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Conclusion: The Cards Cheat

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No, not the St. Louis Cardinals -- how the heck would I know whether or not they cheat? I'm talking about "playing cards," such as those found at River Rock Casino, where I spent Christmas Eve trying to use superior blackjack strategy to bring home, for AN, the surprise present of personally funding your choice of Jack Cust, Adrian Beltre, or Matt "I promise I'll smile this time" Holliday.

My evening began with my being dealt 20 on the first hand, and watching the dealer calmly hit until she had 21. From there, my luck got worse. I played "by the book," holding on 13 when the dealer showed a 6, only to have her add, to her collection of cards adding up to 16, a 5. I "doubled down" on 10 and 11 when the dealer showed a 5, and that went about twice as badly as when I opted only to lose once.

The coup de gråce (that's German for "capping up my sucky evening") was when the dealer showed a 5 and I was dealt a pair of 10s, so I decided to be bold (since playing properly wasn't really working anyway) and, despite having 20 if I stood pat, I chose to "split" -- I figured, "Why win once when you can win twice? I need to get back some of this money -- Jack Cust isn't going to sign himself!" For the first hand, I was issued a 7 and held with 17. For the second hand, I was dealt an ace, at which point I jumped up, did my happy dance, and cried "Blackjack!!!!1111" at the top of my lungs.

That's when the dealer informed me that at this table -- and only this table, which played "single deck" and compensated by screwing you over on every possible rule -- you couldn't get a blackjack after splitting. It was just considered a 21. "Fine," I thought. "I'll settle for winning two hands when the dealer busts." Forced to draw to a 15, the dealer issued herself a 6. So I lost on the first hand and pushed on the second one. That's right, folks: I managed to lose a hand in which I had a "blackjack."

So unless a free agent is willing to pay the A's $100.00 for the privilege of donning the green and gold, I won't be funding a free agent this Winter after all. Maybe next time I'll go ahead and take Cindi's advice, even if don't feel it's wise to hit on 20 just because "the king and queen really look like they want to have a baby!" Of course if there's a next time, it won't be at that particular casino -- possibly because it started to rain right as I did my happy dance, I'm no longer welcome at River Rock.

Speaking of free agents, count me among the naysayers on the whole "sign Adrian Beltre" bandwagon. Beltre is a superior defensive player and a meh hitter, and while he'd be way better than any of the current 3B contenders, I wouldn't pay Jack Hannahan $4million/year for 4 years and I'm sure not in favor of paying Beltre twice that to be a glorified version -- which is all he's really assured of being in the years he turns 31-34.

Mostly, I don't want the A's to invest that kind of money or that many years, on a player in his 30s. If Oakland can snag a Carter, a Taylor, a Sweeney, a Suzuki -- dare I say, a Cardenas -- whose natural position is 3B, great. If they can snag an upgrade of a stopgap, to allow Cardenas more room to breathe as he attacks AAA pitching, that's great too. But the A's are on the right track, building a nucleus of players who are both young (which means cheap and likely to get better over the next few years) and very talented (which means more upside than an aging "good player" offers).

Turning around and spending something like $32million, and making around a 4-year commitment, to a player in his 30s whose hitting overall, and power specifically, have been in pretty steep decline the past few years? (For the last 5 seasons, Beltre's OBP has hovered only between .304 and .328, and he failed to slug even .400 last year.) I really hope that kind of strategy isn't in the cards. Not that I know a f$%#ing thing about cards.