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March 18, 2012

Photo: President Obama and his Irish cousin chugging Guiness in a D.C. pub

Obama Knocks Back A Guinness On St. Paddy's Day
"So an incumbent president facing a tough reelection fight walks into a bar..." President Obama made a brief St Patrick's Day pilgrimage to a Washington DC Irish bar, The Dubliner, on Saturday, where he quaffed a pint of Guinness and enjoyed cheers from a rowdy crowd of green-clad partiers, some of whom had staked out their spots as early as 10 am. He was accompanied by Henry Healy, described by a White House staffer as the president's ancestral cousin from Moneygall, Ireland, as well as Ollie Hayes, the owner of the Publican bar that the president went to on Moneygall. The president, thwarting any would-be pinchers with a pale moss-green jacket that read "National Parks, America's Best Idea," left the White House grounds at 12:46 pm, his motorcade snaking past well-wishers down to the Dubliner and arriving there at 12:59. A great cheer went up from patrons under a tent on the Dubliner's sidewalk terrace. Another cheer went up from the drinkers one door down at the Irish Times. At both spots, revelers adjusted their green schwag (your pooler was especially fond of the Leprecaun-style hats, though the green wigs and beads were nifty as well, while the shamrock face stickers looked like they would be regretted come Sunday morning) and fumbled with their smart phones to snap a photo. One woman loudly urged the president to "sign my face." He declined, but spent a few minutes shaking hands outside before walking into the Dubliner, past a sign that read: "He who drinks and knows his pace is always welcome in this place. But he who drinks more than his share is never welcome anywhere." The president got more raucous cheers as he walked in (if he paid the $10 cover, it was out of your pooler's field of vision). At the bar in the Dubliner's front room, the president enjoyed a Guinness, taking a couple of respectable sips with what your pooler read as an expression of contentedness. The resulting Guinness mustache was, pooler and others agreed, "much more 'David Niven,' and much less (AP White House ace) Jim Kuhnhenn." On two occasions, the hundreds of partiers sent up cries of "Four more years!" and there was a raucous "U.S.A! U.S.A.!" call at one point.

March 15, 2012

The gambler who took Atlantic City for $15 million

What's interesting here is his out-of-game tactics. The casinos are so desperate for big money players that they will hold special games for them with all sorts of tweaks to the rules. Johnson was given a 20% discount on his losses up to $500,000 and was allowed to change a few of the rules for the House, making Blackjack more fair. He did this by getting the marketing departments at Atlantic City's three biggest casinos to outbid each other, then he held them all to the best deal. He took each of them for an average of $5 million, severely wrecking their months. The Man Who Broke Atlantic City - Magazine - The Atlantic
Johnson’s assault on the Tropicana was merely the latest in a series of blitzes he’d made on Atlantic City’s gambling establishments. In the four previous months, he’d taken $5 million from the Borgata casino and another $4 million from Caesars. Caesars had cut him off, he says, and then effectively banned him from its casinos worldwide. Fifteen million dollars in winnings from three different casinos? Nobody gets that lucky. How did he do it? The first and most obvious suspicion was card counting. Card counters seek to gain a strong advantage by keeping a mental tally of every card dealt, and then adjusting the wager according to the value of the cards that remain in the deck. (The tactic requires both great memory and superior math skills.) Made famous in books and movies, card counting is considered cheating, at least by casinos. In most states (but not New Jersey), known practitioners are banned. The wagering of card counters assumes a clearly recognizable pattern over time, and Johnson was being watched very carefully. The verdict: card counting was not Don Johnson’s game. He had beaten the casinos fair and square. It hurt. Largely as a result of Johnson’s streak, the Trop’s table-game revenues for April 2011 were the second-lowest among the 11 casinos in Atlantic City. Mark Giannantonio, the president and CEO of the Trop, who had authorized the $100,000-a-hand limit for Johnson, was given the boot weeks later. Johnson’s winnings had administered a similar jolt to the Borgata and to Caesars. All of these gambling houses were already hurting, what with the spread of legalized gambling in surrounding states. By April, combined monthly gaming revenue had been declining on a year-over-year basis for 32 months. For most people, though, the newspaper headline told a happy story. An ordinary guy in a red cap and black hoodie had struck it rich, had beaten the casinos black-and-blue. It seemed a fantasy come true, the very dream that draws suckers to the gaming tables. But that’s not the whole story either.