheel stopped on a 7, then a few seconds later the next one also stopped on a 7. Finally, the last one stopped – you guessed it another 7. Out came 80 chips. We picked them up and walked towards the cashier where we had all of my winnings put onto the data card. The display on the cashier’s window said that the data card now had 164,155 stellars on it. Which, to be honest was more than I had made in the last 5 years (and 2 of those were really good years for me).
Looking at Fay “let’s go have a glass of something nice and talk a little bit.”
Smiling, “I know just the place.”