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When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Today, I am thrilled to host Cara Bertoia, co-author of an amazing travel novel which is as much about romance as it is about travel (the novel is based on their real-life love story). So read on to find out more about the book “Cruise Quarters” and how she met the man of her dreams. You would not want to miss infectious laugh on her witty answers as a bonus! :)
I am just thrilled with the new interview at The Review Girl. Komal Mansoor thought up some wonderful questions that were a lot of fun to answer if you have a chance click this link to read the interview.
The Review Girl Interview of Cara Bertoia

Friday, December 9, 2011


The last time I was in Vegas was to visit the gaming show. The gaming show is the trade show for casinos, imagine visiting a vast hall filled with the newest, greatest slot machines and table games. Now imagine that you can play anything you want - for free! Because maybe if you play that game and like it you will put it in your casino.Well I don't own a casino but I wrote about them in my novel Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships.
Since I'm a dealer, a table games kind of girl, it was easy for me to walk past those machines. I prefer blackjack to Wheel of Fortune. But this year was all about poker. Poker is everywhere. You can play it at your house, you can watch it on television or you can trust your money to some operator out of the Cayman Islands and play online from the comfort of your desk. Vegas has huge poker rooms filled with dreamers, who have all heard about the World Series of Poker and fantasize about winning the million dollar pot.
All this could be yours!

I'm not talking about that kind of poker. I started out dealing in Tahoe where friends of mine were married to people that played poker in the casino every night because that was their job. Poker rooms are also filled with crafty retirees who play every day and as the saying goes if you practice for 10,000 hours you will get good. Those people scare me and they should scare you. I lost my hard earned tips to those guys too many times. But there is a way to play poker and not be intimidated.

The hottest thing at the gaming show was the carnival games. The ones I am going to focus on are variations of poker that you play at a table that looks a lot like a blackjack table. It isn't you against the other players at the table, no ringers here. It is everyone against the house. The most popular of these games are three card, four card and ultimate Texas hold-em.

Three card poker is just what it sounds like, your three cards against the dealers. It is exactly like regular poker only in three card a straight is higher that a flush. I don't know why that is, but someone smarter than me has figured out the odds. All these games are carefully vetted by the Nevada Gaming Commission before they ever hit the casino floor. But if you want to know the odds on any casino game just google The Wizards of Odds.

Four card has a twist, you get five cards but you only use four. But this is straight poker with a bonus, if you bet it you get paid extra on any hand trips or better. Trips is a quick way to say three of a kind. And in this game trips are a better hand than either a straight or a flush.

Probably the most popular is Ultimate Texas Hold-Em. I don't have time to explain Texas Hold-Em but if you know how to play you know that it all turns on the river. But at a table game all the players can win, there is no pot to split. You also don't have to wait for a game, you only need one player and a dealer and the game is on.

But straight poker isn't enough there are more bells and whistles. With a dollar you can enter a progressive that pays out thousands for a royal flush. This is called a side bet. A few weeks ago someone won $69,000 at my casino, not bad for a buck. And sometimes they combine games; at one table you can play three card and five card poker at the same time. All of these games go by different names and have different rules that vary from casino to casino so you need to visit some websites and study the odds. I know it all sounds complicated, but with the dealer ready to help you, in a few minutes you can be playing poker in the casino and have a lot of fun!

Click the link to find at Amazon.com
Click the link to find at Amazon United Kingdom
Click the link to find at Amazon Germany

Saturday, November 5, 2011


With the demise of bookstores all around us, both national chains and local independents, the question now is how do you find a good book? My favorite hobby used to be browsing through the bookstore stopping to read the first few pages of any book that caught my eye. I also am a subscriber to the Los Angeles Times and so every Sunday I would look forward to reading their book review section, but over time I found that most of the books reviewed there didn't really interest me. I enjoyed books that made me laugh where the words flowed easily off the page and where I picked up some insight into human nature.

So two years ago when my husband surprised me with a Kindle for my birthday I wondered how I would find a good book. But in the last two years E-books have exploded and I have found that there are so many great sites that inform the reader about new books that I don't have room to even begin to describe them all here but I will spotlight some great ones.

