My first weekend in San Francisco, I am just recovering from the 11-hour time zone difference, feeling slightly more settled but that I need to head into the city and really find my scope. Then I get a call at 8am from my Uncle Ray to tell me he’ll pick me up in an hour and that we’re going to Tahoe this weekend to do a bit of skiing- I didnt even know you could Ski in California- this place is awesome!!
I have no ski gear, no jacket, no gloves no salopettes, nothing but this doesn’t seem to be a problem to Ray who has none of the required accessories either. Our conversation goes somewhat like this; ‘So we’ll just hire stuff out?’ ‘Ah yeh sure. We’ve just got to pick up a friend of mine called Larry, he’s some gambler, its legal to gamble in Tahoe you know, lined with them, they tend to give you shitty rates though but fuck it. What are the rates for blackjack like at home, its 2/3 in Tahoe, they undercut you a bit, do you do the casinos yourself?’ – Ah…I get it now…Skiing will be at the bottom of the pecking order.
This trip though is to turn out to be one of the most interesting experiences and encounters that I have been involved.
Larry Tint is a multi-million pound, Harvard affiliate, money tycoon, retired Barclays chairman and capital investor. His house is insane, sitting at the highest point of Belvedere, the most prestigious residency overlooking San Francisco in its entirety. He has an Aston Martin outside his garage, parked under a tree, caked in bird crap- but he couldn’t give two fucks. He’s balling in cash. Here’s the view form his house…
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The ride to Tahoe is roughly 4 hours and during that time I became completely starstruck by the stories that Larry tells me. It turns out he’s more than pretty good at gambling- although he says he never gambles, just plays the odds. Without disclosing too much he’s insanely clever and good at numbers- a hell of a lot like that film ’23’!!
All of his luxuries in life, his cars, boat, houses ect. are not payed for through his career earnings but by beating the casino at Blackjack.
He told me stories of how the casinos would fly him out to Vegas and he would play on tables with people such as Sinatra and given the top suites for free- as he was considered a ‘high-flyer’. Every year for, I think he said 8 years, the casinos in Monaco would fly him out by Concorde first class when the F1 grand-prix was on so he could play in their casinos and watch the F1- all on the house!
There are so many more stories, but a lot of them were told confidentially so I have to keep them hush- but basically he’s now on the casino blacklist and barred from almost every casino in the world- apart from those he has close allegiances with- He was even refused entry into a casino in Budapest- he had never previously been to Budapest before this episode.
Needless to say when we got to Tahoe, I was sat by his side the whole time, but too afraid to actually gamble any money as I felt almost embarrassed at not knowing what to do and didn’t want to make a call that would interfere with his cards.
He was being very closely watched, as was I, the whole time by everyone affiliated in the casinos, who also limited his betting. But this was more about fun for him now- he wasn’t bothered that he was only allowed to bet $200 a hand as opposed to $1000.
I watched as he would tell me, ‘see if I was allowed I would double my bet now because I’m about to hit some good cards.’ Two Queens. I’m thinking wow that’s impressive…. He decides to split the Queens- up pops an Ace and a 9- He wins with both hands. Crazy.
Oh, also did I mention, we are staying at the Hyatt president Suite and have everything comped, as arranged for by Larry- who was actually staying at his multi-million dollar holiday home by the lake. Not a bad first weekend in San Francisco then!
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After a night of drinking and gambling I got up early and wandered down to the lake- the first time I had seen it in daytime- I don’t think I’ve ever seen such bluer water- It was pretty cool and surreal for me to see Snow-capped mountains- I honestly didn’t have a clue that California held such treasures. In the summer this place is heaving with boats, barbeques and beach parties- sounds pretty incredible, but for now I was just happy enough to marvel at the mountains in the cold…
The rest of the weekend is spent making the most of all the freebies that the Hyatt has to offer, driving around the lake, heading up to the various vistas and viewpoints before finally heading South of the lake where I went up the ski lift to see the views from the top of the mountain- Ray thought the Casino was a better idea than this and that heights weren’t his thing. Each to their own- I thought these views were awesome!!
And that was Tahoe and my first weekend in the states- a completely unexpected whirlwind of luxury, glimpse into the lives of the super rich and an image of how to actually beat the casinos! Epic! Bring on Vegas!