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Iowa has provided me some great memories

We usually get to see a great football game at Iowa, which is what it’s all about, and two of my favorite personal stories also took place on trips there.

I’ve told the following story dozens of times to friends and on the radio but have never written about it. It occurred during Penn State’s trip to Iowa in 2012.

There’s a casino near the team hotel, so I’ll typically stop by there on the Friday night before the game. I consider myself a blackjack expert, having played thousands of hands at casinos and winning (and of course losing) a good bit during my life.

I know when to hit and when not to hit in every situation. But just knowing that and playing by the book doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win. I learned that lesson in a major way in 2012 at the Iowa casino.

I was at a blackjack table around 1 a.m. sitting near a guy who was so drunk that he couldn’t speak without slurring his words. I’m not sure he could even see the cards. But he was tossing down $1,000 chips on every hand, sometimes two or three of them.

And he crushed it. When all was said and done, he walked away with a little tray holding about $75,000. He couldn’t walk straight and needed three security guards to help him to the elevator and to his hotel room.

This guy was the worst blackjack player I’ve ever seen. He hit on 17 against a dealer 6 once. He hit on 18 once. It was hilariously pathetic because, again, I’m not even sure he knew what cards were on the table.

But he kept winning. And winning. And winning. He did everything wrong and still took the casino to the cleaners. Pit bosses were watching him closely because he was doing such stupid things and still winning that it almost could have been a potential scam.

Several people at the table were yelling at the guy for making terrible hits, and making matters worse, he was sitting at third base. A lot of us were losing our little $10 bets after he made big mistakes going against the book, yet he was cleaning up.

The sad point is, sometimes in life you can do everything right and still lose, but do everything wrong and win.

My other favorite Iowa story took place two years ago when I visited the real “Field of Dreams” baseball field in Dyersville.

I’ve written several times about that experience and what it meant to me personally, because after losing my father in 2006, the desire to have one more catch with my dad stirs powerful emotions.

When Penn State goes back to Iowa in 2021, my plan is to take my son, Chase, on the trip so we can visit the Field of Dreams together. He’ll be 9 then and old enough to understand the significance, and that will be one of the great moments of my life.

Cory Giger can be reached at cgiger@altoonamirror.com

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