The most notable of all would have to be Daily Cheap Reads. Here new books priced up to $9.99 are introduced all day and links to the book at Amazon are provided. You can browse their archives to find books in a genre that interests you.
Click the link for Daily Cheap Reads

There is also another great site, No Trees Harmed, and as you can tell by the title the focus is on E-books. Their motto is 'Good Reads for a Paperless World'. There you will also find links to many other blogs reviewing books. Click on some of the links and you will find a maze of websites all designed to find you a good book.

Another excellent blog is 'I am a Reader not a Writer'. I hosted a book giveaway there. If you follow the link you will find my interview and the great contest entries the readers provided.

I have been fortunate to have my novel Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships featured on all of these sites. The links take you to my interviews and from there you can navigate around the sites, and then on to Amazon. If you are anything like me you will download free sample chapters from the books that interest you. What a great feature, by being able to download the first chapter I never end up with a dud book.

I also wonder how did you find my blog? I know that just this week I have had readers from Russia, Australia and the United Kingdom as well as the US. So if you are a reader please let me know a little bit more about you. You can comment here but sometimes that can be difficult, so feel free to e-mail me at carabertoia@yahoo.com.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Cruise Quarters

A Novel about Casinos and Cruise Ships

Cara Bertoia with Raymond Bertoia

ARAY / Productions
Email: Ray92262@yahoo.com
Copyright 2011 by Cara and Raymond Bertoia

Other work by these authors

Camino De Santiago – The Walker’s Guide
A 2 Hour DVD that follows the couple as
they walk across Spain.

