The Luck of the Draw

When the same cards appeared several times in a row, it merely seemed like lady luck was smiling down from on high. Since part of  gambling’s allure is based on an unpredictable marriage of luck, superstition, calculated odds, and the myth of the unbeatable system, nobody paid much attention when happy go lucky Joe won seven hands in a row. It’s known to happen from time to time, so no one blinked an eye.

But when the players at the baccarat table at the Golden Nugget began seeing the same sequence of cards over and over and over and over and over again, they crossed their hearts and raised their bets – from $10 to $5,000 a hand.

Forty one consecutive winning hands later, they had accumulated more than $1.5 million in winnings, and were surrounded by casino security convinced they had cheated but unable to prove it. In a lawsuit against a Kansas City playing card manufacturer, the casino contends the cards had never been shuffled, despite the manufacturer’s promise that every deck would be pre-shuffled and ready to go.

The Golden Nugget incident was the latest instance of unshuffled cards causing heartache for Atlantic City casinos. Last year, the Trump Taj Mahal used unshuffled baccarat cards for almost four hours before — shocker!! — realizing something was wrong. (Note to self: “Why are all these people winning again?”).

Trump resolved its problems in part by taking a leaf out of the TV show and screaming “You’re fired!!” to nine of its employees. However, given the casino’s substantial losses, its doubtful that giving a handful of unobservant employees a vitriolic savaging was particularly useful or satisfying. Atlantic City may still be a place where dreams are made and hopeless romantics throw their life savings away one silver dollar at a time, but it’s never been much of a place to care about a tongue-lashing.

As for the players themselves, after a few trials and travails and (alleged) unwarranted invasions of their privacy, it looks like they’re keeping the money. Apparently lady luck was smiling down on them after all.

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