"I prefer a female."
A young Hispanic lady stepped to the table and offered a feeble "Good luck." Sidney did not respond. He played $1,000 at each of the four seats, lost three in a row, then increased his bets to $3,000 a hand and won four straight.
The casino was down over $60,000. The blackjack record so far at the Lucky Jack was $110,000 for one night. A doctor from Memphis had made the haul, only to lose it and much more the following night. "Let 'em win," Bobby Carl loved to say. "We'll get it right back."
"I'd like some ice cream," Sidney said in the general direction of the pit boss, who immediately snapped his fingers. "What flavor?"
A plastic bowl and spoon soon arrived, and Sidney tipped the waitress with his last $100 chip. He took a small bite, then placed $5,000 at four seats. Playing $20,000 a hand was indeed rare, and the gossip spread through the casino. A crowd hovered behind him, but he was oblivious. He won seven of the next ten hands and was up $102,000. As the dealer shuffled the decks, Sidney slowly ate the ice cream and did nothing else but stare at the cards.
With a fresh shoe, he varied his bets from $10,000 to $20,000 per hand. When he won $80,000 more, the pit boss stepped in and said, "That's enough. You're counting cards."
"You're wrong," Sidney said.
"Let him go," someone said behind him, but the pit boss ignored it.
The dealer backed away from the confrontation. "You're counting," the pit boss said again.
"It's not illegal," Sidney shot back.
"No, but we make our own rules."
"You're full of crap," Sidney growled, then took another bite.
"That's it. I'll ask you to leave."
"Fine. I want cash."
"We'll cut a check."
"Hell no. I walked in here with cash, and I'm leaving with cash."
"Sir, would you please come with me?"
"Let's handle this over at the cashier's."
"Great. But I demand cash."
The crowd watched them disappear. In the cashier's office, Sidney produced a fake driver's license that declared him to be a Mr. Jack Ross from Dothan, Alabama. The cashier and the pit boss filled out the required IRS form, and after a heated argument Sidney walked out of the casino with a canvas bank bag filled with $184,000 in $100 bills.
He was back the following night in a dark suit, white shirt, and tie, and looking considerably different. The beard, long hair, rings, tattoos, beret, and goofy glasses -were gone. His head was shaved slick, and he sported a narrow gray mustache and wire' rimmed reading glasses perched on his nose. He chose a different table with a different dealer. Last night's pit boss was not on duty. He put cash on the table and asked for twenty-four $1,000 chips. He played for thirty minutes, won twelve hands out of fifteen, then asked for a private table. The pit boss led him to a small room near the poker pit. The security boys upstairs were stand' ing at their posts, watching every move.
"I'd like $10,000 chips," Sidney announced. "And a male dealer."
No problem. "Something to drink?"
"A Sprite, with some pretzels."
He pulled some more cash from his pocket and counted the chips after the exchange. There were twenty of them. He played three seats at a time, and fifteen minutes later he owned thirty two chips. Another pit boss and the manager on duty had joined the occasion and stood behind the dealer, watching grimly.
Sidney munched on pretzels as if he were playing $2 slots. Instead, he was now betting $10,000 at each of four seats. Then $20,000, then back to $10,000. When the shoe was low, he suddenly bet $50,000 at all six seats. The dealer was showing a five, his worst card. Sidney calmly split two sevens and doubled down on a hard ten. The dealer flipped a queen, then very slowly pulled his next card. It was a nine, for a bust of twenty-four. The hand netted Sidney $400,000, and the first pit boss was ready to faint.
"Perhaps we should take a break," the manager said.
"Oh, I say we finish the shoe, then take a break," Sidney said.
"No," the manager said.
"You want the money back, don't you?"
The dealer hesitated and cast a desperate look at the manager. Where was Bobby Carl when they needed him?
"Deal," Sidney said with a grin. "It's just money. Hell, I've never walked out of a casino with cash in my pocket."
"Could we have your name?"
"Sure. It's Sidney Lewis." He removed his wallet, tossed over his real driver's license, and didn't care if they had his real name. He had no plans to return. The manager and pit bosses studied it, anything to buy some time.
"Have you been here before?" the manager asked. "I was here a few months ago. Are we gonna play? What kind of casino is this? Now deal the cards."
The manager reluctantly returned the license, and Sidney left it on the table, next to his towering collection of chips. The man' ager then nodded slowly at the dealer. Sidney had a single $10,000 chip at each of the six seats, then quickly added four more to each. Three hundred thousand dollars was suddenly in play. If he won half of the seats, he planned to keep playing. If he lost, he'd quit and walk out with a two-night net of about $600,000, a pleasant sum of money that would do much to satisfy his hatred of Bobby
Cards slowly hit the table, and the dealer gave himself a six as his up card. Sidney split two jacks, a gutsy move that most experts warned against, then he waved off further draws. When the dealer flipped his down card and revealed a nine, Sidney showed no expression, but the manager and both pit bosses turned pale. The dealer was required to draw on a fifteen, and he did so with great reluctance. He pulled a seven, for a bust of twenty-two.
The manager jumped forward and said, "That's it. You're counting cards." He wiped beads of sweat from his forehead.
Sidney said, "You must be kidding. What kind of dump is this?"
"It's over, buddy," the manager said, then glanced at two thick security guards who had suddenly materialized behind Sidney, who calmly stuck a pretzel in his mouth and crunched it loudly. He grinned at the manager and the pit bosses and decided to call it a night.
"I want cash," he said.
"That might be a problem," the manager said.
They escorted Sidney to the manager's office upstairs, where the entire entourage gathered behind a closed door. No one sat down.
"I demand cash," Sidney said.
"We'll give you a check," the manager said again.
"You don't have the cash, do you?" Sidney said, taunting. "This two-bit casino doesn't have the cash and cannot cover its exposure."
"We have the money," the manager said without conviction. "And we're happy to write a check."
Sidney glared at him, and the two pit bosses, and the two security guards, then said, "The check will bounce, won't it?"
"Of course not, but I'll ask you to hold it for seventy-two hours."
"Merchants, in Clanton."
At nine o'clock the next morning, Sidney and his lawyer walked into the Merchants Bank on the square in Clanton and demanded to see the president. When they were in his office, Sidney pulled out a check from the Lucky Jack Casino in the amount of $945,000, postdated three days. The president examined it, wiped his face, then said in a cracking voice, "I'm sorry, but we can't honor this check."