Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shady Characters Outside Hollywood Park

Last week, I was talking to my brother on my cell phone just outside one of the entrances to the poker room at Hollywood Park. A man approached me and showed me a watch. This seemed not just strange but rather rude since I was clearly on the phone so I just turned away from him and tried to continue my conversation. The guy approached me with his watch again and said something I didn't hear. I figured maybe he was trying to ask me for the time so that he could set his watch, so I told my brother to hold on a second as I checked my phone's screens. It didn't have the time. I told the man with the watch the bad news and went back to my conversation, assuming he'd move on to someone else. Instead he continued talking to me. I told my brother to hold on again.

"What?" I snapped, now agitated.
"Do you want to buy this watch?"
"No! I'm on the phone," I said, assuming he would realize I meant "go away."
"It's $12,000, you can have it for $500," he persisted.
"I don't want it."
"$400." At this point I just shook my head and walked away. This time he finally let me be.

An hour or so later I saw the guy again, this time sitting at a slot machine or something. He waved at me with two fingers up. "Two hundred?" I shook my head and continued on.

Later, as I made my way to the parking lot when I was done playing, a shabby looking man approached me.

"Hey, how are you?" he asked. I'd been solicited for money outside the entrance before, but this guy was half way to the parking lot, with nobody else within earshot.

"I'm okay..." I responded suspiciously. Then he made his pitch. He is NOT a bum, he tells me. He never asks people for money, and he's embarrassed to have to ask me. However, he was there with his wife and child, but something (I don't remember the story he gave me) had happened and now he needed money for a cab. "Could you spare me $37? I'm not a bum, I'll pay you back."

"No, sorry."
"$20 maybe? Just to get me on my way?"

I think this is a fairly standard tactic: come up with a compelling story of emergent need of some quick cash of some specific amount.

"I'd rather not get involved. They could probably help you at the desk inside."
"You don't have to get involved... there's nothing to get involved in. I just need to get a cab."

This went on for another 20 seconds or so, then I just said "sorry" again and started walking to my car. He followed me. Again he assured me he was not a bum and would pay me back. I turned him down again and continued to the parking lot. He still followed. My car happened to be in the very first row, and there I was, standing right next to it with this guy still hassling me. I had about $3500 in my pocket. I decided not to get in the car with him right there; in fact, I didn't even indicate it was my car. After one more failed attempt to get rid of him, I turned and walked back to the casino. When I came back a couple minutes later, the guy was nowhere to be found.

When I was heading back to the parking lot the second time, I was approached AGAIN by yet another shady guy. He wanted my advice on whether he owed somebody money. This was a new one: I wasn't sure how he was going to turn this into a plea for me to give him money. He had supposedly been playing blackjack, and somebody had given him $4 and asked him to bet it for him. He won the hand. Does he now owe the guy $8 or only $4? To his chagrin, I informed him that it sounded like he owed $8. To my surprise, he left without asking me for money.

Do I really look so much like a sucker that con artists (if you can call them that) will persist in trying to get me to give them money even after I've pointedly turned them down? Wouldn't it be more worth their time to move on to one of the dozens of other people in the areas outside the casino? Well, the situation was rather anomalous, so I guess there's no real reason to think there's something about me that caused it.

Oh, and the Helmet Man has been hanging around again, too.


Max said...

I made it into your blog!!

I think one of the tricks in the advanced pan-handling handbag is to be in your face long enough and persistently enough that you're willing to give them a few bucks just so they will leave you alone. It is strange that he came back at you later with the blackjack question. Maybe after initially engaging you, he recognized you and decided that an extended exchange with such a tightwad was not worth his time or effort and disengaged. Also interesting is that he hit you up for $37 the first time and then it seemed he was going to ask for $8 the next time. Did you take off your tux when you went back into the casino?

Keith said...

They were three different guys: the blackjack guy was not the same as the one who followed me to the parking lot.

I think you're probably right that the ridiculous persistence must pay off for them sometimes.

Craig Berger said...

Its not you, Hollywood Park is just a shady place. I remember once after a late night session I was walking towards the bathroom when this guy coming the other way yelled out "Hey Mike!" (my name is Craig) When I looked up the guy said "Oh sorry you look just like this guy Mike." I nodded and continued into the bathroom, where he followed me. As I was washing my hands he said "haven't I seen you at the $500 NL game?" Since my mother did not raise any fools, I scoffed and said, "hell no, I play $2/$4!" (I think I had actually come from the 200 NL). "Oh, blackjack's my game," he said. He then followed me out to the valet! "Can you give me a ride? I just need to get to(wherever)." "Sorry, I'm going the other way," I said, got into my car and left.

These days I make it a point to valet if I think I'm going to be in Hollywood Park after dark.