Professional Gamblers at Work: The Case of the Missing $7000
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Professional Gamblers at Work: The Case of the Missing $7k

 
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The Case of the Missing $7K

From the Journals of Nick Alexander
(From Blackjack Forum Volume XVII #2, Summer 1997)
© Blackjack Forum 1997

Now as you may know… or maybe you don’t, professional gamblers travel around and often need large amounts of cash. Because we’re a closely knit fraternity professional gamblers loan each other this cash without a second thought. A quick aside. I went to England to play, and called a professional gambler I had never met and said, "Hi, I’m a friend of Kathy’s and I need 10,000 British Pounds (at that time about $15,000)." He called Kathy, who vouched for me, and the next day handed me the money, no questions asked.

So… a few years ago the Woodpecker and the New Zealand Blowfish (two professional gamblers) were in the States to play some blackjack. They happened to be up in Reno while my blackjack team was in Reno and we were having a great time together while not working.

Now, they were working the Canadian currency move, which works like this. (Professional gamblers never miss an edge.) They go to Canada and buy a Canadian dollar for 93 cents. Then they take it to Reno and bet it. If they win the bet the casino pays them one U.S. dollar.

Now seven cents on every dollar is no small potatoes when you bet them a thousand at a time. The casinos do this to try to bring the Canadian tourists down to Reno to gamble. After about 10 years the casinos figured out that they might be taking the worst of it on this proposition. Especially when guys like Woodpecker and Blowfish would turn $500,000 in a week. Now you may ask, "Why would it take 10 years for the casinos to catch on to this?"

I’m glad you asked.

Axiom: Casinos are one small step above brain-dead.

So the first night in town we all have a Chinese dinner and Woodpecker and Blowfish are saying that they may not be able to work this move anymore because the casinos are catching on. Just in case they can’t use the Canadian dollars, they need some U.S. dollars to play with while counting cards. At this point, one of my teammates, Bill, gave Woodpecker $7,000 under the table.

Jump to one year later. Woodpecker is in town again for the summer, and we decide to update our books which are slightly out of date (like 14 months). In doing so we find some money missing and someone vaguely remembers giving $7,000 to Woodpecker in a Chinese restaurant.

Woodpecker vaguely remembers giving it back during a backgammon game in the hotel room two days later. Then Bill remembers that after Woodpecker went back to Hong Kong, Blowfish was losing like a pig in Vegas and Bill gave him more money… maybe? Now what do you do?

Now, I know you’re saying, "Wait a minute. How can somebody misplace $7,000 in cash?" You have to realize that for a professional gambler, cash is our stock in trade. We win it, lose it, pass it around in large amounts every day. If we were mechanics all working in the same shop, you might not remember who you gave a certain wrench to.

How do professional gamblers handle these situations? We go to arbitration. We select some other professional gamblers who are impartial, they listen to both sides of the case, and come to a settlement they think is fair.

WOODPECKER’S CASE

Woodpecker remembers receiving money in the Chinese restaurant. This is one thing that everyone agrees on, although none of us really remembers what the amount of the transaction was.

Two days later he remembers playing backgammon in our hotel room with Blowfish, Bill, and Craig. He remembers throwing the $7,000 on the bed, but doesn’t remember anyone in particular picking it up.

The crux of his argument is this: Woodpecker is known as a meticulous record keeper. We all know the story of him as a young man, taking a girl out for coffee and pulling out a small pad and writing…coffee 50 cents.

He claims that the only way there would be no record of this transaction in his books is if he repaid the loan within a couple days. Otherwise, he updates his books every week, and in counting his money he would have noted the extra $7,000 and entered it in his books as a transfer from Bill.

My team, on the other hand, has a reputation for keeping the worst books. When we tried to update them with Woodpecker in August of ’87, we were originally off $80,000. Through 48 hours of painstaking work, we accounted for all that except $7,000 which we thought went to Woodpecker, and another $7,000 that we chalked up to currency fluctuations. (During the 14 months in question we were shuffling money around in four different currencies.)

Woodpecker also brought up the fact that Bill has no records at all because he burns them at the end of each bankroll. (So he’s a little paranoid.) Woodpecker claims that as poor as our records are, we could have misplaced the money anywhere.

BILL’S STORY

Bill remembers the money in the Chinese restaurant, doesn’t remember getting money in the hotel, although admits that they had all been rather stoned that night. He remembers having to meet Blowfish in the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. He thinks to give him money, but he’s unsure.

BLOWFISH

Remembers the restaurant, not the money in the hotel, and doesn’t remember meeting Bill in Las Vegas. Blowfish’s records are very well done and he has many transfers to and from people, but no transfer of $7,000 from Bill or anyone on our team.

At one point Blowfish stands up and says (in his best Perry Mason imitation), "Mr. Woodpecker, isn’t it true that when suffering a big loss you have been known to go back to your hotel room, and, shall we say, pleasure yourself?" Woody acknowledged this to be true. "And isn’t it true that on one occasion you found yourself insufficiently aroused and to remedy the situation you plunged your John Thomas into a bucket of ice?"

"Yes, but what does that have to do with anything?"

"Nothing, I just love telling that story." So you can see that Blowfish was treating this proceeding with the respect he thought it deserved. After all, it wasn’t his money.

ME

I was in the restaurant and remember Woodpecker receiving money. I wasn’t in the hotel room or in Vegas.

CB

Ahh, the missing evidence. CB, who was keeping our books at the time (or not keeping them), has a scrap of paper with the amount of cash each of us had at the beginning of that bankroll. Bill’s figure has been scratched out and a new figure is in its place that is $7,000 less than the old one. Over on the other side of the page is a scribble that says… "loan to Woodpecker." Down in the lower left corner is written "$7,000 Korea."

Craig claims we may not write things down very often, but when we do… it must mean something! He claims this means that Bill gave $7,000 to Woodpecker, and Woodpecker would pay us back in Korea. No one else would figure that out from this scrap of paper, but he is the guy who wrote it.

At this point I must add that this is an honorable profession, and nobody would make up false records or lie just to get this money. Now our arbiters adjourned to make a decision.

I told CB at this point that I thought our case was pretty bad and maybe we should just withdraw our case. If they come back and say Woodpecker owes us $7,000, I’m going to feel bad and not want to take it. I don’t think he owes it. I think Bill felt pretty much the same way, but Craig felt that we had come all this way and spent the time, so we might as well hear the decision. He felt the strongest because they were his records.

The arbiters decided that it was pretty much up in the air whether or not Woodpecker had paid us back, but decided slightly in his favor.

They awarded us 45%, or $3,150, and admonished us all to keep better books. It’s been over a week since Woodpecker transferred the money to Bill. As far as I know, no one has written it in their records.

[It should be noted that this journal entry is over a dozen years old and the Canadian dollar is worth nowhere near 93 cents anymore. Some casinos will still give a small premium on Canadian dollars, but it is nowhere near as profitable as it once was.]

To Read More Stories About Professional Gamblers

For more stories about professional gamblers, see Arnold Snyder's Big Book of Blackjack or his novel, Risk of Ruin, about professional blackjack hole-card players. It contains numerous scenes of blackjack hole-card and team steering plays based on Arnold Snyder's playing experiences.

For interviews with professional gamblers, see Richard W. Munchkin's Gambling Wizards: Conversations with the World's Greatest Gamblers.

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