Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hector's Big Weekend: Part One

In gambling terms, Hector is a mini-whale. Sure, he’s just as sick as any of them, but he has a larger wallet and isn’t afraid to risk a significant portion of his impressive bankroll on assorted card games, sporting events and whatever else can provide that adrenalin rush. One time he and another fool bet on who could eat more pieces of sushi and Hector started gagging after 90. Pretty impressive for a 5’2’’ 100-lb. guy, but he lost $10,000 when his friend ate 104 nigiri-zushi. Another time, Hector was convinced that he could run from Reno to Carson City in a business suit in the dead of winter. One of the assorted morons in his entourage of hangers ons, wanna bes and never wasses, bet him 20 grand and Hector won. It took him almost two days for him to run, jog, shuffle and finally limp the 40 miles. But in the process, two of Hector’s toes went black from frost bite and he lost them.

As a mini-whale, Hector traditionally makes single wagers with four zeroes attached. Mini-whales prefer to be big fish in small ponds, so they normally gravitate toward wagering at the smaller gambling establishments like those found in Reno or at many of the Indian casinos. Places with names like The Showboat or Thunder Valley. True whales make six figure bets and that’s why you’ll find them in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and at the big casinos in Monte Carlo and Antigua. I have known only one legitimate whale in my life, but that’s another story for another time.

Whales of any size get pampered and treated like rock stars at all of the top casinos and even most of the sketchy ones as well. The level of pampering depends on how much they wager and how much they’ve lost or won. Whales get anything they desire, either legal or otherwise and mini-whales get something a little less. Whales get top-shelf caviar, Cuban cigars, expensive wine, top scotch and prostitutes that look like A-Class models. Mini-whales get pate instead of caviar, domestic cigars, discount wine and hookers with a little street in their walk.

Mini-whales come in all shapes and sizes. One day in Reno I met an old gal named Dot. She chain smoked and wore enough rhinestones to tile a shower. Dot outlived three husbands and rumor was she outright killed one of them. With enough money to throw around ridiculously, Dot would drop 20 to 30 grand every time she hit the Sands. Her drinks (mostly Manhattans) were free; they gave her the old Wayne Newton suite and every once in a while they’d send an old former Chippendale dancer up to her room to check the plumbing. With that type of treatment, Dot happily lost a couple hundred thousand dollars at the Sands every year, smiling ear to ear and loving every minute of it.

Hector normally played at the Silver Legacy in Reno, but every once in a while he would venture to Vegas. He loved the place, but knew it would be his demise one day. “There’s just too much shit going on there, man,” Hector said it every time he left Sin City looking like a wrinkled old necktie and smelling like cheap cologne--the kind you can load on to mask all the other smells, but it never really works.
So, Hector’s regular spot was Reno, but on this particular weekend, a casino in Vegas had invited him to watch a big boxing match with everything included and at no charge, of course. It doesn’t matter who was fighting that night, because Don King was the promoter, which means the event was fixed anyway. If you want to see something more believable, watch wrestling or the Smurfs.

Hector loved betting on fights and getting in his own. As a little guy with a Napoleonic complex, he loved boxing and wasn’t afraid of knocking a few heads himself. The problem is, he went after guys twice his size and continually got his ass kicked. He led with his fists and felt everyone was eyeballing him and dissing him all the time. One time at a party, he smacked our host in the face for offering him a cocktail. What the hell, we asked him as we were being escorted out the door.
“He gave me a weird vibe,” Hector mumbled. Unbelievable, I thought. I decided right there and then to hang out with this guy a little less. He’s fun, but he could get me killed, I noted.

So, when Hector invited me to Vegas for the weekend, I thought more than twice before answering.

(To be continued….)

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