Blackjack, Card Counting & Chip Collecting …

Today is one of those personal anniversaries that means little to anyone other than me … but 23 years ago began both a brief adventure and a life-long passion …

… throughout late 1991 and early 1992, No. 1 son Doug & I studied up on how to play blackjack by counting cards … by February 22, 1992, we thought we were ready to give it a try …

… so, that day he & I and his friend & Cal roommate Brian Watkins headed to Reno, Nevada, to play some blackjack.

Reno The Biggest Little City in the World SignWe stayed at the Sundowner Hotel …

Sundowner Hotel… and played blackjack from the early evening until 6:00 the next morning … slept for a few hours … then went back for another session at the tables.

The experiment was not a rousing success … Doug managed to come out a bit ahead, but I lost just over $100 in 12 hours of total playing time … eventually, we made three more trips to Reno, Tahoe, Sparks & Carson City, but had mixed results and I ultimately ended up with a net loss … so much for the great blackjack card counting experiment.

Of greater significance to me was something else that happened during that first blackjack trip … we first played at Harrah’s …

Harrah's Reno… and I was fascinated by the chips they used to play the game … a lifetime collector of one thing or another, I instantly decided to start collecting casino chips … a hobby I have continued to this day.

The very first chip I ever collected was a Harrah’s $1 chip of a variety called PMSC … or plastic molded solid core … a chip produced by manufacturing a solid metal core then molding plastic around the core to finish the chip …

Harrah's $1 Yellow Brasscore… PMSC chips remain to this day my favorites, though casinos no longer use them.

During that first trip, I collected chips from each of the casinos we played at … Harrah’s, Fitzgerald’s, Sundowner, El Dorado, Flamingo, Circus Circus, Riverboat, Cal-Neva and Harrold’s …

… and once we returned home, I began to research casino chips and their history … which led me to discover The Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club …

CC&GTCC Logo New… which I not only joined, but of which I eventually became…

Life Member #3606-38.

LifeMemberMy collection rapidly expanded, thanks to both the CC & GTCC and eBay, both of which have been the source of hundreds of additions to my collection … a selection of which are reproduced below. _________________________________________________________

My favorite chip — used at an illegal casino operated in the Floridian Hotel in Miami, Florida, by mobster Al Capone.  Only four of these $1 chips are known to exist today.Floridian 1 with BlackLoose Caboose, Cripple Creek, Colorado, $5 house chip. Caboose5The Midnight Rose, Cripple Creek, Colorado, $100 chip issued in 2000 for the supposed start of the new millennium (of course, it wasn’t really, but hey it’s a great chip).  I got this one from my friend chip collecting friend Bob Orme.Midnight Rose Millennium $100Kursaal Oostende, Oostende, Belgium, gaming plaque.Kursaal Oostende 100.000I even managed to combine my new hobby with a previous hobby, collecting US Post Office First Day Covers.  This is a set of $5 chips issued by the Four Queens Casino in Las Vegas honoring the original 13 colonies, along with a First Day display card of Colonial Flags.Four Queens 13 State Set with Colonial Flag StampsI also have a small collection of silver strikes, special tokens issued by some casinos when slot machines still actually had tokens in them.  This is a set of four $10 silver strikes issued by The Palms Casino in Las Vegas, honoring America the Beautiful.  The larger strike in the middle is a $200 strike that is 3 1/2 inches in diameter.  To get one, you had to first collect 20 of the $10 chips, then exchange them for the $200 version (which obviously would not fit in any slot machine).Palms 2004 Silver StrikesAs an adjunct to my chip collection, I have collected decanters from some of my favorite casinos or which relate to particular chip collecting interests … this one is from the Bucket of Blood Casino in Virginia City, a wonderful old Northern Virginia silver-mining town that has fascinated me for years.Decanter Ezra Brooks Bucket of Blood Dead Wagon Right SideAnother decanter, which ties together collecting chips & playing golf.  This one is from a 1971 Invitational Golf Tournament held at the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.Decanter Jim Beam Sahara Invitational 1971 FrontSpeaking of golf, I also have several hundred casino logo golf balls.  This one is from the Carson Nugget Casino, Carson City, Nevada.Casino Logo Ball Carson Nugget Carson City NVEach year at the CC & GTCC convention, the club holds a poker tournament.  In 2001, I played, but did not do well.  I did watch the final table to see my friend Paul Sax (seat 5, back to camera) play.  Also watching, wearing a cowboy hat and looking down at the moment, is my friend Travis Lewin, who was a professor of law at Syracuse University School of Law.CC&GTCC 2001 Poker Scene JTRFinally, the chip collecting hobby innovated the use of individual chips as business cards and personal mementos.  This one is of my friend Archie Black, the founder of the CC & GTCC.  It is a Chipco (ceramic) chip issued by Chipco and the Fiesta Hotel & Casino.Archie99