For more information visit


Regal Queen Crew Pass Name
Sarah Seldon


When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book.
 “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?”
She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.
On that particular day, Sarah perched on a chair to get a better view through her salt-stained porthole onto the dock, filled with people busying themselves with the activities necessary to supply a huge cruise ship. Port activities in Hong Kong demonstrated a model of modern efficiency. Even though the ship had been docked for under an hour, already the crew had begun to perform the necessary safety checks. At the same time operators steered forklifts, moving wooden pallets filled with provisions into the hold. Like a patient hooked up to life support, long, fat hoses attached to the side of the ship fed water and gas into tanks, providing nutrients for the upcoming voyage.
Through all this mayhem, she hoped to catch a last glance of Adam. In a few hours he would be leaving on a plane, flying home to Wales. Goodbyes on a cruise ship were always frantic, with people leaving for all parts of the world. In her five years of working as a croupier for Regal Cruises she must have said goodbye to hundreds of people, always fearing that she would never see those people again. With twelve ships in the fleet, it was a very good possibility. But before today she hadn’t been in love with any of them, and that changed everything.
The vessel was beautiful, a holdover from the grand old days of sailing. The floors covered with the finest carpets; the walls paneled in mahogany, millions of dollars of artwork hanging from them, some of it a little too abstract for her taste. It all added up to the illusion of wealth. For one week, anyone could buy that illusion.
It was also her illusion, as long as she stayed in the passengers' area. Upstairs she convinced herself that she lived in an oceanfront condo, but down here in crew quarters, her ten by twelve foot cabin located in the bowels of the ship, she could conjure up no grandeur. Industrial carpet covered the floor. Metal bunk beds were attached to one wall, a sink to the other. Everything painted grey, battleship grey. Every inch of space covered with essential appliances - scattered everywhere - hair dryers, a microwave, television-video combination, and laptop. 
She glanced at pictures of Adam tacked all over the wall. Adam, of the piercing blue eyes, Adam, whose prematurely gray hair had the sheen of the finest silver. Handsome Adam, she needed his face to be the first thing visitors saw when they walked in the room. She was besotted.
Adam’s collection of Hard Rock glasses lined the desk. He had been nutty about The Hard Rock CafĂ©. Sarah found it hard to believe, with all the great spots in the world, that he only wanted to go to the Hard Rock. Forget Raffle’s bar in Singapore; they ate at the Hard Rock. In fact, collecting pins from the Hard Rock was a hobby shared by many of the crew. It seemed bizarre to her, collecting tacky souvenirs, but finally she got it. When they got home, the small metallic pins shaped like guitars proudly displayed on their worn denim jackets proved that they had really been to faraway places.
Did she hear a knock on the door? She turned around. Adam walked in the room wearing his Hard Rock London leather jacket. She had been so focused on searching for him on the dock that his physical presence in the cabin startled her. Standing up, she pressed firmly against him, trying to memorize the way his body, sculpted by his work as a plumber, felt. No exercise regimen worked better than manual labor.
"Oh Adam, you haven’t left yet!"
"Before I go, I wanted you to have this." His melodic voice with a Welsh accent exuded sex.
She gazed into his piercing blue eyes as he handed her a white industrial jumpsuit. "You can wear it when you do the drop." He smiled. Every week the casino staff crawled on their knees and unlocked the cabinets under the slot machines to count the coins the passengers had lost.
Holding the jumpsuit to her nose, she breathed it in. "I could never. I’ll sleep in it. It smells like you." When you’re in love, even dirty laundry is sexy.
A loudspeaker attached to the wall of the cabin announced, "Last call for all crew going ashore."
"Gotta run." Adam kissed her.
"Just remember - be home on my birthday. I’m going to call you from New Zealand. It would just ruin my day if I didn’t get to talk to you," she pleaded. We each have our own personal vision of Hell. Sarah’s would be replaying her horrible birthdays.
"Oh I’ll be there. Just remember, Sarah, we don’t just love each other." He dropped his voice even lower, which always sent a chill through her. "WE LOVE EACH OTHER."
Sounded good, didn't it: a man willing -- not afraid -- to say the “love” word? Six months of solid devotion, with never so much as a telltale glance in another woman's direction. He kissed her one last time, and left for the airport.
A few hours later, she met the casino staff for lunch at one of the city’s massive dim sum halls, the ultimate dining experience, meals on wheels, a lazy-man’s buffet, the food came to you. She loved all food, but Chinese was her favorite. All across the room, petite women wearing aprons pushed steaming carts filled with tasty delights. They stopped by each table, trying to entice the customers to try their dishes. But when her favorite--fluffy steamed dumplings made with delicate bits of shrimp nestled between chewy homemade noodles--passed by, she felt so distraught she could barely raise her index finger to point to them.
Adam should be here instead of on his way to Wales. Soon, she would be sailing to New Zealand; they would be lovers moving to opposite ends of the earth. 
