Arrested Chinese Blackjack Guru Ai WeiWei Also an Artist and Activist

The recent detention of blackjack master Ai Weiwei has uncovered his secret life as an artist and activist. From

Vinnie, who prefers to be called ‘Snake Eyes’ is a troglodyte faced mountain of muscles hardened by years of prison gyms and frequent street brawls. Despite being in his late 40s, the New York City native can probably rip apart men half his age, yet today ‘Snake Eyes’ is concerned for his friend.

“I came here to Atlantic City now to unwind a bit at the blackjack table. It was here I met him some 25 years ago. I was playing and losing bad, and then this Asian guy with a beard right out of the Kung Fu movies, playing next to me, starts telling me when to hit, split or stay. I don’t listen to nobody but every time I don’t listen to him, I lose the hand. So I start listening. I was up a few grand that night. I always listened when he explained smart strategies. He is the best,” Vinnie recalls ….

Throughout the 1980’s Ai WeiWei lived in an unfurnished apartment at the Lower East Side of Manhattan, yet every few days a full stretch limo picked him up for the drive to the casino. Since he was a rated blackjack card games player, he had full ‘comps’ at practically every casino in Atlantic City: with free suites, limos, dinners and every other perk at his disposal. Due to his open personality and great skills he got to know many blackjack players from across the United States

“He showed me once those things he makes. I don’t get art, but he never talked much about anything but blackjack, card counting systems, girls and casinos with me. He is a good guy. They better let him out,” Mr. Snake Eyes explains before returning to his table.

Ai’s status as a gambling guru is hinted at in his New Yorker profile (via Mark MacKinnon):

In America, Ai studied English and enrolled at Parsons School of Design, in New York. He was intoxicated by the energy of the East Village, which, to him, felt “like a volcano with smoke always billowing out of the top.” He found a cheap basement apartment near East Seventh Street and Second Avenue, and spent his weekends haunting the galleries, roaming the city like “a mud-fish burrowing wherever there is muck,” as his brother put it in “New York Notes,” a short book that he wrote after a visit.

Parsons was a poor fit. Ai excelled in the studio but hated art history: “Whoever Picasso’s lovers were, I had no interest.” He dropped out and did odd jobs—housekeeper, gardener, babysitter, construction worker—and dedicated himself mainly to playing blackjack in Atlantic City.


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