Millionaire For a Night

John Ramsey Miller

Last weekend Susan and I went to Fairfax, VA to visit good friends. We went to a casino with John and Joy Gilstrap. We played blackjack. I drank Scotch. Starting with a check for $25,000.00, I found a table and the four of us began gambling. I soon bored with wagering $1,000.00 a hand because I was winning more than I was losing, so I quickly moved to bets of two and then three thousand a hand, but soon went to $5,000.00 a hand. Somehow I lost most of the money in thirty minutes.

When I was down to my last three thousand, I went to the roulette wheel and started betting color, even or odd and some other combinations––never numbers. After I’d picked up fifteen thousand dollars, I went back to blackjack, and before I stopped I was betting 75,000.00 a hand and doubling up. When I finally stopped and cashed in, I’d won one-point-four million dollars. I handed the winnings over to Joy Gilstrap. I mean she did stake me to the original $25,000.00 and we were her guests. And we all won, I just won more because I have a devil-may-care attitude about money, especially money in the form of chips, backed not by cash, or gold, but by thin air.

While the casino was a country club ballroom in Arlington and the casino dealers were novices. My dealer had clearly never dealt Blackjack before and barely had a grasp on the rules. In fact he’d never before played poker. Sometimes he paid off nineteen when he’d won with a twenty-one. He paid any twenty-one double. He paid ties. He couldn’t count. In fact any pit boss sober enough to be breathing would have hit him over the head with a bottle. So it was no surprise that I won, my wife won, and John and Joy won as well.

Sometimes the deck is stacked against you, and sometimes you just can’t lose. Winning… well, there’s no feeling its match.

I wish I could write like I played Blackjack last weekend, but even without the gaming, spending time with people you enjoy and care about is what life ought to boil down to. This weekend I’m off to the Mississippi Delta to a wedding. I sure hope it’s half as much fun as gambling with a rotten dealer and good company, but I doubt it will be.

3 thoughts on “Millionaire For a Night

  1. “I wish I could write like I played Blackjack last weekend.”

    Boy, John, that’s quite a statement of how the brain works. Writing without fear of loss takes more courage that most of us can muster. But wouldn’t it be great.

  2. I think that “fear of loss” holds a lot of us back in our writing.

    Or we put so much pressure on ourselves to “get it right” that we get so stressed and writing becomes a chore instead of fun.

    Those expectations freeze up the creative side and all we are left with is our inner editor screaming at us to get words on the page.

  3. I used to do a little rudimentary card counting in Vegas in my college days. Maybe that’s what learning the craft is for us writers–a way to get the odds a little more in our favor.

    To mix gambling metaphors, our job is to write books good enough to get on “the wheel of fortune.” Once there, who knows what will hit? But to have a chance you gotta get on the wheel.

    And I agree with your conclusion, John. Let’s not forget to hang out with the people we care about.

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