The cruise south passed slowly. Sarah filled her days writing long, romantic love letters. At night, she lulled herself to sleep playing back the movie of their romance. Lying in her bunk, under the covers, she pulled Adam’s jumpsuit from under her pillow and breathed him in. She always dreamt about the same amazing day, her first day with Adam, just six short months ago and a half a world away. 
She closed her eyes recalling that day, in St. Mark’s Square. Drifting off, reliving the excitement she had felt over her first season in the Mediterranean. It had taken her a long time to earn a place on the Regal Queen. The second the ship had cleared Customs, she had rushed off the gangway; anxious not to miss anything. There are few things that can compare to waking up in a new port. But as a traveler, Sarah also realized that few places lived up to their hype. Venice not only lived up to the hype, it exceeded all her expectations.  
Leaning against a fountain, alone, surrounded by thousands of other tourists in the Square, Sarah caught snatches of many languages floating by. Beside her stood two Japanese schoolgirls dressed like Goths, their faces painted white and their lips painted black, desperately trying to pretend they weren’t on vacation with their parents. A guide holding a banner identifying her group summoned her strays. Even without understanding the language, Sarah knew the guide was scolding the girls for wandering away from the group.
Instead of feeling like the town was overrun by tourists, Sarah savored the anonymity of being just one more tourist among thousands. She stood still, trying to take in all the activity. She wondered if she blended in with the locals, or was American written all over her face. 
Like her, almost all the women wore modest skirts, covering their knees, the proper dress for entering a church in Italy. The waning afternoon sun bathed the Doge’s Palace in gold. Sarah melted into a group of Spanish tourists and followed them through the Basilica, only understanding bits and pieces of the commentary, but still awed by the massive amount of gilt blanketing the nave.
Upon leaving the church she walked over to the crowd gathering under the clock tower. On the stroke of three, everyone looked up, and watched statues of two men striking the bell. The statues cast in bronze were nicknamed the Moors, because the figures resembled the Moors that ruled Southern Europe for centuries.
From behind her she heard, “Mystical, isn’t it?” He spoke in English, so she guessed the comment was directed at her. Turning her head, she found herself staring into sky-blue eyes. A string quartet began to play in the distance. She recognized Adam; they had joined the ship the same day and listened to the same captain’s welcome speech. It wasn’t really such a coincidence that he was here. The tender that traveled from the ship deposited everyone at the dock for St. Mark’s Square.
“It looks better than the postcards,” she replied.
“I would love to explore Venice, but I wouldn’t know where to start.” He smiled.
He waited patiently, fishing for an invitation, but she didn't mind. “I know where to go. I’m on my way to the Gallery Dell'Accademia. It's the largest museum in Venice. If you'd like, you could join me. The rest of the casino staff flaked out on me.” On a ship, there wasn’t a lot of time at each port. “I came prepared with a map and a plan,” and now she had a man. Could this day get any better?
Welsh Wizards. They had been around for years, arriving at a ship in groups of two to four, repairing things that required their technical expertise. They never hung around that long; they fixed what needed to be fixed and were gone. Their positions were so temporary, they even lived in passenger cabins. She figured she was relatively safe with Adam, probably safer than touring around Venice by herself.
Strolling through narrow streets, bordered by shops and courtyards, they passed purple sheets drying on a clothesline stretched over a canal. The line connected to the third stories of the narrow houses on either side of the water. The sight of laundry swaying in the breeze reminded her that Venice wasn’t just a theme park, people actually lived here. It took a while before she realized that there weren't any cars. A romantic mood prevailed, created by the silence of a city. “Listen,” she said. “No motors.”
She snuck glances at his handsome profile. He walked, hands in his pockets, slouched over like a bad British schoolboy. The heels of his leather boots clicked as they hit the sidewalk. His long hair flicked up at the ends where it touched the collar of his crisp white cotton shirt. 
“Trust me, the real Venice tops the Venetian in Vegas,” she joked. Adam didn’t talk much, but he seemed enthralled as she told him the history of the city. “Venice has been a city-state for a thousand years, the most advanced city in the world at one time.”
In the museum, they studied intricately-detailed paintings illustrating Venice in the fifteenth century. Each picture was the size of an entire wall, larger than life, documenting the everyday scene. Magicians and jugglers wandered the streets in colorful costumes. As they stepped back to admire the paintings from a distance Adam commented, "I think I saw him today."
“You’re right.” Earlier in the day they had stopped to watch buskers dressed in medieval costumes playing in the square.
“The city has changed so little since then; it makes me feel the past,” she added.
“I feel something,” he replied.
She blushed because he wasn’t looking at the painting, he was studying her. She was glad that she had carefully chosen her clothes that day. The pretty dress she wore, with a cinched waist and a gathered skirt, flounced when she walked, making her feel feminine. She felt like twirling when she put it on.
After they finished browsing through the museum, Adam suggested, “Fancy some grub? All of this culture is making my eyes bleary. We could grab some dinner, maybe at a Hard Rock?”
She spotted a woman behind an information desk. “Manga?” Sarah inquired, using one of the few Italian words she knew. “Hard Rock?”
