Wizard
Posted by Wizard
Mar 19, 2011

Parowan Cemetary

I'm not sure if it is my actuarial training or just me, but I seem to have a greater than average interest in cemeteries. In particular, I'm very curious about how long people lived.

Yesterday I went to Brianhead to ski with my two older children. A friend was kind enough to let me stay at his condo, which was right across the street from the Parowan Cemetary. After we got back to the condo there was still a few hours of daylight left so I took my 9-year-old son over the cemetery. To make it interesting for him, I said our mission would be to find somebody who made it to 100.

We failed miserably in our quest. Why? This particular cemetery was filled with unfortunate souls who died as infants and young adults, under the age of 30. It was really quite sad. There were old people too, but it seemed like every other tombstone was for somebody who died much too young. These pictures are just a very small sampling. I took lots more, and even those are just a sampling of the whole place.

I'm left to wonder if this cemetery is an actuarial anomaly or there is some other explanation.

Young Adults



Kristin -- 22 years.




Jesse -- 16 years.




Heidi -- 27 years.


Infants



Hannah -- 1 year, 9 months.



Michelle -- 1 year, 11 months.




Garrett -- 10 days.




Nathan -- 5 years, 9 months.





Dustyn -- 9 days.





Russell -- 0 days.

Comments

Nareed
Nareed Mar 19, 2011

Sometimes I'll note lifespans when looking at headstones, too.



BTW I've been to only 5 cemeteries in my whole life. 4 of them Jewish: two in Mexico City, one in Monterrey, and a military one in Israel.

Wavy70
Wavy70 Mar 19, 2011

Going back as far as I can remember I have always been fascinated with cemeteries and graveyards. Being from CT I have 4 centuries of them to explorer.



I must say the number of young folks you found was a bit odd being that it was the 20th century. Here I oft find groups of children who all died within weeks of each other. They always coincide with smallpox or influenza outbreaks. I found one recently in my family's cemetery that had 3 brothers ages 2, 5 and 7 all died within 6 days on the mid 1860's. That one made me step back just imagining the situation.



The inscriptions and sentiments expressed in the Victorian era are usually very beautiful. The small Lamb monuments used for children, the obelisks, mausoleums. If you are a cemetery fan you have to visit Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Magnificent is the only word. Aside from great views of lower Manhattan you will find some amazing artwork (in addition to some boisterous parrots). Boss Tweed, L.C. Tiffany, Horace Greeley, Samuel Morse and thousands more.





Not sure if you have seen this site http://www.findagrave.com/

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Mar 20, 2011

Perhaps its a matter of economics. Headstones are expensive, plots cost money, the cemeteries have to be maintained. It could simply be that local economics involving land values played a role in what cemeteries continue to exist.



Probably very skewed data to begin with.



Of course since its in a Mormon area, it probably was well maintained.

AZDuffman
AZDuffman Mar 20, 2011

I have always been one to read the dates on the headstones, both for short, long, and long-ago. There is a very small cemetary near me that is right next to an airport runway. I mean RIGHT NEXT TO. How it maintains itself I do not know, but my thinking is it was there long before the airport. I do wonder how much longer we will really have cemetaries. More and more people would rather be creamated. I hear from my parent's generation how they had to go weekly to cut the grass around the graves of loved ones back then. One uncle made good cash by charging $2-5 to do it. Just a few seconds work for him but saves the people loading the lawn mower in their cars. But now, I can't think of having really visited a grave since I was a little kid. Myself I plan to donate my body to a medical school, my parents want to be creamated. The cost being so high and visits falling, I'd say in 100 years few will exist and people will not believe how much was spent on headstones, etc.

inap
inap Mar 20, 2011

being close to graduation, i have to remember something i tell my two daughters to remind them to be safe and not take life for granted. sadly almost every graduating class of almost every high school will 'lose' someone within the first year after graduating or even during their senior year, and at this young age almost always due to violence, (usually a car accident). i'm sure most of us can personally relate to a sad story like this.

pacomartin
pacomartin Mar 20, 2011

I found some old government statistics from about a decade ago, that had 8.4% of all deaths as happening to people under the age of 45. About 15.08% were people who were age 55 or younger. For 56-74 it was 28.39%, and a total of 56.53% of deaths were people age 75 or older. I don't think things have changed dramatically since then.



I think with older people cremation or simple urns are more popular. With younger people there is more of an urge to build a monument.

AZDuffman
AZDuffman Mar 21, 2011

@INAP: You are right but might even be understating it. When I was in high school the next district over had a student death a few weeks before graduation, I forget the cause of death. A girl I worked with said they were told had it not happened they would have been the first class NOT to have had a death in their high school years in something like 20 or more years. Myabe WIZ can use some acturial math here, but my guess is as long as you have 250+ or so a graduating class will statistically have a death in the 4 years of High School.

Ayecarumba
Ayecarumba Mar 21, 2011

Some cemeteries have areas set aside for younger decedents. Perhaps you were in that "neighborhood". The town of Parowan was founded in 1851, and is in a rual area that has tough winters. Health care probably did not improve until the 1920's or 30's that would allow folks to live to 100 or more, so maybe if you check back in 10 - 20 years there may be more. Just a guess.

Knuckleball3
Knuckleball3 Mar 21, 2011

I too have a semi fascination with cemeteries, especially older ones. I believe I get it from my father, every time we would travel somewhere new and there appeared to be an old cemetery he would stop and take pictures. I recently was in Germany for 6 months and stumbled across an older cemetery while walking around one day. I took a lot of pictures and noticed the great care each grave site was treated with (very well maintained). I will try to post some pictures if I can figure out how.

Razz
Razz May 02, 2011

Today I've found some interesting thoughts about life expectancy:

"It is generally thought that life expectancy in the past was less that it is today for our species as a whole and in the case of industrialized countries in particular. However, this belief counts as a falsehood not because it is untrue (it is, in fact, true) but because many people get this idea wrong in a few different ways."

Greg Laden

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Wizard
Posted by Wizard
Feb 21, 2011

Confessions of a Confrejo

Introduction: This is a draft of a blog entry for my Odds site. You guys get to be the guinea pigs. Let me know what you think. Any parts I should cut down or leave out? Any details you feel I glossed over too fast? Sorry it runs so long.

I have been writing about casinos for 14 years. In those years I have traveled the world a fair bit and always tried to visit as many casinos as possible to see what the rest of the world is doing in the world of gambling. In that time I've seen a thing or two but never anything to compare to the Veneto casino in Panama City, Panama. I just came from there and this is the story of my visit.

The primary reason for my trip to Panama was banking in nature, but the secondary purpose was to investigate and report on the gambling scene in Panama City. I will go over that, and other non-gambling activities in two future blog entries coming soon.

This was my first visit to Panama. When I made my arrangements to go there the number of people I knew the country was zero. So I chose my hotel, the Riande Continental, based on decent reviews on Travelocity and a competitive price. I had no idea of the quality of the area. I arrived late at night, checked in, and was given a room with a view of Via Veneto. It was perfectly obvious from my window that this minor street was in an adult-oriented part of the city, as evidenced by a lot of bars, taxis, and people milling about late at night.

