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How To Acquire a Deck of Cards

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To begin with, I'd like to make one thing clear: this story is 100% true.

During summer vacation, my family decided to stay in Vegas for a few days. We booked a room at the Rio Hotel and Casino, a big red building not far off the strip. It's an old hotel, externally not quite up to par with the gigantic new things which keep springing up, but once inside, it's unbelievably enormous, with no end in sight in any direction. Shops line the walls, slot machines glimmer and glow at all hours in all patterns, each one blaring it's little bit of theme music and creating a veritable cacophony of sound and light. Endless hallways stretch on in all directions, leading onward to untold wonders carved out of the marble walls.

Don't worry, this story contains no underage gambling, or drinking, or anything of the sort, although Vegas would seem fertile soil from which to harvest a moral parable along those lines. No, this story is about a magic show.

Our reason for staying in this hotel, above all the others available, was a dual act called Penn & Teller. It sounds more like a stuffy old law firm than a show, but in actuality, it's anything but. Penn & Teller is one of the most famous magic acts in the world, consisting of the gigantic, outspoken Penn, and, dwarfed by Penn's bulk, the silent Teller. Together, they perform miracles beyond miracles before your very eyes: you watch in astonishment as a ball hops unaided round the stage; as a woman is sawed gruesomely in half, with guts and blood aplenty; your eyes strain to catch the gimmick as Teller walks about the stage, producing gigantic items from inside a coat draped over his arm; and you sit, flabbergasted, as a swarm of goldfish appear at Teller's submerged fingertips.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The website says after the show Penn and Teller stand outside to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. As soon as I read this, I knew I wasn't leaving Vegas without something bearing their signature. I didn't want to have them sign some silly pamphlet, or a hat; I wanted them to sign the Ace of Spades of a deck of cards (I saw this as more fitting). And not just any old deck, either, I wanted a deck from the floor of the casino. Some casinos will sell the decks in the gift shop; unfortunately, this one doesn't. But do I give up?

Well, if I had, that'd be a terribly boring story.

The first place I tried was, obviously, the gift shop. They said no, we don't have it. Try the blackjack tables, they suggested. They'll know where the decks go.

So I asked a dealer who was free. She pondered for a moment, her heavily made-up face scrunched as she thought, tapping her chin with a long nail. Finally she said, in a heavy German accent, if the decks did not go to the gift shop, she had no idea where I was to find one, and pointed me over to her supervisor as a further lead.

The supervisor was a fat, balding fellow who looked odd in the casino's tuxedo uniform. He told me to ask one of the dealers. I told him I just had, and I'd been directed to him. He thought for a moment, then said he thought they were shredded.

This was disappointing news, to say the least. But did I give up? No.

I asked another supervisor. This one was a tall man with slicked back hair; the sort of fellow who you'd suspect thought far too highly of his 'supervisor' title. He didn't know either, and neither did another dealer I asked. But they did direct me, for whatever reason, to V.I.P. registration. The woman at the desk had no clue why I'd be sent to her, and I went away puzzled and rather disappointed.

I spent the next half hour peeking into all the shops in the Rio asking for the decks, and getting replies of, “No, we don't sell them. Why don't you ask the dealers?” and other variations of this.

Once I'd checked out all the shops, I discovered a huge hallway leading away from the floor of the casino which I hadn't tried. As all my other avenues had been exhausted, I followed it, with the idea of looking for a blackjack table where they knew more about the cards. As I left the floor, it quickly became very quiet; the ringing of slot machines faded away, the chatter ceased. All I heard was the soft swish of my feet against the carpet, all I saw were endless marble hallways. Not a man or woman in sight.

I came to the end of all these hallways soon enough, and with no results. At this point, I despaired of ever finding the decks, and decided to use my last option; find and pester upper management.

You may find me rather more dedicated than the situation warranted, but, first of all, I had already spent an hour, and another would not be so terrible, and, as an amateur magician myself, Penn and Teller are sort of my idols.

As I was walking toward the front desk, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a door which had gone unnoticed on my way in. It was labeled “Table Games”, and looked more like an office than anything else. A window in the door revealed a small room, with desks, computers, and, on a shelf, a stack of decks. I did a little jig, and knocked on the door. A frizzy-haired woman opened it, poking her head warily round the corner. It seemed she thought someone else would be on the other side, and was expecting to be angry or frustrated at them, but, when she saw she had wrongly guessed the identity of her visitor, she looked surprised, and then relieved.

I told her I had seen the decks through the window, and asked if they were decks from the floor. She said they were, and asked how many I would like. I said I only needed one, and, in a few seconds, my quest came to an end. I had it.

She sent me on my way with a wave and a dismissal of my offer to pay. I thanked her, she closed the door, and, three hours later, both Penn Jillette and Teller signed the ace in large, flourishing characters. I even got to take a picture with Penn.

The moral of the story? Perseverance, or the inability to accept failure, is a valuable virtue.



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