The woman had never heard of the Hard Rock. Sarah asked her if she could suggest another restaurant. With much hand-waving and explaining, the woman scribbled directions to a small square on a scrap of paper.
Their noses informed them they had found the right spot when they turned a corner into a small cobblestoned square and were greeted by the aroma of pizza baking. At the cafe, they ate pasta marinara accompanied by crusty bread and drank red wine from a jug on the table.
She was careful not to ask him any personal questions; it would only spoil the mood if he mentioned a wife or girlfriend. For one night she wanted to pretend that the handsome man sitting across the table belonged to her. “What kind of music do you enjoy?”
“I love the classics,” his face lit up. “In England there’s this fab Manor House all plastered with gargoyles and turrets. All the greats play at The Knebworth Fayre. I saw Queen perform their last gig there.” That explained his love of the Hard Rock, all the memorabilia.
“Imagine: a summer night, a million stars, Clapton,” he paused. “Then it starts pissing down rain, a bloody mess but a cracking good time.”
“Only you Brits could enjoy getting soaked in the rain.” She supposed it was because it rained every day there.
“We’re hardy people. If we let a little rain stop us we would never get anything done. If you fancy it, next year I’ll take you down on my bike. Maybe change your opinion of the rain.” It amused her, how casually he dangled the implied future before her. Just like a man to talk about next year, when he couldn’t commit to next week.
Maybe to show he was serious, he placed her hand in his. Her fingers glided over the calluses on his palms. She liked the way his hand felt, it felt strong.
From Venice, the ship meandered across the Med. Adam and Sarah couldn’t get enough of each other; they climbed the hills of Athens, stopping to eat moussaka in The Plaka. In Santorini, they held their breath as they rode donkeys up the sheer cliffs overlooking the sea. One misstep would send them crashing into the churning water.
Midpoint in the cruise, a visit to the French Riviera. The ship tendered in Cannes. Sarah put on a mini-skirt, piled her hair on top of her head, covered it with a wide-brimmed straw hat and bought a pair of oversized knockoff Dior sunglasses from a street vendor. On the beachfront promenade she tried on haughty poses, pretending to be a movie star in town for the film festival, while Adam snapped photos of her.
On to Rome; at the Vatican they walked under Michelangelo’s magnificent frescoes. Words fail to describe the beauty of Botticelli’s Venus Rising, at the Uffizi in Florence. Women never forget that Venus, the most beautiful woman in the world, had a belly.
Finally, the ship arrived in Barcelona, where restaurants didn’t even open until 9:00 p.m., with streets as crowded at midnight as they were at noon. Seven ports in ten days, Adam and Sarah explored them all. The ship stayed the night while it took on new passengers before turning around and repeating the journey, in reverse order.
On the return trip to Venice, they made love for the first time. When they woke up in the morning Adam whispered, “I love you, Sarah Seldon.”
“No silly, you’re not in love with me, it’s just the Med. We’re two people on a very big yacht, living on siesta time.”  She couldn’t really believe him; after working on ships for a while she had learned that only a fool pinned her hopes on a shipboard romance. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy the hours spent making love on their afternoon breaks while they traveled to the world’s most beautiful and alive cities. Every day she woke up exhilarated by the incredible sightseeing and every night she fell into bed exhausted from working until the wee hours of the morning.
Their time together could only be temporary; one day soon, Adam would fix whatever it was he was working on and then be gone. Only the memory of a romantic summer in the Med would remain. The precariousness of the situation only added to the drama. Every night, he would report that he had found something else to fix, because he wanted to stay with her. He didn’t have to search very hard; the Regal Queen was a very old ship. Things were always breaking down.
Summer turned into fall, the time for repositioning. The ship left the Med, crossed the Atlantic, and traveled through the Panama Canal in order to reach the South Pacific where it would spend the winter. Adam remained on board, still declaring his love. Around Tahiti, against her better judgment, she began to believe him; maybe he really did love her, the way that she loved him. Because any day could be their last together, they started to plan their future, in the real world, on land. The ship traveled on to Singapore and then the cruise line finalized a deal to sell the Regal Queen. Abruptly, the investment in expensive repairs stopped, and the next morning Adam was booted off. A dramatic ending to the movie she played of their romance, and if in the privacy of her head she took poetic license with the dialogue, enhanced the scenery or added special effects, who could blame her? She was besotted.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Many times people ask me what is the best way to travel around Europe. Well I have toured England and Europe by car and train, but definitely the best way to get around Europe was on a cruise ship. For many seasons I cruised the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. Here are my top ten reasons for picking a cruise ship over train or road.
The Author in Leningrad
 1. Sail Away. There is no view in the world that compares to sailing out of Venice on a large ocean liner. I remember the time the crew club sponsored a pizza party on the back deck. To look down on the city of Venice and sail past all the medieval buildings while drinking wine and eating pizza, cooked by Italian chefs will always remain a special memory. The sun was setting and the view was spectacular.

