by | May 18, 1994 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

That’s me. Mr. Lucky.

Excuse me while I kiss my fingers.

Yes, folks, step right up as I reveal my hidden secrets of gambling, everything from “doubling down” (translation: lose more money) to “baccarat”
(translation: lose more money) and beginning with the most important part: How you actually get into the casino.

This is not easy, not on opening day of the first casino in the Detroit area — across the river, in Windsor, where, by late morning, the line outside looked like something Charlton Heston led in “The Ten Commandments.”

And there I was, a mile away, behind a thin guy with a beard who kept saying, “I had a dream this morning . . . nine of hearts . . . the damnedest thing . . . nine of hearts.”

HOT TIP NO. 1: Avoid waiting on line. Use the valet parking. If you valet-park at the Windsor casino, they let you right in.

HOT TIP NO. 2: Valet parking costs $50.

HOT TIP NO. 3: Bring more than $50 to Windsor casino.

Now you might wonder what someone like me is doing spending $50 to park a car, when my boss would park it for $20. You may also wonder what someone like me, who predicted the Red Wings would make the Stanley Cup finals, is doing anywhere near a betting establishment.

Good questions. And I should say right here that I am not, in general, a gambling man. I am not a rambling man. I am not a rambling, gambling man.

Also, I wouldn’t know a crap table from a bridge table. To me, “shooting craps” sounds like something you have to wipe up. Luck smiles on the innocent

Maybe this is why my paper felt safe in saying, “Why don’t you do a column from the new casino? See how far $100 goes. Heh-heh.”

Well, having spent $50 on parking, I entered, as we say, in the red. I needed green. I felt blue. Fortunately, the workers inside the casino are so darn peppy, I thought I was at an Osmonds concert.

“Good luck!” chirped the woman who changed my American money to Canadian money.

“Good luck!” chirped the man who changed my Canadian money to blackjack chips.

“Good luck!” chirped the woman who changed my blackjack chips to slot machine tokens.

As you might have guessed, gambling in Canada is not quite like gambling in Las Vegas. It’s more like going through the currency exchange at Heathrow Airport.

Finally, there I was, at a blackjack table. My dealer was a nice fellow named Don. He smiled. Wished me luck. And then he dealt.

BLACKJACK (explained): In blackjack, the player gets two visible cards, and the dealer gets two cards, one of which stays hidden. This hidden card keeps changing magically while you can’t see it in order to give you the biggest possible heart attack when the dealer flips it over.

Don dealt me five hands. I won three. Don said, “You’re doing better than the Tigers.”

Don is from Canada and obviously thinks this is funny. Let’s give roulette a spin

Having mastered blackjack, I went to the roulette table. Roulette is like the daily lottery, but with smaller balls. You pick a number, or maybe just a color. Recalling my high school math classes (“If you flip a penny 100 times”) I figured, hmm, I have about a 50 percent chance with a color.

I put $25 on red — it came up black.

I put $25 on red — it came up black again.

“This is not what they taught us in high school,” I told the ball roller.

“I didn’t make it through high school,” he said.

Hmm. Since the color thing wasn’t working, I made a ridiculous bet; I dropped a $5 chip on a single number, five, the longest of longshots.

The ball landed in five and I won $175.

I am not making this up.

Lemme kiss my fingers.

Having mastered roulette, I went immediately to the (Burt) Baccarrat tables. Bacquerah? Now, honest to goodness, this is all I know about bacarrat: I can’t spell it.

So I stood behind someone who put his chips on a spot marked “player.” I took some chips and did the same. The dealer dealt a few cards and then he said, “Player wins,” and he gave me more chips.

From this we learn that baccarat is a game of skill and should only be played by the most serious gamblers, like myself.

By now I had so many chips, I needed a Pringles can. I blew the obligatory
$10 on slot machines, then decided on one last trip to the blackjack table.

“All right, Don,” I said, “I have one hand to play here.” I grabbed a fistful of chips, $100 worth, and plunked it down. It is the largest bet I have ever made, except for the time I bet my brother he couldn’t jump off the roof.

Don dealt me a jack. Then an ace. “Blackjack,” he said.

Other players looked at me as if I were Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Thanks!” I said. As I scurried off, I noticed two guys fighting over my seat. “It’s hot, man!” one yelled. “Lemme have it!”

I cashed my chips into tokens, tokens into Canadian bills, bills into American dollars, dollars into yen, yen into marks, and I left. And that is how, in less than an hour, I became a chip-totin’ legend in the Great White North.

HOT TIP NO. 4: Do not think this will ever happen to you, unless you work for a paper and are obliged to give the money to charity.

EPILOGUE: As I drove away, the man with the beard was almost to the front door and still mumbling. I guess he planned to bet the nine of hearts. Personally, I’d put my money on the parking valets. They can’t miss. PLACE YOUR BETS Free Press sports columnist Mitch Albom tried his luck at Tuesday’s opening day of Casino Windsor and parlayed a $100 stake into $395. Harness racing handicapper Bill Rayle, meanwhile, turned $100 into $463 at Hazel Park (Page 3C). Here’s how Mitch did it: INITIAL INVESTMENT $100

Valet parking, minus $50
$50 Blackjack, five hands, plus $30
$80 Roulette, two $25 losses on red, minus $50
$30 Roulette, one $5 chip on five, plus $175
$205 Baccarat, two hands, win, win, plus $50
$255 Slots, 10 pulls at $1, minus $10
$245 Blackjack, one hand, $100 bet, blackjack, plus $150


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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