That first evening I visited the Crown Casino in my own hotel, which was uneventful. I played about an hour of blackjack and had no interaction with other players. It was a fairly small casino that seemed to draw a local crowd.

The next day I had a business meeting in the morning and then the rest of the day was mine. For any tourist to Panama City the number one priority should be to see the Panama Canal, which I did that day. I'll write more about that in another blog entry.

That evening, a Monday night, I set out to expand my horizons around my hotel and headed down Via Veneto to get a closer look at what all the fun was about I could see going on from my hotel window. There were several gift shops, fast food places, Internet cafes, two Strip clubs, and then I came to the Veneto hotel and casino.

So I wandered in and there was an escalator leading up to the second floor, which obviously held the casino, judging by the noise. The young woman ahead of me on the escalator was dressed like a stripper, but had that look-at-me swagger that prostitutes do so well. When I got to the top and looked around it was the same kind of girl, but there were about 50 more of them, milling about. Not even in Macau have I seen anything like this. There were lovely young women in tight skimpy dresses and high heels everywhere you looked.

I initially felt overwhelmed so I found a blackjack table to play towards the back of the casino, where there were fewer people, and I figured nobody would bother me if I was actively playing. To still maintain a good view of things I sat down in the middle of the table.

After about 15 minutes a pretty young woman who seemed to be in her mid-twenties sat down next to me. Unlike the other young women in the casino, she was modestly dressed and both looked and acted like the stereotypical girl next door look. However, I'm basically a good boy, so just sat there quietly and minded my own business.

After about five minutes of silent play she had an obvious double down situation. Like an 11 against a 5. She didn't have enough chips to make a full double down so she asked if I wanted to go in on the rest. I knew it was a positive expected value play, so I agreed. A red flag went up that maybe she wouldn't pay me if I won, but it was only $5, and I am not such a good boy to resist a chance to break the ice with the young woman beside me. So I put down some of my own chips on top of hers to make a maximum double down wager. It won, and she paid me my original bet and winnings without comment. I probably said "thank you," and left it at that.

By the way, the proper strategy for this kind of piggybacking situation is bet any situation with a positive expected value. Such a table can be found in my blackjack appendix 5. Any cell in green is a good bet. If you don't want to memorize it, at least know that every double down situation has a positive expected value. If it didn't, you shouldn't be betting more.

After that similar opportunities came up again. They were always what I felt were good bet situations, so I always obliged, and I usually won. It was the best of both worlds, I was making bets in my mathematical favor and befriending the lovely lady by my side as she started to chat a bit.

Then three of her friends showed up and sat on the other side of her. The one immediately on her left was a young guy who greeted her with the European style hug and kiss on the cheek. I need to learn the proper way to do this greeting, as I get nervous and muck it up every time non-American women greet me that way (which is not often). The guy looked very gay, but I hate making such assumptions. Even if he was, I think it is not gentlemanly to hit on a woman you don't know in the presence of her male friends.

Despite the arrival of her friends, she continued to let me partially double on her bets, and paid me in full every time. I thought it was foolish to partially give up strong double down bets to a stranger when you have your own money at hand, but I have a strict policy of never offering unsolicited advice at the tables, especially when it adversely affects me. This must have gone on for about an hour. She made some small talk along the way, but I kept my answers short and to the point. Meanwhile her friends, who were not playing, seemed be getting bored and restless.

Eventually the young lady said "We're going to have a smoke on the balcony. Would you like to join us?" She was gathering her chips, so I didn't expect her to return. As a point of order, smoking is probated in casinos in Panama, a law I enthusiastically applaud. I learned later they had a balcony by the nearby sports book for smoking.

Alone and bored in a strange place, I was tempted to join them. However I thought something was fishy. A group of young people befriending a middle-aged man. Something must be in it for them, but what? I was curious, but the skeptic in me won over and I said "No thanks, I don't smoke."

So they went on their merry way, I played by myself a little more, and then left. Along the walk back to my hotel I dodged lots of desperate looking whores on the street, men handing me business cards to their dens of ill-repute, and taxi drivers calling out to me, "I can take you to a good place!"

The next day I did a half-day tour of the historical sights of Panama and had a business dinner at night. When I returned back to my hotel I put my things away and headed back to the Veneto. That second night I was feeling a little more bold so took a table closer to the entrance to the casino to watch the working girls. It was a crowded table but there was an open seat at my left.

About five minutes after sitting down a sexy young girl sat down next to me. She was wearing a school girl short skirt, low cut shirt, and had on lots of make up. She immediately started chatting me in Spanish. I am always up for the opportunity to improve my Spanish with pretty girls. The truth be told, this was the first such time. Usually it is maids and landscapers who I torture with my horrible Spanish, so this was a welcome change.

Things went well the first five minutes or so, but then she went bust of the meager bankroll she presented at the table. So she just sat there quietly with puppy dog eyes. So in the name of having a paid Spanish lesson, I gave her $10 in chips. Eventually these went dry to, but I was having a good time, so gave her a little more.

Then the table went on a tear, and everybody was winning almost every hand. At this time she gradually colored up red to green chips and put the greens in her purse. It seemed she was doing this and betting carefully to never quite have enough money to fully double down or split. At those times, much like the previous girl, she asked me for the difference. As this went on her bets kept getting bigger, and she encouraged me to bet more too. She was also giving me less and less back when I won.

Let me pause the story for a moment. The book I read on the flight to Panama was Fool me Once by Rick Lax. The subtitle was "Hustlers, hookers, and headlines and how <i>not</i> to get screwed in Vegas. In the book the author befriended such characters to learn their methods. One common method was to go to nightclubs presumably as a tourist, wait to get hit on, and then ask for money to go up to his room.

The next book I had just started was Super Freakonomics. The chapter I had recently finished pondered the question of why more attractive women in their twenties don't enter the $500/hr profession as high-end escorts. Both books made the prostitution business look like any other service-based profession, only necessitating tricks to find customers (maybe that is why they call them tricks), and staying under the radar of the law. Not that I was saying the women I met were prostitutes, but I didn't rule it out either, especially not the second one. In the name of research, I was trying to figure out what their angle was.

Back to the story, there were more red flags being raised than at a Beijing parade on August 1 (the anniversary of the Communist Chinese army). However, I wanted to know what it was leading up to, if anything. As time went on it was getting to be an expensive lesson in Spanish and hustling. My final hand at the table she made a split, a re-split, and some double down wagers. Despite having plenty of green chips in her purse, she was grabbing at my big stacks of red chips. She never asked, and in all fairness, I never said 'no.' The dealer busted, and the original bets and winnings must have amounted to about $200. Of this she me back only about $50. This was entirely insulting so I colored up and left in a huff.

I wondered if she would follow me, so I watched from a distance for a minute, but she remained at the table. I saw her passing out chips to other players at the table who she previously had never acknowledged. Then I went to the men's room, and when I came out she was nowhere to be seen. So I wandered around the casino, kicking myself for being such an idiot, and angry that I didn't even get a thank you. I was not sure who I was angrier at -- myself or the wench. Probably myself. I thought about complaining to somebody about it, but I was too embarrassed.

