My calls weren't just winning my hands, most of the riskier ones resulted in the house busting on a card it wouldn't have otherwise drawn. I was becoming a hero at the table. The two serious players thought I was using a strategy they couldn't follow; The sister of the sibling pair playing to see if they'd get lucky knew the basics enough to think I was a pro; Her brother seemed baffled by the game and shy in the face of my assumed expertise.
The artifice of a casino. The assumed comradery because we were sitting at the same table, the cards we held a social network of decisions that could hurt any or all of us. Narcissist or sociopath, whatever it made (and makes) me, I barely gave the other players a thought. Not the impact of my decisions on their hands, nor their humanity. They were a burden to endure, organic meat conduits necessary for the physics of the game. I had some fear of disapproval if my plays hurt the others, but even as the pretty sister smiled at me and kind of flirted as I busted the dealer two hands in a row, and even as one of the serious gamblers made unwanted comments of unasked approval, and even as the brother sought my attention with uncomfortable glances fitting a child, I didn't care about them. Nothing. I smiled, made my comments as efficient as possible, and focused on the game.
Despite the flirtations and approval-giving and approval-seeking, my responses were literally just motions. A motion of a muscle, a motion of a sound. I had no connection to anything but the cards. Then the brother asking my advice on a difficult hand -- Split or not. What would I do. My opinion mattered. I shrugged and smiled and said indifferently "it's your hand". He considered his options, made a play, and won. The table congratulated him. He kind of looked at me, and, for the first time in over an hour with these people, I said something personal and genuine. I said, "see, you followed your heart and it worked". A weak greeting-card message making me sound like a dimwit or Jesus freak. But it was personal and genuine. I meant it. And he kind of looked at me a moment longer and turned away.
Over an hour of people trying to be my friend. And when I responded, I was left cold.
I didn't take it personally. I was intrigued by the utter lack of connection or communication with this person, a puzzle just distracting enough to keep my focus on the cards, a staticy radio station helping keep my eyes on the road.
We hit the end of the shoe and the dealer started her shuffle.
The sister asked me, as audibly as she'd been all game, "how are you playing? Are you counting cards?", not realizing how alarming a question that was at a table, in front of other players, in front of the dealer, maybe in hearing range of the pit boss.
The dealer did indeed lose a beat in her codified shuffling routine and seemed to want to look at someone but didn't. One of the serious gamblers chuckled. I looked at the sister and smiled and shook my head and said "no".
"Well how are you doing that?" Her thinking I was a master of technique or a savant, not understanding that she just happened to be witnessing a random night of winning that statistically balanced all the times I'd lost. Like someone robbed for the first time in their life and attributing victimhood to the criminal instead of understanding it was a statistical inevitability whose time just happened to be here and now, a naive mind attributing it as a quality of human control instead of a quality of linear time intersecting chaotic probability. So she though I was the one "winning" my hands when I was just riding my intuition through probabilistic inevitability.
"If I tell you you'll laugh."
"Haha no I won't."
Then one of the serious gamblers, with the correct amount of amusement in his voice, "Yeah, tell us."
"Ok." A verbal shrug. "I see audio waves. Sine waves, actually. Cycle after cycle of sine waves. And by 'see', I mean experience them in some synaesthesic manner that's not seeing or feeling, but something I can't articulate other than to say 'experience'. Sine waves appear and disappear, they gather and dissipate, and they multiply into harmonics and subtract into modulations, and their cycles phase in and out, and clocks align peaks and valleys and then lose sync, and the waves undulate, and they modulate and are modulated, and there's the constant blanket of motion, seeing the sine waves individually and collectively, phasing in and out, and the cacophony of regulated and unregulated motion starts producing unexpected resonances and chirps and squelches. And as I experience all that, as I ride it, I see the plays to make, I feel how the blanket is warping up and down and rippling forward and backwards, and I see how to be, whether cautious or aggressive, and master-modulating ramps and cycles interact and I can feel when I'm sliding into a state of probably winning vs. a state of probably losing. And the unexpected chirps and squelches and resonances can push me into a breakout event, a moment of particularly good or bad opportunity, to split on matching face cards, to hold on a 12, to lower my bet, double it. That's how I play."
The sister looked at me very seriously. I think she had no means of contextualizing what I said, and it resonated with her as much as if she asked a girlfriend where she got her shoes and was met with tax code. It clearly creeped her out a bit. One of the serious gamblers smirked and said, "alright." The dealer held up offering the cut waiting for me to finish -- I guess she like the others was a bit rapt, though, like the others, rapt with confusion as to whether I was serious or mocking or absurd, not rapt with wonder.
"I told you you'd laugh", smiling.
The sister said, "Yes you did", and didn't have much to say to me, though she got back to the meaningless flirting a few hands later.