Friday, March 31, 2017

Jerome, the Baccarat Prodigy

           When I'm not writing books, my day job has me working at a casino. And as some of my close friends are aware, I was just promoted to floor supervisor. So, with April 6th being my final day as a dealer after six years, I thought I'd devote this week's blog to one of my favorite memories as a casino dealer. I've got lots of favorites, but this one still makes me laugh.

            This is about the baffling game of Baccarat.  To explain the complicated rules behind this game would take an entire separate article, and I don't want to bore you.  Suffice it to say that there's a Player hand, and a Banker hand. Each hand gets two or three cards, depending on the aforementioned complicated rules. Face cards are counted as zero, and we only count the last digit of the sum of the cards.  So a total of 9 would be a "9", and a total of 19 would also be a "9."  A total of 30 would be a "0."   Everyone at the table is simply betting which hand will come closer to 9?  Player, or banker?  If you're right, you win.  If you're wrong, better luck next time.
            It’s a very popular game with high rollers, and it’s very popular with the Asian community, but it attracts lots of people because of its simplicity. Most casinos keep a running digital display of the results of the last twenty hands, and it’s permissible to keep a scorecard at your table to track the hands yourself. Theoretically, if you’re a mathematical prodigy, you can extrapolate from the results what the most likely outcome is going to be on the next hand. In reality, I think you’d have the same luck if you made your decision based on a coin flip.
            So I was dealing the game one day to a group of very serious and silent gamers. A young, brash black guy named Jerome was walking by the table with one of his friends. I knew Jerome to be a strict Blackjack player, he didn’t touch anything else. His buddy paused at the Baccarat table, looking at the activity and hustle surrounding the table. It was a normal day of Baccarat at our casino, which meant there was probably about a dozen people jockeying for bets.
            “Jerome, how do you play this game?”
            I had never seen Jerome play Baccarat before, but he immediately and without hesitation launched into this explosive, loud and wild speech.
            “You gotta bet on what side is gonna have the highest score, Player or Banker! And you see that display up there on the table? The last five hands were Banker Wins! That means that 80% of the time, it’s gonna chop over to Player this hand. But the two of those hands were natural wins, so that tells most people it’s gonna be a Banker win after all. But you go back ten hands ago, there were two ties in a row. That makes resets everything, and means those natural wins don’t mean shit, so that’s why it’s gonna be a Banker win after all! So you gotta bet Banker, you got no choice. Banker! Bam! Banker Bet! Let’s see that shit, dealer!”
            And to illustrate the point, he took ten dollars in chips out of his pocket and slammed it on a Banker Bet position. This was done in conjunction with the word bam for full dramatic emphasis. Then he stepped back, folded his arms, and waited.
            I was speechless. Anyone who knows anything about the game could tell that everything Jerome had just said was one of the most wildly insane rants ever uttered by a human tongue. But he sold that story like an expert. His friend believed him, and followed suit by placing a ten dollar bet of his own on Banker. Not only had he convinced his friend, but several of the other gamblers at the table, many of them notoriously superstitious by nature, followed suit. He had influenced the entire table. Jerome just stood back, folding his arms, and smiling at what he seemed convinced was an absolutely sure bet.  Not sure enough to place more than $10, of course, but if he had any shred of doubt, it didn't show.  Had a new Baccarat prodigy revealed itself?  Every player waited breathlessly for the Banker bet to win.
            I drew the cards.
            Player bet won. It wasn’t even close. Player  8, Banker 2.  Everyone at the table lost. Everyone looked at Jerome for an explanation.
            Jerome, cool as ice, just shrugged and before he walked away, he said, “What, man? I don’t know how the fuck this fucking game works.”

            I didn’t laugh out loud. But I nearly pissed myself trying not to.  I'm going to miss being part of stories like that.

John Yeo Jr. is the author of The King's Tournament and Mama Sauveterre's Curiosity Shoppe.  Both of which are available at Amazon, which you should order a copy and read 'cause their awesome fantasy and adventure novels that's gotten a few good reviews already.   His next novel, The Infinite League, comes out in September.   You can follow more of John's news at 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A favorite movie for every year I've been alive!


