An anonymous high-stakes blackjack player calling himself 'Robin Hood' wants to give another family a second chance by paying off their debts with his casino winnings.
'Robin Hood' wants to protect his real identity to avoid the perception he's offering the pirated crew an all-expenses-paid trip to Sin City for celebrity status.
Last year, Las Vegas' very own 'Robin Hood' helped a couple from Michigan with a young daughter whose grapple with brain cancer put them $35,000 in the red.
He used his blackjack skills to help needy families. Now he wants to share his wealth earned at the gambling tables with the crew that fought off the Somali pirates.
The man known in Las Vegas circles as Robin Hood 702 wants to give the crew of the Maersk Alabama and their significant others an all-expense-paid weekend to Sin City.
"Maybe they don't need financial help, but I want to recognize them as heroes," said the high roller who wants to remain anonymous to avoid the perception he's doing this for celebrity status.
Robin Hood 702 said he is offering the men free airfare, free upscale hotel rooms and free meals, and as soon as the crew is ready to fly, the plane tickets and room keys will be waiting.
The 19 members of the Maersk Alabama are preparing to travel back to the U.S. Tuesday after their pirate drama off the coast of Africa, and may soon be reunited with Captain Richard Phillips who was taken hostage for five days. Phillips' whereabouts remain secret.
The blackjack player said he's really hoping the men and their hero captain accept the gift.
"It really touched my heart that someone would sacrifice their own life ... a father and a husband ... for pirates to take him and spare his crew," Robin Hood 702 said. "It touched my heart and I started to cry. How many people would do that? I decided even though Robin Hood 702 is about helping people in financial crisis, I wanted to do something special for these people too."
Last year the good Samaritan gambler — who named his Web site Robinhood702.com — "Robin Hood," since he's trying to take from rich casinos and give to poor Americans, and 702 because that is Las Vegas' area code — put his skills to the test to help out two families in need.
He solicited Web video submissions in order to choose from people who claimed to be in debt anywhere from $25 to $50,000. He selected Sandra Brown from Charleston, S.C., who was buried in medical bills while financially caring for her elderly parents, and Megan and Curt Kegler from Michigan and their daughter Madison who is seriously ill.
He flew them all to Las Vegas, winning enough cash to give Brown $20,000, and the Keglers $35,000.
He's been known to wager thousands of dollars per hand in some of the highest-profile casinos in Sin City, sometimes winning — or losing six — figures in a single night. He's gotten comped in some of the fanciest suites in town — sprawling, luxurious, multi-bedroom palaces with butler service, indoor pools, dining and screening rooms and full bars, even though he doesn't drink.
Salon owner and celebrity hairdresser Michael Boychuck, who's styled Paris Hilton among others, calls Robin Hood 702 "bigger than life."
"He'll probably pay off everybody's houses and solve the whole budget crisis for the United States," Boychuck said. "The guy's amazing. Put him in charge and he'll handle it."
Others are just as quick to sing his praises.
Barry Dakake, the executive chef at the 9 Steak House in the Palms Hotel and Casino, also knows Robin Hood 702. "It's kinda crazy when you think about it," he says of the plan, "but this is what kind of person this guy is. This is coming from him. This ain't coming from no organization, this is him. Robin Hood is putting this together himself and it's very unique, very special," said Dakake.
Robin Hood 702 said that it's important to honor the ordeal the crew went through and hopes the concept catches on.
"Standing up to adversity, in the face of certain death, standing up to these pirates ... I was blown away," he said.