LAS VEGAS – EXCLUSIVE: A high-stakes blackjack player who wants to use his gambling skills to help a family in financial need has set a September 15 deadline for candidates to enter video submissions to his Web site.
"I have some people in mind," he said, based on the 300 entries he's already received, "but I'm not sure I've found the perfect family yet."
The blackjack player, who is well known in Las Vegas casinos, said he wants to remain anonymous to avoid the perception he's doing this for celebrity status.
He 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.
His perfect candidate is a family that has done good things with their lives but has fallen on hard times, owing creditors between $25,000 and $50,000. Once he narrows the field and confirms the financial difficulties, he'll choose the family he believes is most worthy and fly them to Las Vegas for the kind of high-roller weekend he often enjoys.
"I'm gonna transform their lives for a weekend" he said. "Take them away from their normal everyday life and problems ... get them manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, get their hair done at one of the leading spas in town and take them to some of the most incredible shows Vegas is known for."
His motivation for this, he said, is purely altruistic: trying to take what some consider the dark side of gambling and use it for a righteous cause.
"I'm a common guy and I've been through it in life and I like to do nice things for people. I want to be remembered for the nice things I've done," he said.
"I just want to provide hope that a good day is coming down the line. It may not be tomorrow or the next week, but there's hope it could be there and I want to give that hope."
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 he hopes the concept catches on.
"I want to create a movement where other people are touched by this... stockbrokers, futures traders, doctors, lawyers... whatever their niche in life is, I want them to be touched and say you know what, I want to make a difference too. If this little gambler guy can do it, why can't I?"
"I'm not telling anyone to go gamble to win their house back," he said, admitting gambling can be a very vicious disease for some. "All I'm saying is I want to do this because this is what I'm good at."
He's guaranteeing he'll give the winning family half of what they owe, no matter what happens at the blackjack table, but he insists he'll win it all.
He swears he doesn't count cards or cheat in any way when he plays, so how can he be so confident?
"It's all about believing," he said. "You have to believe that you're going to win. If you don't believe you're going to win you might as well write a check, mail it to whatever casino you go to and save gas, airfare and aggravation and stay home and watch a nice movie."
He pauses for a moment, then talks about the darker times in his life, the death of a loved one, battling demons, and then turning things around "like that" as he snaps his fingers.
"I've been blessed. I have some guardian angels up there. I'm very spiritual. God knows what I'm doing, what I'm trying to do and he's gonna be there sittin' at the table with me."