John Grochowski, Gaming Guru

Amid the cheers and high- fives of the craps players when the shooter’s on a roll, and the music, TV/movie dialog and sound effects of the slot machines, blackjack players live quieter casino life. Not everyone wins together, so the craps-like cheers are rare.

But there is time for a little discussion and storytelling. Here are a few tales gathered during time taken for a little table talk.

Ben, dealt a 10 and a 2, while the dealer had a 3 face up: “None of you mind if I hit that, do you?” he asked, chuckling a little. When no one objected he continued, “It wouldn’t really matter if you did mind, I’d hit it anyway. That’s just what I do.

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“Somebody really got steamed at me last night, though. I was sitting at third base [the position all the way to the players’ left, and the last to hit or stand before the dealer plays]. I hit my 12, and this guy yelled across the table, ‘Hey! Don’t take the dealer’s bust card.”

That’s all he said until the dealer finished the hand. Ben wound up with an 18, but lost to the dealer’s 19. He continued as the next hand was dealt.

“I have no way of knowing whether the next card will make the dealer bust. I just said, ‘Easy, friend,’ and he said, ‘If you play like that, I’m not your friend. At third base, you have to play for the team.’ I said, ‘That’s how I play.’ He said, ‘Thanks for telling me,’ but nasty like, and he picked up his chips and left. Can’t say I missed him.”

Maria, during a shuffle: “I guess my husband and I have a little role reversal. I like blackjack, he always plays the slots. It’s because when I was really young, we used to have a big family party at my great-grandfather’s house every year. I was lucky enough to have great-grandpa until I was 19.

“I had several second-cousins, and they’d learned to play blackjack. They taught me and my brother at the party. I’ve been playing ever since. It wasn’t for money. Just for fun.

“My husband didn’t have any card-playing background. He likes the NCAA pools and he has fantasy baseball and football teams; you know those things. But there’s no sports in the casinos here, so he gravitated to the slots, and a little video poker.”

Raul, different table, different night, during a shuffle: “You guys ever play any craps? I was at a table early this morning where it was just me and two other guys, and the one guy had his girlfriend watching. The guy was telling his girlfriend that the way to win was to play don’t pass, betting the shooter won’t make his point.

“He was taunting us about it, getting all in our faces. ‘You know why these casinos make so much money,’ he told his girlfriend. ‘It’s losers like that. All those losers bet with the shooter. Not me. I’m gonna take their money, just like the house.’

“It was the other guy’s turn to shoot, and he just kept knocking down point after point. He and I were both on pass and come, and we both kept winning. The trash talker kept going to his wallet for more money. I don’t know how much he lost, but you could tell his girlfriend was getting madder and madder. She finally dragged him away, and you know what he said? He said, ‘Keep shooting, losers. I’ll be back for your money later.’”

Gambling author and columnist John Grochowski’s weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly. Look for John Grochowski at, on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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