As I wandered around, not really paying attention to my surroundings, somebody said "Hey you!" It was the girl from the previous day, who was sitting at some slot machines with her friends, but not playing. It was so refreshing to see her face. While there was a lot in common to the two incidents, the first girl never took one penny of mine, and was completely warm and non-aggressive.

She introduce herself and all her friends. Let's call her Alicia (not her real name). The two men she was with she said were gay. Not the kind of thing that people usually mention in introductions back home, but I appreciated the candor. Maybe she thought I was too. She wouldn't have been the first to do so. Or maybe she thought I was keeping a polite distance the previous night because she had male friends nearby, which would have been right.

So, after the introductions I asked if I could relay the story of girl #2. Alicia said "sure" and listened attentively. After I finished she laughed and said "Oh, that was Angie!" I will leave her name unchanged, to serve as a warning to other men who may find themselves at the Veneto someday. Alicia said Angie did other things worse than hustling chips, but didn't humor me with specifics. After more chit chat she invited me on another smoking break, which I accepted this time. As much as oppose smoking in public places, I admit that I will share in a cigarette from time to time. As we stood outside the casino sharing a cigarette Alicia confessed that she also does chip hustling, but considered Angie as a competitor and she seemed to indicate that they didn't like each other. Then she volunteered that she didn't make a move for my chips because I was concentrating so hard, was quiet, and drinking very little. Those are all trademarks of how I play blackjack. No wonder I get identified as a card counter so quickly -- and I wasn't even counting at that time. Speaking of which, I didn't bother counting in Panama because I didn't bring enough money to be sufficiently capitalized and have it worth my bother.

So after having my questions answered I felt I would end the evening on a good note. So I took my leave, but added that I would probably return the next night to the casino. Alicia said that she would look for me.

The next evening I went back to the table where I first met Alicia and played by myself. After about half an hour she showed up by herself and we played together and chatted more. This time I did give her some gambling money, but she never asked for more than I what I gave, and I didn't give her very much, especially compared to the stacks that Angie was just grabbing from the previous night. I mentioned that I was in Panama all week by myself and asked if she could show me the Calle Uruguay part of town, which my travel guide said was the hot nightclub area. By the way, I mean "nightclub" in the American way, meaning bars that cater to the young and play really loud music. In Spanish speaking countries a "nightclub" is what Americans would call a "strip club." What we call a nightclub they call a disco. After that was cleared up, she said sure. I said I would be happy to spring for dinner for her and her group of friends and pay her something for her time.

So the next night that is what we did and had an innocent good time. We were accompanied by one of her gay friends and his younger sister. That went on until 3:00 in the morning, at which point I was out of gas, and we called it a night. I offered $200 for her time, but she only took $150. Before parting I invited her to come by the pool of my hotel and have some lunch, which she accepted.

The next day, a Friday we had lunch together, and dinner with a group of her friends, her sister, and her sister's friends in a room at the Veneto she got comped. During this time I improved my Spanish and learned more about her life. In addition to making money as a private tour guide to people like me she is what I would call a low-level advantage player, mainly playing liberal promotions and milking the casinos for comps. I tried to give her some pointers on how to improve her earning capacity in that area, but I don't think she understood what I was talking about. That probably happens more often with my audiences than I care to know.

After dinner her sister and sister's friends wanted to go to the casino, which they didn't get a chance to visit very often. This was a Friday night mind you, and the casino was packed. There must have been two to three times the crowd as the previous Monday to Thursday nights. Previously there were beautiful young prostitutes everywhere. However, this Friday night it was a seller's market. There were lots of horny looking American men on the prowl for pretty girls. Only the older, fatter, and desperate ones seemed to be left. I overheard conversations between men strategizing about where to look, how low to set their standards, and other places to try. The lesson clearly to be learned is that if that is what you are looking for, best to be there mid-week, when it is the women that have to compete over a small supply of interested men.

We lost everyone else in the crowd and it was just Alicia and me. I told her that what I really wanted to see was to observe her doing the chip hustle on other men, while I observed from a distance. Alicia refers to this as trying to catch "canfrejos." The word cangrejo is Spanish for crab. Why she spells it was an F instead of a G I am not sure. A friend of mine in Mexico theorized that the F comes from feo, which means ugly in Spanish, making the word slang for "ugly crab." I've been called worse.

She didn't seem to feel it was a good time for catching canfrejos, so I offered to scout around. There didn't seem to be any lonely rich men so I identified what I thought was the best prospect, a man about 60 playing by himself. He looked like he was in a bad mood, but there was no better alternative. So she sat down next to him. From my distance I could see she was trying to make small talk and congratulating him when he won sometimes. Eventually she went bust and just sat there and commented on his play. After about ten minutes of him showing no interest she threw in the towel and left.

Then I identified a couple of guys about my age at another table. They seemed to be in a good mood, but betting small. Betting small is not a sign of a good mark Alicia told me, but sometimes you can't be too picky. One was at the end of the table so she took a seat by the other guy, who looked much like Javier Bardem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Javier_bardem), so I'll call him that. This was going better than the last grump. After watching from afar for a while I took a seat at the opposite end of the table without saying a word. I could feel the temperature gradually going up and the guys warming up to Alicia. The men seemed nice. Javier once congratulated me for "saving the table," something I hate to get credit for, because it also means I stand to get incorrectly blamed for ruining the table as well if I should "take the dealer's bust card," as the myth goes.

About 15 minutes after I sat down a supervisor came along and closed the table. Never in my many casino experiences have I seen a table being closed with active players. So Alicia followed the men to another table. I didn't want it to seem like I was trailing her, so I played at a table adjacent to the one they chose. A skanky prostitue who had been trailing me earlier sat down next to me and was being flirty. I tried to give her the polite impression I wasn't interested, but she was persistent and wouldn't leave.

By the way, the game we were playing was one Casino Hold 'Em, which I helped develop with a client and friend of mine. The Veneto refers to the game as "Texas Hold 'Em," not to be confused with the version played against other players. I had never seen it in a casino before this trip, so it was nice to see a baby I feel I helped raise actually being played in a casino. Few table game inventors ever get that far.

After about 20 minutes the working "girl" still didn't leave, and I thought it was safe to join Javier's table again. I put girl in quotes because she was probably well into her forties. So I switched to Javier and Alicia's table. It seemed the temperature had not changed. It was still at just a friendly level, but the men seemed to be more interested in gambling than talking with a pretty girl. About a hour after first joining them Alicia gave up and said goodbye to them. It would seem I'm the only sucker, but the fun was well worth the price.

I left a few hands later and found her outside smoking. There was an Internet cafe across the street, so I offered to show her some things about blackjack on my web site. All along the last two days I tried to correct mistakes she was making in her blackjack play, but don't think I made much of an impact. How would she know if I was a legitimate gambling writer or just another quack? I'm sure she still doesn't.

