The trip to Vegas, which cost me my job at Thor Power Tool Co and thus was the proximate cause of the change in my life’s trajectory, was the culmination of an odd relationship with an even odder fellow who was, at the time, the quality inspector for the machining department in which I, sort of, worked. Bob J___ was my father’s age more or less, seriously overweight, and with one leg shorter than the other. Bob was also something of an intellectual, an expert in, among other things, comparative religions, collectable coins, and a self-proclaimed psychic. I found him very informative and altogether fascinating. He could go on, at length, on any number of topics, and I was happy to listen and learn.
One of Bob’s notions — the one which led to the Vegas trip — was a variation on a strategy which, I later learned, was widely known as the “Gambler’s Ruin Formula”; a technique of simply betting a dollar (or any desired amount) on an even-money bet – Red/Black, Odd/Even, Pass/No Pass, etc – and if you won, great. If you lost, simply double your bet until you won. Bob’s variation was that every time you doubled your bet after a loss, you added an amount equal to the initial bet. This way, when you eventually won, you would win that amount for every play; not just for the ultimate winner.
What made Bob’s method so compelling was the added trick of always betting on what had previously just won. This was founded on the principle that nature does not like an extended series of “back and forth”, and that two-in-a row was always not only possible, but indeed likely.
While I still believe the idea has some merit, it certainly requires a measure of luck — and a large bankroll. Nature actually does, from time to time, allow for extended back and forth runs, which soon require large bets to keep going. The one dollar bet becomes three, which becomes seven, which becomes fifteen, which becomes . . . So after four losses the next required bet is thirty-one, after having already lost twenty-six. In 1970, when my resources fell well short of limited, an investment of fifty-seven dollars — in an effort to win five — at a time when a dollar was worth much more than it is now, was a HUGE risk which, as it turned out, I was not really willing to take.
The fact that I did not suddenly become rich notwithstanding, the trip to Las Vegas was great. This was around Easter time, and still snowy that year in Aurora, so the Nevada climate was a treat – although we traveled from the airport to our hotel through a sand storm (which the locals blamed on a just completed atomic bomb test somewhere to the north). This was, remember, the old 1970 Las Vegas. Getting around was easy. The famous hotels were the Stardust, The Dunes, The Sands, The Flamingo, the earlier, smaller Caesar’s Palace, etc. Rooms were inexpensive; we stayed at the old Hacienda, at the end of the strip in a space now more than occupied by Mandalay Bay.
The lounge shows were free, a well-known singing group called The Ink Spots were the regulars at the Hacienda. I saw comic Jackie Mason at Cleopatra’s Barge in Caesar’s Palace. Being a fan, I arrived early to claim the end seat at the bar, where I was just a few feet from the performer.
And everywhere were cheap, unlimited, and altogether excellent buffets, open at any hour. It was all great fun. I even won $100 from a quarter slot machine at the airport. I hated to leave.