I was playing blackjack at a large casino last night I had never been to before. They had multiple pits separated by whole minefields of slot machines. I did some wandering back and forth, back-counting and bombing into tables as I saw fit, and playing carefully. I was getting heat from the various pit personnel. I figured I wouldn’t last much longer. That is, until I came across Ramon.
I was playing a table with a feisty dealer. Ramon was an employee approaching the pit. He started stepping over the chain barricade between two tables. One foot was over when the dealer chirped, “Hey! You can’t go that way. You have to go around!”
You’re right,” Ramon conceded. “I’m sorry,” he pulled his foot back.
“I’m totally kidding,” the dealer said raising his arms in surrender.
“No, you are right,” said a flustered Ramon, and he walked around. The dealer felt a little bad for his verbal assault, and my mouth dropped as I watched Ramon clock in as the pit manager for the next shift.
At that moment I knew that I didn’t want to leave this pit for the whole night. In an industry of bruisers and bulldogs, I had found a beagle. Ramon was a pushover.
In not so many words, I made it clear to Ramon that I belonged here, that my big money was welcome, that I was not the droid he was looking for and that he was doing a great job. I played the rest of the night without any heat, making sure I never ventured beyond Ramon’s pit.
It’s difficult enough to play perfect blackjack, let alone size up, distract, or charm a pit boss in an attempt to throw them off your scent. I know a handful of card counters who are bulldogs in their own right in this way. I have never been much of a bulldog. But if you learn to keep your ears perked, once in a while a pit boss will give away their weakness. When they do, strike.

—Loudon Ofton