By this time it was getting very late so we said our goodbyes. She didn't ask for any money for her time that night. I should have offered. The next day I offered to correct my oversight by Email, but she just said some kind words but didn't address the offer.

My flight wasn't supposed to leave until 2:30 PM the next day so I decided to go back to the Veneto and officially complain about Angie. I knew I would be writing up my story, but wanted to give the proper avenue of justice a chance to work too. At the casino I asked for the manager, who appeared. He didn't speak English, and my Spanish is not good enough to tell the story of Angie properly, so we used a translator at the front desk.

I fully admitted that I was at fault, and only wanted to make the point that I felt that Angie was being too aggressive, and suggested they ask her to tone it down. They don't seem to let the prostitutes be too aggressive, so the same should apply to others using their casino as a free place of business. As long as they wanted to keep things under control I thought that they might not approve of how strong Angie came on.

So the manager asked me for the details -- day, time, and table, which I provided. He also made some calls and spoke to a floorman on duty who was familiar with Angie. I don't know what if anything will come of his investigation. Maybe he was just humoring me with the calls. As the morning manager he didn't seem very familiar with the debauchery that goes on at night.

While I had his attention I asked if they require the working girls to show a bill of clean health to work the casino floor. He said no and something about it being a public place. Still, I think that would be a good idea.

Some readers may have some unanswered questions. These answers don't come from direct experience but second hand from people I asked. The going rate for a hooker is $150 for an hour. I would imagine this is might depend on the girl and the day of the week, so take that as a benchmark.

I'm also told that the other hotels in the vicinity don't allow the working girls to enter past 6:00 PM. To be specific, this would include my hotel, the Riande Continental, the El Panama, the Crown Plaza, and the Riande Granada. One American told me that a $25 bribe could cause that rule to be overlooked.

So that is my story of the Veneto. I hope it wasn't too boring. That is about as much excitement as this middle-aged man ever gets.

Comments

Nareed
Nareed Feb 21, 2011

$150 an hour is a lot of money for a third world country. I don't know what Panama's economy is like, but to give you an idea the monthly minimum wage in Mexico is about $150.



Before you ask, I don't know what the going hourly rate is in Mexico City.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 21, 2011

I think Panama is wealthier than Mexico, on average, but not by a large order of magnitude. Also consider that the girls I saw Monday-Thursday were absolutely gorgeous. The customer base seemed to be largely Americans, who can afford to pay the $150 an hour. In the US, for a top shelf hooker, the cost would be at least $500 an hour. I know the disparity is huge compared to the average monthly wage, but such is the case with developing countries. $150 would seem a reasonable intersection of supply and demand to me.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 21, 2011

Chip hustle?

The more demurely dressed woman was a good enough player to know what the proper Double Down opportunities were, she intentionally offered a low buyin and soon ran low on chips but even later when she had sufficient chips she kept roping you in to a "share in my Double Down opportunity" with no specific agreement about sharing the profits or at what rate to share the profits. Despite the lack of any agreement, she kept sharing in a mathematically correct fashion that you felt was fair. Now WHY would she be doing this? Is she trying to practice her English with a nice American tourist?



A more brazenly dressed woman does the same thing of a low buy in and a none too subtle come-on about give me some chips and she shares the payouts with you on a less than consistent basis and less than fair and generous basis.



I'd say that they were each in the same profession, but one was dangling a different sort of bait than the other. If it were a casino crew hustling tips you might refer to one as a soft hustle and one as a hard hustle. Same game, different level of blatancy. The demurely clad girl plays out a longer line and hooks fewer fish but asks for more money. The more skanky one goes thru more victims each night.



Sort of the difference between the hookers allowed into a hooker bar and the hookers required to ply their trade outside the bar.



In the USA we have the term "dedicated woman" for a prostitute who provides the service and does not steal from her johns. We also have "car girls" who pretty much do nothing but steal from their johns. There is always a range in the middle. I think you ran into the equivalent in Panama. Just as our strip clubs require the girls to get there early to pay lower stage rent, the casinos in Panama require early entry by the girls.



Note: Why would a woman introduce a newly arrived male as being gay? Appearances aside, its a prompt and prominent announcement of non-threat to any future business negotiations you might wish to have with the woman. Is he her friend or is there an economic relationship? I'm not sure.



In the USA just about all the young ladies these days are aware of the commercial value of their assets and the fact that such assets depreciate rather promptly. At the lower end of the economic scale we have girls who migrate between fast food restaurants, security guard positions and low-level prostitution. At the higher end we have top flight escorts offering a Girl Friend Experience. In between there is a tremendous amount of commercial activity on a informal limited-clientele basis. College girls often have one or two men paying their expenses in return for "being appreciative". Young girls who hold jobs, often well-paying jobs, will still have some man paying their rent. Beautiful girls are the coin of the realm. Always has been, always will be. What changes is the price and the blatancy level. Some bars are known for "chippies on the make" and well-off men. Some bars are known for having cheap hookers and men who are not wealthy at all but are still willing to pay for some action. Its a bit like the two girls you met in Panama: different levels but same general occupation.



I think the value of the American dollar is such that your paying for a tour guide was still a profitable experience for her.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 22, 2011

I don't disagree with any of that. When I first encountered girl #1 I did think she was a novice gambler because that was the act she put forth and I had no base of experience to doubt it. Call me a rube. In retrospect I agree they were doing the same thing, but one slow-playing it, and the other going for the fast take down. You can see I indicated girl #1 said girl #2 was a competitor.



In an earlier draft I offered those same ideas about the gay confession. However, it was running about 1000 words more than what I have now, so I started cutting out things that I thought the reader would assume, like that.



The prostitution chapter in Super Freakonomics makes the same point you just did about the enormous economic power of attractive women in their twenties in the escort business, and pondered why more don't get into it. I think they were right.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 22, 2011

Concerning economics: Although the above Draft is a bit over-long you might want to mention the economic effects of prostitution in Panama being legal. You might also mention the closures of some of the more notorious nightspots by nearby hotels versus the obvious expectation that casinos will have large numbers of such women plying their trade there.



I wonder if the subtle approach by the normally dressed young lady means that she was a part-timer or whether it was all a polished act of a full timer?



Perhaps you might reflect on just how soon you tipped to what was up with the first girl's obvious skill in playing versus her utter lack of skill in money management. When did you realize that style of dress and manner of approach may have been "upscale" but the activity is indeed the same as always?

Mosca
Mosca Feb 22, 2011

Fascinating. If anything, make it longer. Put the rest back in and cut it in half, do a two parter.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 22, 2011

Before this trip I didn't even know prostitution was legal in Panama, or at least not illegal, which is the status in Macau. You don't see many Catholic countries openly allowing gambling and prostitution, but good for them for doing so. About the history and economics of prostitution in Panama, I have almost no clue. Would you care to write something about that?



With both girls hustling for tips at the table was not the only angle. Girl #1 did private tour guide services, and she also said she makes introductions to prostitutes if customers ask for that. I was told girl #2 did double duty as a prostitute, and was known to steal from her customers at the same time. A story was told where she stole $50,000 from a customer and did a year in jail for it, on the condition she repaid the money, which she did.