 2. You only have to pack your bags once. When you try to visit a lot of countries in Europe by car or train, you always seem to be packing. Inevitably you leave a few things behind. But on a cruise ship you unpack at the beginning of the cruise and pack the night before you go home no matter how many countries you visit.

 3. You don't have to spend all your time working out how to travel from place to place. When I went by train so much of my time was spent figuring out the train schedules and I ended up spending many of my nights on trains and buses lugging heavy suitcases. I was always exhausted. On a ship one day you are in Copenhagen and the next morning you wake up in Stockholm, refreshed, very well fed and ready for a new adventure.

 4. Speaking of well fed the food is wonderful, plentiful and served at any hour of the day or night. It seems as if in Europe that the chefs try to outdo the local chefs. Besides three meals there is the pizzeria, room service and the midnight buffet. It is a feast and at the midnight buffet it is also a feast for the eyes.

 5. If you pick your ship carefully you will find first rate entertainment. Many of the ships offer history lessons about the ports of call, wine tasting and some feature Cirque de Soleil caliber shows. I never did figure out how they managed to balance so well while the ship was moving.

 6. You can sample many countries on a cruise and if you find a place that you really enjoy you can always return for a longer stay.

  7. Tea Time. I just love tea time. In the afternoon I would always run down from the casino to the lounge where tea, finger sandwiches and adorable tiny cakes were served. I worked on a British ship and no one does tea better that the Brits.

 8. When you travel from country to country you never have to worry about clearing customs, that is all taken care of by the pursers staff, usually when you are asleep.

 9. There is something luxurious about traveling on a cruise ship. From the crystal chandeliers to the polished brass stair railings, ships exude elegance. Even though I was only working on a ship I always felt like a celebrity traveling on a very big yacht.

10. Since my book is called Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships I have to mention that most cruise ships have an onboard casino. It is usually a small and intimate room, which closes while the ship is in port but opens as soon as the ships sails.

 Below you will find the path to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Hi, my name is Cara. My husband Ray and I have been in the casino business for most of our working careers. We have decided to show you the view from behind the table. We will pass on a few tips, so that superstition doesn’t ruin you game. Please let us know if they help you win the next time you visit a casino!

If you were a blackjack table visited by thousands of punters a year, you would hear the same five things repeated every day. Guess what, all five of them are misconceptions, mixed up with superstitions and topped off with a thick layer of so called expertise.

1. When the majority of players walk up to the table the first words out of their mouth are, “Dealer, are you running hot or cold?”

This old chestnut has been around as long as gambling. Movies, books, and even a dealer or two have added to the mystique of hot and cold dealers. Some things are easily disproved.  Trust me, if some dealers were naturally hot and some cold then the casino would only employ the hot variety. Have you ever seen an advert in the paper for a new casino, “Now interviewing for staff, hot dealers only need apply.” No one would be a dealer because dealers work for tips and generally people who are winning tip. Without winners dealers would have no income. I can assure you there is one person in the casino who wants you to win and that is the dealer!

2. Third Base is the most important spot at the table, because seat number seven controls the cards.

That would only be true if the player in seat seven had a crystal ball and knew what cards would appear next. Sometimes they play correctly and the cards fall perfectly and the dealer bust, then third base will take all the credit. Sometimes they play correctly and the dealer hits out to twenty one but they don’t take the blame for that one. In fact the cards are shuffled many times during the course of the day and no one knows the next card – or equally importantly the dealer’s hole card.

3. Someone at the table has to take a hit.

Let’s imagine the following scenario. The dealer shows a low card, maybe a five or a six, and everyone at the table has a stiff hand (12 – 16). All the players signal no card, but the benevolent player at the all important third base will offer to sacrifice his hand for the good of the table, because, “Someone has to take a hit.” We have never understood the logic of this one. Since no one knows what the dealer’s hole card is or the next card out of the shoe, then just like every other hand a player should stick to the rules of basic strategy. By the previously mentioned twisted logic, third base may very well take the bust card and his sacrifice will doom the table. But if everyone loses with a sigh he will proclaim, “Well at least I tried.”

4. When things are going badly at the table, players think they can change the flow of the cards by adding of subtracting a hand from the game.
       There is no flow or run of the cards, they are shuffled in a random order. Casinos go to great lengths to devise shuffles that produce a random rearrangement of the cards at every shuffle.

5. I know I shouldn’t split these sixes against a ten but I have a feeling.

Nothing gets a gambler into more trouble than a feeling. And really this is the point of our blog. The house always has slight edge even at blackjack but if a player follows the rules of basic strategy they can avoid increasing that edge.

