I made a last-minute solo trip to Vegas last Thursday, literally thrown together two days before I left. I was on a business trip on Wed and Thu, and when a frequent flyer ticket opened up for Thursday night and Harrah's tossed me two comp nights, I bolted for mecca. The majority of the trip was just uneventful. I spent most of my time at the blackjack tables, systematically losing buy-in after buy-in all over town. I won't bore you with the details, but everywhere I went was the same old 'win one, lose three' scenario. I made contributions at Bally's, Barbary Coast, MGM, Harrah's, NY-NY, and finally made a couple bucks back at Aladdin, which, by the way, is very much under construction - the casino is full of tarps, scaffolding, temporary particle board partitions, and much of the area is inaccessible. So anyhow, by this time it was Friday night, and I was scheduled to head home on Saturday morning. I headed over to Hard Rock with the expectation of losing the last of my cash. I had brought $1000 to gamble with, and was down to my last $175. I had already conceded that this was just not my trip, and Vegas had beaten me, so why not at least spend my remaining moments taking in some eye-candy at HRH? The casino was pretty full when I got there, but I was able to find a blackjack table which just opened up, and only had two other people playing. It was a $25 table, so I was pretty sure I would be going out in a blaze of glory within just a few minutes, the way my luck had been going. But, to my surprise, I won a couple of hands on the tail end of the shoe, and was +3 (wins) by the shuffle. Having three more wins than losses isn't anything to scream about, but I think it was the first time I had accomplished that feat all trip. So we're about to begin the next shoe, when three guys step up to the table and have a seat. I'm in position 2, and the new guys take 1, 3 and 5. One of the previous players had left at the shuffle, so we have five guys at the table. The guy to my left was late-20's with a blonde goatee and a backward ballcap, kinda looked like Fred Durst (wasn't him, though, but for the purpose of this report I'll call him Fred). Fred wasn't much of a talker, but he pulled a massive stack of bills from his wallet and placed $500 cash in both of the betting circles, one for his seat and the other empty spot to his left. The dealer started to reach to exchange the cash for chips, but he waved her off. "Money Plays, Five Hundred! Five Hundred!" which got the attention of the pit boss, who came over to inspect the situation. "Go ahead." The guy to my right (who I'll call Chubbs) tossed out two $100 chips into his circle, and I didn't notice what the other guys were doing, since everyone was intrigued by the $1000 cash bet on the table. I made some kind of comment, under my breath, that it was a very pretty bet. Chubbs told me that Fred was his brother, and Fred was the luckiest @%#$!* he had ever known. He said Fred wins all the time, and so does everyone else at the table wherever he plays... except, of course, for him (Chubbs). So the cards are dealt, and we all get decent hands. I think I had 19, Fred got a 20 and an 10, which he doubled to another 20. Dealer was showing a 7, which she turned into an 18. Everybody won, except for Chubbs, who had a 17. "See what I mean?" he said. This pattern continued for the next two hands - everyone except Chubbs was winning, and Fred kept his two $500 cash bets on the table. So Chubbs turns to me and asks if it's okay if he bets with me, meaning put his money under mine - it was his little way of beating the curse of his lucky brother. I was scared that this would screw up the mojo, but agreed anyhow. So Chubbs slides $500 under my $30, and bets $200 on his circle. Cards come out... I get a 20, Fred gets an 18 and 11, dealer shows a 5. Fred doubles for a 21, dealer pulls a 17. We all win except for Chubbs, who stood on his 13. But, the payout comes and Chubbs nets +$300 because he bet with me. So we continue like this for the rest of the shoe. After about the third hand with Chubbs betting under me, I realized that we had exceeded the table max of $500, so I asked the dealer if that was okay. The pit boss said no, and Chubbs had to pull off $100. I had increased my bet up to $50-60, and I think I lost one hand the whole shoe, but we were able to successfully double down on a hand. Fred did lose one or two hands along the way, but never lost both hands on the same deal, and it seemed like he was able to double or split at least one of his hands every other deal. Chubbs lost most of his hands, but since he was betting more with me than on his own, he was always in the black. At the end of the shoe, everyone colored up - Fred tipped the dealer a grand, Chubbs tipped her $500, and he slid me $500! I feebly tried to tell him it wasn't necessary, but he wouldn't take it back. I colored up for $1535, completely amazed by what had just happened. Recapitulated Thoughts: First time I've ever come home from Vegas with more money than if I hadn't gone at all (unless you count the value of the frequent flyer miles I cashed in). First time I've ever honestly asked the dealer, "Is it okay to bet more than the table maximum?" It is wild to think about the scale of some players; My $25 is to me what $500 is to Fred. I wonder if he had a $20,000 trip bankroll. Aladdin is really torn apart right now. Reports I've read say it's hardly noticeable, but it's hard to miss the guy on the 30 ft. scaffold with a buzzsaw. Oh, and if Harrah's keeps sending me the freebies, I'll keep staying there. But otherwise I really don't care for the place. I don't know if their policy allows pets, but a barking dog next door kept me awake all night.