Mosca, glad you liked the story. I could easily make it twice as long. If there is sufficient interest I'll make a long version later on. My next project is to write up the general casino scene in Panama City.

odiousgambit
odiousgambit Feb 22, 2011

I initially felt overwhelmed so I found a blackjack table to play towards the back of the casino I kind of had to smile at this. Your discomfort with prostitutes while at the same time having to acknowledge the attractive power of the high priced call girl also resonates with me, but I was even more surprised that you describe what I always feel walking into a place of gambling new to me. I would have thought you would have left that behind long ago, yet here you do something that I would!



Any parts I should cut down or leave out? I agree that a two-parter is the way to go.



Any details you feel I glossed over too fast? Sorry it runs so long. It was long already as you note. I guess if you did a two-parter you could have more on this Alicia, if there is more to tell.



Super Freakonomics Haven't read that book, but here's my thoughts on how few women become high paid call girls:



*naturally people try to keep their daughters away from the kind of influences that would lead to this.

*those women don't take on apprentices or go around advocating other women take it up. I have to say such is very much not in the nature of women, to tolerate competition from other females, much less encourage it.

*I think we may be under-estimating how scary women find such a lifestyle. I think the fact that they rely on Pimps so much testifies to this. Certainly it is true some of them get abused, even killed [there's a fairly recent case of a Minnesota college woman IIRC who secretly led that lif and paid that price].

DJTeddyBear
DJTeddyBear Feb 22, 2011

Great story.



I'm surprised that you didn't use the services of a prostitute - in the name of research, of course!



But seriously, in the name of research, at some point you should have confronted Angie to see what her reaction would be.

teddys
teddys Feb 22, 2011

Great story. As a single guy who travels a lot, and doesn't monger as such, this kind of stuff happens to me often.



Nice to see you got on well with Alicia without it being a money-for-sex thing. There's probably a market for that.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 22, 2011

Panama: I have very little knowledge of Panama but when has having little knowledge about a topic ever been the slightest impediment to my spouting off about it?

My understanding is that many of the women are not Panamanian but the general situation is the prostitution is legal and that some more notorious businesses are being closed by economic and other pressures as neighborhoods change. There are bare bones hotels that we might refer to as Micro Hot Sheet Hotels. They are not illegal and are often sensible options for customers who are not involved in commercial activity. Economic pressures make the prices for prostitutes rather low. American soldiers used to be a major segment of the market but now the market also consists of tourists and ex-patriates. It is possible to obtain something for as low a price as twenty dollars but in reality higher prices can be expected. From various internet sources, it seems that 150 for an hour would be a top of the line price.



Its likely that a man's wallet would be safer with the soft-hustler than with the woman who was being less generous with the chips that had been provided to her. I think casinos in las vegas are not much different: economics plays a major role and dangers abound.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 22, 2011

I'm surprised that you didn't use the services of a prostitute - in the name of research, of course!



Dang, now you tell me!



Seriously, I'm like a woman in that I need to know somebody before I have a sense of attraction. Even if I could put marital vows aside, I don't see enjoying it if I didn't know the girl well.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 22, 2011

There are bare bones hotels that we might refer to as Micro Hot Sheet Hotels.



I heard there were places nearby that rented rooms by the hour. They may have been next to strip clubs. Lots of taxi drivers try to get male customers to go to these places at night.

odiousgambit
odiousgambit Feb 22, 2011

if I could put marital vows aside with a story like this, I think my wife would have assumed I had done just that

progrocker
progrocker Feb 22, 2011

Great trip report! I've been to the similar scene (casinos and zorras) in Costa Rica a couple of times but I might have to consider a trip to Panama now. Your story plus the Panama episode of No Reservations make it seem like a fun place to visit. Also seems a bit safer than San Jose from your description.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 22, 2011

Are you sure she wasn't calling you a "conejo" (a rabbit)? It would seem to make much more sense than calling you a crab. In many countries it is not unusual to pay a girl (not a hooker) to be entertaining company. Japan has thousands of girls from Sri Lanka and the Phillipines that will engage in small talk, look pretty, and giggle and laugh without any prostitution. They are often used to liven up a business meeting.

---

You have to watch your Spanish words from country to country. "Cachar" and "Coger" in particular can range from very inoffensive verbs in some countries to vulgar slang in other countries. In Spain "conejo" is vulgar. Huevos is often vulgar in Mexico, even though we are used to the word in the Southwest.

---

I have never heard of the word Beneto in Spanish. The word "Veneto" is pronounced like it begins with a "b". Did you see the casino name written down, or did you just hear it?

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 22, 2011

I am not surprised that the prostitutes are not Panamian. It is traditionally a very multi-cultural society, as tens of thousands of people were brought in to work the canal. Because of their reliance on the dollar, it is a good place for money laundering. Also there are wealthy people in Panama compared to nearby countries (Costa Rica is better off than Panama).

Nareed
Nareed Feb 22, 2011

Paco: "conejo" would be a mocking term for a man, so maybe that's it. But I don't see how you can integrate an "fr" sound the Wizard said he heard.



"Huevos" has lost some of its vulgarity. It always depended on context, so finding the word on a breakfast menu dind't set anybody off. But then many terms that were, literally, unprintable years ago are now found in print. "Coger" is still current. Say it in public and someone will either be upset or tease you for using it.



For everyone else, "coger" literally means "to grab," or "to take." As used in Mexican slang it means "to f****"

Wizard
Wizard Feb 22, 2011

Dang! After the above exchange I went to verify the spelling, and it should have been CANFREJO. This comes directly from "Alicia":



...The name is "CANFREJO",...



I responded by asking about the etymology, but have not heard back.



Several people there referred to the prostitutes as the "Columbian girls." At another casino I happened to be there when they were having a beauty pageant. When they introduced each girl they always seemed to be from Columbia as well.



Another way to tell the prostitutes is you could tell they had a lot of plastic surgery done. Not just the usual adjustments here and there, but it was often very over the top. I think most of the girls would have been prettier left alone.



It was a real racial mix in Panama. You had the range from white as me to dark as Adi Amin, and everything in between. As far as I could tell everybody got along pretty well, unlike in this country.

boymimbo
boymimbo Feb 22, 2011

Actually, I think that the story is far too long. It's interesting here in the blog, but on your WOO site, a couple of things, it's a bit too long and descriptive.



I don't think it's anyone's business of your "flirtateous" behavior or the fact that you're not dead to young women. You could make a precis of the whole story, and retain full interest. Just my two cents anyway.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 22, 2011

I was wondering about that veneto/beneto thing... but if it was the Veneto then the description of the crowd means the ranks have been very much pruned of late. He was at the "after"... the "before" would have been wall-to-wall hookers. I have an acquaintance who did his military service in Panama and one who is thinking of becoming an expatriate down there.



I did note that it was impossible to google the Spanish term and come up with a reasonable meaning.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 22, 2011

It is my style to run long when it comes to trip reports. I think blog entries are supposed to be detailed and descriptive.