    Good morning, everyone!  I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging in the last week, for the dedicated six of you who have been following me since I started this up.  The last week has been quite busy:  I’m going through the final proofreading stages of my next novel, THE INFINITE LEAGUE; I’m developing my first graphic novel in nearly five years----and I’m very proud to say that I was recently promoted at my casino job to floor supervisor.  It’s been an exciting time.
       Today, I wanted to participate in something I’ve seen my friends doing lately.  They’ve been listing their favorite movie for every year since they’ve been born. Sounds fun, and for a cinematic whore like me, I wanted to add my own list to the pile.  You know, just in case you care about that sort of thing.
       There are plenty of runner-ups, by the way.  I have over 750 movies in my collection, and there are some years that have a lot of winners.   But here are the absolute favorites movies I love to watch from every year that I was born. 
       Movies with an asterisk are films that I didn’t see and/or appreciate until years later.  I didn’t get to watch Blazing Saddles when I was seven, obviously.  But for some reason, at age six, The Poseidon Adventure was my absolutely favorite movie and would be until I saw Star Wars.  Never could explain why I loved that schlocky survival adventure movie so much. I watched it religiously every year when it was televised, I even had a set of View-Master reels.  Maybe it was the early John Williams score. Who knows.
        Anyhoozle, here’s the list.  Leave some comments if you want to share some of your favorites!

1968               Barbarella   *
1969               A Boy Named Charlie Brown
1970               M*A*S*H   *
1971               Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
1972               The Poseidon Adventure
1973               Live and Let Die
1974               Blazing Saddles   *
1975               Monty Python and the Holy Grail  /  Rocky Horror Picture Show *
1976               Freaky Friday
1977               Star Wars
1978               Superman: The Movie  /  Animal House
1979               The Jerk   *
1980               Airplane! / The Empire Strikes Back
1981               Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982               Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
1983               National Lampoon’s Vacation / Return of the Jedi
1984               Ghostbusters
1985               Back to the Future
1986               Aliens
1987               Raising Arizona
1988               A Fish Called Wanda
1989               Batman  /  Adventures of Baron Munchausen
1990               Pretty Woman
1991               The Commitments
1992               A Few Good Men
1993               Jurassic Park
1994               Shawshank Redemption / Forrest Gump / Pulp Fiction
1995               Casino
1996               Fargo
1997               Fifth Element / Titanic
1998               The Truman Show
1999               My Cousin Vinnie
2000               Unbreakable
2001               Moulin Rouge!
2002               Chicago
2003               Kill Bill Vol. 1
2004               Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Bungundy
2005               Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2006               Casino Royale
2007               300
2008               The Dark Knight
2009               Inglorious Basterds
2010               The A-Team  /  Toy Story 3
2011               The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  /  The Muppets
2012               The Avengers /  Skyfall
2013               Man of Steel  /  Zero Dark Thirty
2014               Ex Machina
2015               Star Wars the Force Awakens / Inside Out / Trainwreck
2016               Captain America: Civil War /  Zootopia  /  Rogue One

Well, that was fun.  Except now I don't want to go to work....I just want to sit back and watch some movies.  Where's my popcorn?

John Yeo Jr. is the author of The King's Tournament and Mama Sauveterre's Curiosity Shoppe.   You can purchase both of these titles at Amazon, or at his website at   His next novel, The Infinite League, comes out in September.

