Saturday, Aug. 23, 1997 | 3:35 a.m.
The history of baccarat is rich with stories of gamblers who won and lost fortunes in single sessions.
Here are some popular baccarat stories as compiled from several accounts (the sources are in parentheses):
* In baccarat, the highest of high-rollers are called "whales." Perhaps the Moby Dick of all whales was Japanese gambler Akio "The Warrior" Kashiwagi. In 1990, he waged an epic baccarat battle with casino mogul Donald Trump at one of Trump's Atlantic City properties. The deal was that Kashiwagi would risk $12 million in a marathon session, stopping only when he either doubled his money or lost the $12 million. At one point, Kashiwagi was up $7 million, but his luck turned. A dispute over credit ended the challenge before the money was lost or doubled. The final result, however, was that Trump's casino won $9 million. (From "The Big Game," a story in Casino Player, August 1996.)
* An Arabian high-roller was playing baccarat at a posh Strip casino when, during a long session, he became hungry. Naturally, he was offered the finest gourmet food the casino could prepare. Fearing casino officials would spike the food with a potion that would make him lose $20 million, he sent his servant to a local McDonald's to pick up dinner. Casino officials held up the game while he consumed a Big Mac and fries. (As told by Howard Schwartz, operator of the Gamblers Book Shop in downtown Las Vegas).
* Several years ago at The Mirage, a gambler placed a side bet of $100,000 for the dealers. He won and the dealers split $200,000. (From "The Big Game" article).
* An Asian gambler at a Las Vegas casino asked that the maximum limit be raised to $250,000 per hand. The house agreed, figuring he would lose at least half his bets and the casino would rake in commissions of $12,500 on the hands he won betting on the banker. The bettor went on an amazing win streak. When the session ended, he left with $18 million of the casino's money -- one of the largest takes in Las Vegas history. The next day, the casino's stock plummeted on Wall Street. A few weeks later, the gambler returned and lost a bundle on baccarat. (From "Casino Secrets" by Barney Vinson, 1997, Huntington Press.)
* Many years ago, a high-roller insisted on having his stuffed baby alligator on the table next to him for good luck. Each time he was dealt a hand, he would tap it on the gator's rough skin. Casino officials soon realized he was marking the cards so that the tiny indentations he was putting on the sides could benefit him when the cards were drawn for future hands. Casino officials, not wanting to cause a scene, arranged for a very attractive woman to show up and sit beside the man. After developing a warm relationship with the gambler, she got up and said she had to leave because the alligator scared her. He quickly got rid of it. While the couple chatted during a break, casino bosses changed the cards. They told the gambler that a new house policy was to change all eight decks for each new shoe. That policy became the standard for Las Vegas casinos. (From an article in Las Vegas Style magazine, November 1996.)