The casino name was the Veneto. I see that I misspelled it with a B in some places. Perhaps someone can explain the difference between the B and V sounds in Spanish.



Nareed was the one with the theory that the F replaced the G to combine the words CANGREJO and FEO to make CANFREJO, which would mean ugly crab.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 22, 2011

The Spanish "b" (be larga) and "v" (be corta) are pronounced exactly alike. These letters have two separate sounds, hard and soft. At the beginning of a word and after "m" or "n", the hard Spanish "b/v" closely resembles the "b" in the word "boy," except that the lips are held tense. In other situations, the "b/v" is pronounced like an English "b" in which the lips are not allowed to touch. (This is a sound that does not exist in English.)



The Spanish "g" has three separate sounds: hard, soft and an "h" sound. After a pause and when followed by "a", "o", "u", and when following the letter "n", the hard Spanish "g" closely resembles the "g" in the word "got." The soft "g" sound is not like any English sound, and will require considerable practice. This sound normally occurs between vowels. Finally, when "g" comes before "e" or "i", it sounds like the "h" in the word "hot" except that it is "raspier."



El Cangrejo is the neighborhood of Panama City that would include your hotel (crabs are wonderful meals there). I really don't think that confrejo is a Spanish word, unless it is a very specific Panamanian slang. I doubt that "f" stands for "feo".

Nareed
Nareed Feb 22, 2011

Hmm. I just got another thought of what "Canfrejo" could mean. It doesn't make much sense, though. And I don't know Panamanian Spanish well enough to say. So take it with like a half-ton grain of salt.



There's a word in Spanish meaning roughly "a**hole." The word is "pendejo," no "f" anywhere. According to the dictionary (is there a kid in the world who doesn't look up dirty words in the dictionary?), the word is a term for pubic hairs. Anyway, a way to mix "cangrejo" and "pendejo" might come out as "canfrejo." Of course the letters are wrong, but I asked here around the office (I really did), and the concensus is that, yes, it mixes both words together, but not well (I got some questions to answer, too).



Oh, and who knows how "pendejo" is used in panama. For all i know it's not used at all.



Make that a two-ton grain of salt then.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 22, 2011

I found this comment in Panama News, and English language online website.

The Via Veneto Casino, more so that most others, is prowled by prostitutes ...

Wizard
Wizard Feb 22, 2011

If you look up canfrejo in Google you'll get lots of references. You will have to override Google's inclination to change it to cangrejo. They are all in Spanish, and mostly look like recipes. I wonder if maybe they just call crabs canfrejos in Panama. There is also a Yahoo discussion specifically about what is a canfrejo, but nobody seemed to know better than we do.

Nareed
Nareed Feb 22, 2011

The Yahoo discussion starts with a question "How do canfrejos breathe?" And that has to be a typo for "cangrejo." I mean, f and g are next to each other on the keyboard. the rest is mostly mockery about the typo, with one answer about how crabs breathe.



No help there.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 22, 2011

I did find 86 references to "canfrejos" but they were all blogs (many were recipes or youtube comments). There were no proper looking websites.

1) One teenager did use the word "canfrejos" attached to this picture, but 20 minutes later he used cangrejo. It's clear he means crabs because he says "pinche cangro" (like he has having trouble getting the picture to appear). Pinche is a word that is usually translated "f@cking" ( but in the adjective sense, and not the verb).



2) The website that you listed two people say "What is a canfrejo?" or a more vulgar version of the same answer. The responder says

"los canfrejos no se como respiren pero los cangrejos respiran de esta manera:"

The CANFREJOS cannot breath, but the CRAB breathes in this manner.

===========

In either case your girl calls trolling for lonely wealthy men "catching crabs" and not "catching rabbits". Either way works. I don't think that rabbits are as common in Central America as they are in North America.

Nareed
Nareed Feb 22, 2011

"Pinche" also means "miserable" as in "miserable bastard." In Spain the word means someone who helps around a kitchen.



Anyway, I thought for some reason the word might be in Portuguese, given that Brazil is a big country with growing influence in latin America. But the Portuguese dictionary I tried didn't find "canfrejo."



I'm all out of ideas.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 23, 2011

The opposite is true, Mexico is wealthier than Panama on average, but not by a large order of magnitude. Argentina is the wealthiest Latin American country, but once again not by a whole lot. At one point Argentina was one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 23, 2011

To the best of my knowledge, gambling in Panama goes back to the first days when the canal opened. But the total number of machines in the city is roughly 4K and their are less than a hundred tables as well.

Nareed
Nareed Feb 23, 2011

I move we adjourn to a forum thread.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 23, 2011

>naturally people try to keep their daughters away from the kind of influences that would lead to this.

Usually. Not always. Many women encourage a realistic attitude these days. Retiring at 30 to a life of fine restaurants and spas has advantages. Alot of those high school girls getting "enhancements" are really receiving an income generating asset, not a self-esteem enhancing implant. The girls get their implants but view them as temporary enhancements to be removed as soon as they've signed up a good divorce lawyer.



>those women don't take on apprentices or go around advocating other women take it up.

Not always true. New Orleans had a top flight brothel that had three generations of madams from the same family.

Also, the way to move up from hooker to madam is not always to oust another madam and take over her book but to recruit other hookers and establish yourself as the madam by convincing the other women that they are sitting on a small fortune. Travel is profitable and traveling hookers are often welcomed as "visiting escorts" since the escort service makes more money that way than sending their existing offerings.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 23, 2011

The opposite is true, Mexico is wealthier than Panama on average, but not by a large order of magnitude.



I concede you're right. this page indicates Mexico is 41st, and Panama is 52nd. Just eyeballing it, Panama looked more wealthy, but maybe it was because I was in the best areas, while I've found myself in some slums of Mexico due to getting lost.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 23, 2011

Wealth of a country is somewhat dependent on urbanization rates. USA is 80% urban, Mexico is 75% urban while Panama is 57% urban. If you went into the Panamanian countryside, life would be very different. I know there are a lot of urban slums, but outside of the developed world urbanization may increase productivity which increases the overall wealth of the country. It may simply be concentrated in the hands of a few.

- Panama has one of the world's most unequal distributions of wealth with the top 10% making over 50 times the income of the bottom 10% (mostly rural subsistence farmers).

- It has also changed drastically since the canal zone was taken over by the country. The building boom is unrivaled in the USA.

-- There is an ever-present fear that the canal will become less important, either because of competition or because the US-China trade imbalance will begin to equalize as the US economy is eventually crushed. There are at least 7 projects that could compete with the canal. Several are new rail lines, plus discussions of a competing canal in Nicaragua, plus the economy of scale of shipping really really large ships through the Suez canal will make up for the extra distance. The Suez canal has no locks and is a sea level canal.

-- But Panama is betting heavily on retirement and second homes plus eco-tourism. Costa Rica has done very well in this area. Costa Rica is very popular with Californians.

