Professional Gamblers at Work:
Stickin' It to the Safari ClubBy Nick Alexander
(From Blackjack Forum Volume XVII #1, Spring 1997)
© Blackjack Forum 1997
August 2, 1988, Tuesday. Read an article in the Sunday Times entitled, “SAFARI CLUB’S MYSTERIES MAY BE UNSOLVABLE.” The article details an account of Park Chong Kyu’s dealings with Northrop Corp. You may remember that Northrop paid him $6,250,000 to build a hotel in Korea and was bilked out of the money.
What this translates to is: Northrop paid him a bribe so he would convince the government to buy F-20 jets. The article goes on to detail that Park, who died in ’85, left behind an American Legion Post in Seoul known as the Safari Club. This was to be the site of the hotel.
Ma is Not My Mother, and the 21 Card Grab
It was August of ’86, and my first trip to Korea. I had stayed at the one legal casino in Seoul for a week and it was time to give them a rest. I went to Inchon to play and lasted three hours before they told me that I couldn’t play anymore. They were very apologetic about the barring. Much nicer than they ever are in the States. So, I made my way back to Seoul and decided to try one of the illegal casinos. Yes, it had been closed in ’85 but after Ma spent eight months in jail, he opened right back up.
Woodpecker was in Hong Kong so he couldn’t take me. I tried sidling up to Americans and speaking in hushed tones out of the side of my mouth. “Do you know where the Safari Club is?” No one seemed to know. I had visions of sneaking down a dark alley, rapping on the door and telling the guard, “Cho sent me.” Then I met a guy in Wendy’s one day who opened one of the magazines printed in English to a full-page color ad that said, “Come gamble at the Safari Club.”
I sat down at a table and noticed the limit was 300,000 Won, about $350 U.S. Not much compared to the two million limit at Walker Hill ($2500), but what the hell? After 20 minutes I was winning about $1,500 U.S. and the boss brought four new decks of cards to the table.
This is a common practice even in Vegas, although usually it’s stupid and unnecessary. This is also the time to be on your toes. The most common move at this point is for the boss to bring four decks that have a bunch of tens and aces removed, or four decks with lots of extra 4s, 5s, and 6s. The card counter in either case will start counting all these small cards coming out of the shoe and increase his bets, waiting for all those blackjacks that will never come.
This dealer carefully spread each deck face-up on the table as they are supposed to, and I carefully checked each one and found everything to be in order. But don’t relax yet. You never know what you might see if you watch that shuffle closely. And here it was…
The 21 Card Grab
After spreading the four decks the dealer placed two decks on her left, and two decks on her right, as is common when shuffling four decks. Now the procedure is to grab a clump of each stack and shuffle them together, working your way through all four decks. But what my dealer did is grab exactly 21 cards off each stack and shuffle them together.
How do I know it was 21 cards? Because she made the grabs very deliberately and then tilted both grabs exposing the 8 of diamonds on the bottom of both packets. Now to understand why this is important, we must look at a new deck of cards. They are arranged like this:
The reason for that is that most people, when they cut the cards, do it in about the middle. A cut like that will put these tens at the back of the shoe, behind the stop card. The same as if they had been removed from the deck altogether.
I bet three more hands of 300,000. I got 20, 20, and 20. The dealer had a 9 up. Wait just a minute here… I think I’ll split this here pair of tens. I received another 10… split again, another ten, split again. I split out to four hands and got twenty on three and 19 on one.
Well, at this point the bosses went crazy. They weren’t sure what had happened but they knew I had just won another $2,000 U.S. with the most hare-brained play imaginable. There is one thing that all foreign casinos have learned… if an American starts winning, throw him out! This is true from Africa to Aruba, and from Monte Carlo to Macao. Well, I lasted less than two hours and won about $3,000 U.S.
The Wendy's in Seoul
I was in Wendy’s the next day telling this story to Tom C. It’s very important for anyone visiting Korea to know about Wendy’s. If you’ve seen the movie Casablanca, Wendy’s is Rick’s and Tom C. is Sidney Greenstreet. Anything you need Tom can introduce you to the person who can procure it for you. Need a visa extension? Sure. Want to meet the ambassador from Samoa? No problem. Listen… I know a girl that’s perfect for you. See the one there with the eye patch… And so it goes, every day at Wendy’s.
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