For more information about the Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club, see the club website here:

The 2015 CC & GTCC convention will be held June 24-27… at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Thee Dot … 101

The “Golden Bear” on Tiger: “… phenomenal … “


Any doubt about who is the “idiot” on the subject of Tiger Woods’ performance in the U.S. Open has been put to rest by no less an authority than Jack Nicklaus.

Golf’s all-time greatest … pending further development of the Woods legacy … was quoted in yet a third Chronicle (this one in August, Georgia, home of the Masters) as follows:

“In light of this week’s revelation about Tiger’s health, it makes his performance in the U.S. Open that much more phenomenal.  I have always said that the U.S. Open is the most difficult and complete examination of a golfer, and for him to persevere with a damaged knee and stress fracture is a testament not only to his ability, but his tremendously high level of competitiveness.”

Nicklaus also observed:

“To have a will as strong as that, I take my hat off to him.”

And thus we have, on the one hand, Gwen Knapp:  “Tiger Woods is an idiot” …

… and on the other, Jack Nicklaus:  Tiger Woods is “phenomenal”.

End of discussion.


For the complete AP article in the Augusta Chronicle, see:

“Tiger Woods is an idiot.” If …


… you believe the San Francisco Chronicle’s would-be sports columnist Gwen Knapp, who starts today’s column with this startling assertion:

“Tiger Woods is an idiot. A mesmerizing, peerless, incandescent idiot.  If he’d used his head at all, he would never have entered the U.S. Open last week ….”

The only idiot in this piece is Gwen Knapp, whose prose is neither mesmerizing nor incandescent, though she is peerless in her lack of understanding of what makes a great athlete.  Tiger’s victory in this Open was an inspirational example of courage in the face of adversity, a concept Miss Knapp is obviously incapable of comprehending.

With this performance, Tiger joined a small group of extraordinary athletes, exemplified by San Diego Charger Kellen Winslow against the Dolphins in the 1981 NFL playoffs … LA Dodger Kirk Gibson in the 1989 World Series … Mary Lou Retton in the 1984 Olympics … New York Knick Willis Reed against the Lakers in the 1970 NBA Championship game … and the Boston Red Sox’ Curt Schilling against the Yankees in game 6 of the 2004 ALCS.

The stuff of legend.  If Tiger never takes another swing, this exceptional win will be the exclamation mark at the end of his amazing career.

Knapp’s entire column can be viewed on the website at:

For another view of Tiger’s win … in a Chronicle of another persuasion (the Houston variety), see:

In this column, a sportwriter … Jerome Solomon … who understands and appreciates the significance of Tiger’s accomplishment, offers his perspective, which starts with the question … “How special was Tiger Woods’ victory at the U.S. Open on an injured knee and bum leg?”

Solomon answers his own question … “With all he had going on – at the most difficult tournament of the year, on the longest course in major-tournament history – Woods was like a one-legged-man in a you-know-what kicking contest. And he still kicked everybody’s you know what.”

And concludes:  “… if you’re really curious about how special Tiger’s performance was – tear your ACL, then continually twist your body around with the force that comes to a locked left knee on a golf swing that generates more than 130-mph clubhead speed.  Or forget the ligament. Just have someone hit you in the shin with a bat every so often – for five days.  Actually, save yourself the pain and accept that this ranks among the great “injured athlete” performances of all time.

Yes, Mr. Solomon … and Miss Knapp … it surely does.