For the last year, Blackjack Bob and I have been keeping in touch via phone, texts and the odd video conference.
Now that we're both vaccinated, we took the plunge and did the grand catch-up over breakfast.
"You know," Bob said, "between us, we've been playing blackjack in casinos for about 70 years. We've seen some strange things in that time, haven't we?"
Yes, I answered, while doing a little mental calculation. I first played casino blackjack in the late 1980s, Bob a little earlier, so we're at more than 30 years apiece. We've seen players do odd things, and we've seen casinos offer odd games.
"I have a new one for the list," Bob said. "I was at a table with two other players. They were only allowing three at a table. One player was a younger woman."
Then Bob laughed at himself. "I guess to me, everyone was younger. She was around 30, I suppose. Anyway, Every time she was dealt an Ace, she yelled, "Ace!" Didn't matter what her other cards were, she yelled "Ace!"
I said I wasn't sure if I'd be annoyed or amused. Bob said he was amused. He and the other man at the table started laughing as soon as they saw an Ace being turned up.
"The thing is, she didn't know what to do with her Aces, at least not when she got pairs of them," Bob said. "She doubled down."
Seriously? I asked how often she did it.
"Three or four times while I was at the table, but it was a pretty long session. The first time, she put the extra bet out and the dealer moved the Aces apart, like she was splitting, but she said no, she wanted to double.
"Dealer called out, 'Double on TWO!' and the supervisor walked right over. No one could believe it.
"I saw her with Aces against a 9 and against a Queen, and she didn't double then. She hit. But she doubled against 6 once and 5 twice. Maybe there was one other, but I'd stopped keeping track and just went with the flow."
Did anyone try to correct her?
"EVERYONE tried to tell her the play is to split, not double," Bob said. "I did, the other player did, the dealer did, the supervisor did. But she had her way.
"And before you pull out your phone to check, I already called up that blackjack hand calculator at Wizard of Odds. Against a 6, the expectation is a 67.6 profit per dollar of your original wager, while doubling takes that down to 20.4 cents. With a dealer 5, it's 62.9 on the split and 13.8 on the double."
I told Bob I'd add it to the list of blackjack weirdness, alongside the player Bob saw a while back who was hitting hard 17 vs. 10s and Aces, and the one who was at a dealertainer table, with a dealer who was an Elvis impersonator. At show time, the dealer launched into "Burnin' Love," and the player jumped off his stool and went into a full Elvis act himself, gyrating away in the aisle.
"I remember that story," Bob said. "I mostly avoided the dealertainers. Tables usually had worse rules than regular tables. Remember the Space Quest room at the Las Vegas Hilton? It was cool, with a Star Trek exhibit and space-themed games. But blackjack was dealer hits soft 17, while I could get stand on all 17s in the main casino."