---------

Shortly after independence, Central America broke away from Mexico as a single country. Internal wars further subdivided the region. Many people feel that a uniform set of laws and building codes will encourage European countries to invest. A common currency might help. With Panama and El Salvador using the US dollar, and Belize having their currency pegged 2:1 to the US dollar, the only likely choice is the dollar.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 23, 2011

Thanks everyone for all the comments. I just posted a cleaned up version with a few pictures on my Wizard of Odds blog.



When I was there I read an article about Columbia doing a "dry canal." I guess that means they would pull ships across dry land, I suppose like in the movie Fitzcaraldo. Panama is also trying, and becoming, a major player in the world banking. They also are scheduled to complete a canal widening in 2014, which will handle ships 2.5 times as large as the maximum size now.



Based on what I saw, I think Panama will improve its wealth ranking over the next generation. They desperately need a subway in Panama City though, as traffic is horrible. A cab driver told me they were in the middle of making one, but I don't know if that is true. I may have misunderstood him, as he said it in Spanish.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 23, 2011

I hope they get their subway if it is that desperately needed, though I fear it will be very expensive. I am certain, absolutely certain, that the paperwork for the building inspections and engineering tests will be flawless.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 24, 2011

Its rather obvious that many of women are not really there to play blackjack for solely their own account. Chip hustling seems to be a group affair so perhaps there are teams and the "gay males" are simply spotters or other partners. I can't see much reason for the chip sharing amongst the "friends" otherwise.



I'm not going to suggest that American casinos are not without female whose interests and activities extend beyond gambling. In a Las Vegas casino I would expect most blackjack games to be serious blackjack rather than chip hustling facades. I just wonder what sort of percentage of the Panamanian tables seemed to have such interesting activity going on at them? Do you think its a high enough number that the casino's "rake" is a substantial source of income to the casino?

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 24, 2011

Please note: In using the phrase Casino's Rake I am perhaps assuming too much, but I feel that it has to exist.



I think you went there expecting a casino and found instead a very high number of young women whose dress and demeanor left little to the imagination as to the nature of their occupation. The numbers were far, far higher than you anticipated and it was an event that had a major impact on your perceptions. I wonder if there might be casinos that actually offer serious blackjack and discourage the very large numbers of prostitutes.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 24, 2011

Wizard, there was a discussion of the history of dry canals beginning with 1880. It is attached to your blog below.

----------

Panama is unlikely to build a subway as it would be expensive. They are leaning towards "bus rapid transit" like they have in downtown Vegas and in Mexico City. The primary features of "bus rapid transit" are

1) dedicated bus lanes with barriers so that you can't drive into them with a car

2) toll collection outside of the bus so you don't slow things down

3) Minimal stops - intervals between stops on the order of a mile (instead of 3 or 4 per mile on most bus routes)

4) computer control whenever possible

5) Multiple entry points like "light rail"

6) Long vehicles that hold a lot of people

Wizard
Wizard Feb 25, 2011

RE: Fleastiff's comments



The Veneto was in a class by itself in Panama. The other casinos did not let the working girls inside, and I was left alone most of the time. At the Royal casino a woman once tried to do the chip hustle on me, but I didn't let her get away with it. At the Fiesta casino I got into a friendly conversation with an older woman. I think she was trying to pick me up, but she was much too old and drunk.



My review of Terrible's tells the story of a chip hustle there, but I didn't let it get far. It isn't the only time I've seen it here, but it does not happen often. It never seems to happen with attractive women, unlike in Panama.

Ayecarumba
Ayecarumba Feb 25, 2011

I enjoyed the whole story, but was puzzled about what prompted the supervisor to close your active table. Were they short staffed, and giving your dealer a break? I would think on a crowded weekend evening, they would have all hands on deck. Any theories?

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Feb 25, 2011

>Supervisor closed an active table...

That did strike me as odd and perhaps it was an indication of the casino being alert to the actions of these teams of chip-hustling hookers and the people they share their chips with. It seems to be Team Play but the casino is not the direct and intended victim. Perhaps the casino supervisor felt some line had been crossed or perhaps insufficient tips had been paid?

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 26, 2011

Chip hustling may be too strong a word here, since there is no outright deception. It sounds like most men are completely aware that chips are vanishing, but are enjoying the attention and company. Possibly after sobering up a little, they decide that they should have been more forceful, but it's not really thievery. It's more like you are getting "clipped".

FarFromVegas
FarFromVegas Feb 26, 2011

Okay, so the whole time I'm reading this I'm snorting and thinking "This sucker's getting hustled!" I mean, how much did you shell out merely to have an aggressive, unlikeable female (Angie) sit next to you grabbing your chips? At least the other one gave you a tour, but you're lucky the tour guides didn't spike your drink and roll you in a shady part of the city.

Wizard
Wizard Feb 26, 2011

Chip hustling may be too strong a word here, since there is no outright deception. It sounds like most men are completely aware that chips are vanishing, but are enjoying the attention and company.



Dictionary.com defines hustle as, "to pressure or coerce (a person) to buy or do something." I think that word is appropriate for the situation. I also think there was deception. The victims probably think the experience will end up in the bedroom, but in the case of girl #1 (Alicia) it doesn't. She was basically a tease.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Mar 04, 2011

Mystery solved. (Perhaps).

While you were in the company of the Chip Hustling Blackjack Players were you perhaps dressed in a rather stylish manner? Or perhaps simply more stylishly dressed than other men in the casino that night?



The translation is a bit difficult but I think you were being referred to by a slang term best translated into English as Spiffy Dude or Cool Cat.

FleaStiff
FleaStiff Mar 04, 2011

The Spiffy Dude/Cool Cat is not a translation that you might obtain from a consular official who was tasked to translate shipping documents from Spanish to English. It is more a translation that you might obtain in a dockside bar frequented by the longshoremen who handled the cargo rather than the documents.

Wizard
Posted by Wizard
Feb 19, 2011

Adventures in Panama

Sorry for ignoring the site the last six days. I have been in Panama on a combination of business and pleasure. A very interesting time it has been. I plan to write about it in my Wizard of Odds blog in three parts, as follows:

1. The general casino scene in Panama City, with an emphasis on the games available, rules, limits, comps, promotions, etc..
2. Non-gambling tourist activities to do in Panama City.
3. My personal adventures in the Beneto hotel/casino. It is a wild place and deserves an entry to its own. Hopefully my story won't turn into a short book.

I received some PMs about an abusive member. If you are going to tattle on another member, which I encourage when justified, please quote the offending posts and give me URLs. You can get the URL of any post by clicking 'permalink.'

Comments

AZDuffman
AZDuffman Feb 19, 2011

Welcome back. I didn't even realize there was a casino scene in Panama. Did you get any kind of tour of the canal?

Wizard
Wizard Feb 19, 2011

Yes, there are quite a few casinos in Panama City. I will have to some research on a specific number, but probably about 20 with table games, and some more that are slots only.



I saw the canal only from the Miraflores Locks, which are one set of three, and the closest to Panama City. There is a company that does boat trips through part or all of the canal on certain days, but I was not there when such a trip was scheduled. In the visitor center they show a time-elapsed video of the whole journey.