Like most things in life blackjack is a game of skill, which can be easily learned. We feel that if a player is going to spend $300 on a night at the tables it is worth their while to invest ten dollars to buy a book on basic strategy. There are thousands of books on basic strategy, you can find them in the gambling section of any bookstore or online. No book on basic strategy or gambling mentions ‘hot dealers’ or ‘taking the dealers bust card’ or ‘flow of the cards,’ it’s all strictly math. So forget the old wives tales, buy yourself a copy, read it and study it. Happy Gambling.

Cara and Ray Bertoia - authors of:
Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships


To find more gambling stories, visit

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Here is an excerpt of the interview I gave for THE BOOK BLOG. It is British blog about publishing and writing and has a section on featured authors. I just wanted you to know that our novel is based on a true story only the names have been changed to protect us!

Tim, I am so happy to be appearing on a British blog because my book is such a blend of the British and Americans. It is set on a British ship with many nationalities in the crew.

The road to my novel, Cruise Quarters – A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships, is a long journey with lots of twist and turns much like a good story. After I graduated college I got a job teaching high school in North Carolina. On a summer break I drove across country with two friends and we all got jobs in a casino in Lake Tahoe. Tahoe was a beautiful place and casino jobs were the best ones to have, especially dealing. Well they all soon went home but I stayed. I worked at Caesars Palace for a few years but then I moved to the North Shore of the Lake. The place I worked at was an “old school” casino, it had been a rat pack hangout in the old days and even now autographed photos of movie stars still adorn the walls. The casino overlooked the lake and as I dealt I would look out at a beautiful view of the crystal blue water.  The border between Nevada and California runs down through the middle of the casino.

The owner was a plumbing contractor from Fresno. The head of security was an ex-Mossad officer and every few weeks we would be strapped down and given lie detector tests. They let porn movies be filmed in the casino and there were rumors that he rigged the slot machines. I’m not sure if that was all true but he did manage to get his casino closed down by the Nevada gaming commission, no small feat. One day a sports agent with Hollywood connections played on my game and encouraged me to write down all my great casino stories. That was the day I became a writer, well my script got as far as HBO where it was eventually rejected but that didn’t matter to me. I was a writer.

A year later I went back to the real world and became a systems analyst by day, writer by night. I lived in Boston, the home of perpetual students and so I was able to take writing classes, join critique groups and improve. After a few years I began working on an MA in writing at Emerson because it had connections in Hollywood. Well, just before I was scheduled to intern in Los Angeles as a script reader I got the opportunity to join Princess Cruises as a croupier. My choice was spend my dwindling savings on an internship or get paid to see the world. I wasn’t scared of going - only staying. The Germans have a word for it torschlusskpanik, the fear of missing the boat.

I stayed at sea for five years and I would like to say that I wrote everyday but I didn’t. I spent those years soaking up all the history I could. The ship was my home and the crew bar was my living room and the nights I spent there were research since I planned to tell the story of all my crewmates someday. And then on my last contract I met Ray and my novel became a love story and that surprised me more than anyone else.

We settled in Palm Springs and I began my book. I had written most of it when I decided to test it out by taking a novel writing class at UCLA. One of the exercises in the class was to try out five opening lines, well the whole class voted for my current opener. My professor liked it so much she became my first editor. I started it in first person, but when I decided to include Ray we switched to third person. Ray’s adventures dealing around the world were just too good to leave out, and I really wanted to include the male point of view.

The goal of our book was to tell our story in a realistic way. After so many ridiculous casino movies like The Cooler, I had had enough.  I am the cynic and Ray is the happy chappy but we both wanted a book that rang true. We wrote down all our ship and casino stories in a book and then built a novel around them.

I casually handed our manuscript to one of my ship friends and asked her to read it. The next day she called me raving about our book. In fact she had already run off three copies for her co-workers. Then I knew that we had nailed it. My biggest beef with the books I had been reading for the last few years were that they all sounded alike. Especially the love stories, I didn’t need to dress ours up it was exciting enough. Our book is based on true stories but it is still a novel. I was so disappointed to learn that Three Cups of Tea was a lie. Surely Greg Mortenson knew that when you elaborate or move events around for dramatic effect it makes your book a novel.

I was always afraid of showing my friends my book but they turned out to be my best readers offering great criticism. I don’t know why I hesitated, dealers are avid readers, with a break every hour they always have book on the go.