Las Vegas Where We Start

By: banel

Fate can deal you a winning hand in life, and if you pick it up and play your cards correctly, the dark clouds of failure drift away and the clear skies of the future show. Some claim your fate is dictated by the stars; others that it's an act of Providence. I'm not certain as to the cause, but I am as to the effect. I do know that a hypothetical wheel of fortune spun and stopped on my num beer to make an average guy into a celebrity overnight.One of the most descriptive words in the English language is BROKE. The word has plenty of synonyms: impoverished, insolvent, and a rash of others. But they ail have the same meaning: No money. So why fancily my condition with a multisyllabled word when the simplest of them baldly described my personal finances? I feet as though the entire weight of the world had fallen on my hip Pocket-the one holding my wallet-crushing, pulverizing, burying me underneath. I was an ant under the Alps, without a shovel. Now, one of the unwritten duties of a wife is to buoy her husband's sagging spirits, repair kills ruptured ego-anything to remove his mind from troubles. Mine tried by suggesting, Let's play a few hands of gin.

There's hardly a player of the approximately 100 million in the United States who, upon hearing this proposition, can resist saying-even in the midst of pestilence or famine- "Cut you for deal. I won, and as I shuffled the cards my mind rambled. Here I was, the head of an interior decorating firm, decorating tract model homes scattered over California and other western states. Operating from southern California, we had built up about a hundred thousand dollars in equities. One of the key companies we dealt with had folded; then others followed in bankruptcies totaling nearly five million dollars. Our accounts were uncollectible. Personal debts were piling up. Practically my sole remaining asset was my close resemblance at comedian Phil Silvers, but a scrupulously honest man couldn't cash in on that. And I consider myself an honest man.

I was forty-two years old, with a wife named Etta and a daughter, Karen, age five. The future of the Wander family was in grave jeopardy. Your play, Etta interrupted my thoughts. I sorted my cards, arranged them, picked a card from the deck, and felt a tingling at the nape of my neck. Gin," I said, laying down my hand. The next morning over breakfast-the menu dictated by the newly felt economic pinch (small eggs instead of jumbo, Pream instead of cream, margarine instead of butter)-Etta announced: I want you to enter the tournament.

I shook my head. You know I'm getting too old to play tennis. I.Not tennis, she corrected, gin. Gin rummy. The tournament in Las Vegas. First prize is ten thousand dollars. Entries include Hawaii, Mexico, Canada. . . Why, that's international! So what? You used to live in Brooklyn, didn't you? But . . No buts. You're the greatest player in the world.On what do you base that conclusion?' I asked.You can beat me," Etta said. I didn't Iaugh. My wife is one hello of a player. Once the germ of the idea was planted, interest gradually mounted. Obstacles loomed: travel expenses, hotel, food, an entry fee of a hundred dollars, not to mention hundreds of formidable opponents. Etta had a solution. We'll pawn my wedding ring. I protested. That ring is your most valuable possession.No. You are. Her faith was touching. I had never played in a tournament. Normally I only went in for social garnes. Together with seven other married couples we met weekly, playing for a nominal amount. Basically I didn't play to gamble-more for relaxation, to relieve my mind of problems-although a few times I sat down for fairly high stakes. I usually won. Throughout a period of many years I had assirnilated the , digesting it slowly and thoroughly, trying to analyze and learn from every mistake that cropped up. I had progressed to a skill plateau where I was unafraid to contest anyone.


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