Nareed
Nareed Feb 19, 2011

Here's an odd request: What did you think of the Panama City airport? I ask because Copa Airlines advertises itself a lot here, promoting that airport as a hub for travel to South and Central America (inc competition with Miami).

teddys
teddys Feb 19, 2011

Can't wait for the reports!

Wizard
Wizard Feb 20, 2011

The Panama City airport is quite nice. I don't know why they put it so far from town, as there seems to be a lot of empty land between it and Panama City. Airport security is tight and they frisk everybody leaving. My plane leaving was an hour late and then they unplugged the plane before turning on the engine, so they had to jump start it, which took another half an hour. So I missed my connection in Miami and had to spend the night there.



I have a first draft of the Beneto article done.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 22, 2011

Welcome back Wiz: In Spanish the V is pronounced like our letter B, so the hotel is the Veneto Wyndham. Panama City has changed radically since they took over the Canal Zone. It is starting to resemble a tropical Manhattan with some of the densest urbanization in Latin America. Unfortunately the mass transit has not kept pace, and the streets are very overcrowded.

It has become a popular retirement place for gringos. They are attracted to the use of the dollar as currency, and the complete lack of hurricanes or earthquakes. The downside is the incredible humidity.

There were proposals to build a "dry canal" across the isthumus of Tehuantepec (narrow part of Mexico) about 1880 by James B. Eads. He reasoned that the building of the Panama Canal would come at the cost of thousands of lives due to Malaria vs normal death rate for building a "dry canal" in relatively malaria free Mexico. Of course, he was correct, but it was mostly not white people who paid the price of their lives. The "dry canal" is back in the news again, this time as a China-Columbia construction project. I don't know if things have advanced to the point that they won't try and drag the ships across the land or if they will invent a mass unloading procedure to get the goods across the land .

odiousgambit
odiousgambit Feb 22, 2011

The same Eads who built river ironclads in the American Civil War methinks.

pacomartin
pacomartin Feb 22, 2011

(1) James Eads built the ironclads in the civil war, and the bridge over the Mississippi River at St Louis. He was a respected architect which is why his plan to carry ships over Mexico on rails got a proper hearing. The decision to build the canal probably would not have been made if all lives were valued on the same level.



(2) The airports were built to guard the canal against an invasion, not for civilian transport. Panama didn't even have a million people until the mid 1950's. That would explain it's location.



(3) The Trump Hotel will be the tallest building in Latin America at nearly 1000' when completed. It is the building on the left that looks like a sail.

Wizard
Posted by Wizard
Feb 06, 2011

I made the Washington Post today

Super Bowl Sunday: For Vegas gambling 'sharps,' it's the year's busiest workday.

I hear it this article was on the front page. The writer of the article did a great job at capturing the essence of its subject, who I consider a friend. I laughed many times. The Dogs Playing Poker picture was a gift from me for some tutoring in advanced statistics. The bet mentioned, Green Bay more first downs -2.5 is also one of my plays today.

Comments

toastcmu
toastcmu Feb 06, 2011

I saw this today in the paper - Dan Steinberg is a sports writer who has a great sense of humor for the newspaper. Congrats on another article. Hoping Russ does well today.

SFB
SFB Feb 07, 2011

Good job... Plugged WOO, not WOV..



That guy is going to be working in LV by the next SB. The bookmakers want someone like him INSIDE, not outside.



SFB

Wizard
Posted by Wizard
Jan 02, 2011

World's Greatest Blackjack Player

My apologies for tooting my own horn, but your humble host just won the trophy for the World's Greatest Blackjack Player at the 2011 Blackjack Ball. Here is an unflattering cell phone picture of me with host Max Rubin.



It is mostly luck that I won. For those who aren't familiar with the competition, here is the executive summary.

The Blackjack Ball is an invitation only event for the best blackjack players, and those who have contributed to the study of the game. I have been going for several years now. There were about 100 people in attendance.

First a 20-question test of blackjack knowledge is given. I was one of the top 6 scores. There is room for 5 at the final table, and I was not eliminated in a tie breaker round of casino knowledge.

Then there were various test of blackjack skill, some important to the game, some more for fun. Some of the events included:

1. Chip shuffling
2. Correctly guessing cut card penetration
3. A blackjack switch round
4. A charades kind of game intended to convey a message to a teammate without using words.
5. Card order memorization
6. Card counting speed and accuracy

I won't bore you with the particulars but the final two were Anthony Curtis (my publisher) and myself. I counted down a deck faster than he did, and WON!

This is a great honor and an evening I will always remember.

Links:

Here is a good article about the Blackjack Ball: The Blackjack Ball by Michael Konik.

Comments

odiousgambit
odiousgambit Jan 03, 2011

Cogratulations, you have wowed us again!

drwls
drwls Jan 03, 2011

Now that you are officially the world's greatest blackjack player, will you be banned from playing everywhere ?

Croupier
Croupier Jan 03, 2011

Wizard of Odds, Wizard of Vegas and now Wizard of Blackjack. Congratulations.

FinsRule
FinsRule Jan 03, 2011

A big congratulations. Very impressive.

gambler
gambler Jan 03, 2011

Fantastic news! Great job!

DJTeddyBear
DJTeddyBear Jan 03, 2011

Congrats!

avargov
avargov Jan 03, 2011

I read that although the Wiz generally doesn't drink beer, when he does, he prefers Dos XX's. Congrats Wiz!!!

Wizard
Wizard Jan 03, 2011

Thanks for all the kind words! The comment by DrWLS is from my father, by the way. To answer his question, I fly high above the radar already, so this can't make much difference. My father may remember when we went on a cruise of western Mexico a few years ago and I got backed off from blackjack in the ship casino after one session. The casino manager was kind enough to tell me that his suspicions were confirmed after he Google'd my name.

Nareed
Nareed Jan 03, 2011

Congratualtions! But to second Croupier, will you be setting up a Wizard of Blackjack page? ;)

AZDuffman
AZDuffman Jan 03, 2011

Would you mind telling us some of the "20 Questions" they asked, or at least some greeked examples? I assure you no one here would be bored with it.

EvenBob
EvenBob Jan 04, 2011

Thats funny what your dad said, that was my first thought too.

RaleighCraps
RaleighCraps Jan 05, 2011

Congrats Wiz. So was the pony board still running this year? If so, what odds did you go off at?

Wizard
Wizard Jan 06, 2011

I just wrote this up in more detail in my Wizard of Odds blog. That mentions two of the trivia questions. Another one was, true or false, the phone number of the X casino in Jackpot Nevada is 1-800-BAD-LUCK. I don't remember the casino, but not only was it false, there was no such casino in Jackpot. That is one I got right.



I don't recall my exact odds, but I think something like 25-1 for first place.

Ibeatyouraces
Ibeatyouraces Jan 10, 2011

Great job. I personally wouldnt go if invited. But I am curious approximately how many people showed up in disguise.

JIMMYFOCKER
JIMMYFOCKER Jan 24, 2011

Nicely done Wiz