Friday, March 17, 2017

High School and the Discs of Tron Incident

      It's been brought to my attention that the 30th high school reunion of Du Quoin's class of '87 is quickly approaching. It just made me think about a story that still makes me laugh, years and years later. For those of you who went to school with me, let me just preface this by noting that all names have been changed to protect the guilty. Or the embarrassed. 
      One afternoon, back in high school, a friend of mine named Shawn and I had a seemingly brilliant idea. We were in the band room, and everyone was out to lunch. We had about ten minutes to kill before chorus started. And back in those days, we couldn’t pass the time by pulling out our phones and playing Angry Birds. We had to entertain ourselves, dammit!
     The kettle drums in the band room, when not in use, were covered by large cardboard discs. They were about the size of manhole covers, and surprisingly sturdy. These weren’t the kind of cardboard circles that comes with your Tombstone pizza, oh no. These were reinforced spheres of corrugated boards that had weight and heft.
      “Let’s play Discs of Tron,” I brightly suggested.
      “I’m down,” he decided.
      Some of you may remember the sci-fi movie TRON, and a few of you may even remember the neon-laced video game that the movie inspired. But you’d have to be a true video game geek historian to know about the follow-up game, DISCS OF TRON.


      Basically, this game was inspired by the Jai Alai sequence from the movie. And if you’re not a follower of obscure sports, the game basically worked like this: Two guys stood on opposite ends of a court, and whipped electric Frisbees at each other. The point was to hit the other guy and win the game.
       So that was my bright idea. Let’s whip a massive corrugated disc at each other from opposite sides of the room, and hope we don’t accidentally decapitate the other guy. What could possibly go wrong?
        Actually, for the first five minutes, nothing really did go wrong. We knocked over music stands, I banged my knee at one point diving away from the deadly projectile, and I hit Shawn in the chest with a move that made me feel like I’d just won Game 7 of the World Series match up of the Cubs versus the Indians. Okay, true, that game didn’t really happen until nearly thirty years after this story, but it approximated my emotions at the time. Plus, that actual game literally just happened about twelve hours before I originally typed this story, and I was still in emotional overdrive when I was writing this. Did you see that fucking game? Was that an emotional roller coaster or what? Coming back three to one in the series, having game seven tied up in the ninth inning, a rain delay, and a nail-biting victory in the tenth. I’m not even a major sports fan, and even I was emotional at that game. So cool. Where was I?
        Right. Stupid teens doing stupid things. For the first five minutes, everything was cool. And then Kevin walked in.
        Kevin had the unfortunate station in life of being the school nerd. Everything he said came out wrong, he was awkward and uncomfortable, and life just seemed to serve him sour grapes for every meal. He thought of me as one his best friends, but only because I was one of the only people who actually treated him like a human being. It’s not in my nature to be cruel to people, even if everyone else around me may be. I still kind of feel a little guilty about what happened next, but you've come this far, so here’s the story.
         “Hey guys, what are you doing?”
         “We’re playing Discs of Tron, Kevin.”
         “Cool, can I play?”
         Now, Shawn and I actually weren’t best friends, to be honest. We just happened to have the same brilliant idea at the same time, and we having a fun moment. I was always cordial with Kevin, but I never made any attempts to hang out with him. Shawn was less patient with him than I was. But I suppose neither of us really felt like being jerks and excluding him just because he was….well, Kevin. So we agreed to let him join us in a few rounds. He’ll be one team, and we’ll be on the other.
            He stood on the north side of the band room, right where the main entrance of the room was positioned. We stood on the far south side of the band room, nearly sixty feet away, where the exit into the football field was positioned. We took position, and told him to take his best shot.
            He reared back, preparing to fling this massive cardboard death disc at our heads. It was at that exact moment that the band teacher, Mrs. Minton, entered the room returning from lunch.
            He flung the cardboard disc, and it traveled exactly one foot from his body, where it caught the air wrong and went straight upward towards the ceiling, where it shattered the glass panel of the lights. That’s all she saw. We, as far as she could tell, were just standing on the other side of the room looking as shocked as she was.
            “Damn, Kevin, what’s wrong with you?”
            The phrase to throw someone under the bus wouldn’t be coined for nearly twenty years, but that’s pretty much what happened. Was it wrong? Well, yeah, pretty much indefensibly so. Probably wasn’t cool, and I’d like to think that I would have stepped forward to take some of the blame now. But instead, we just shook our heads and left the room, leaving him to his fate.
            That old high school is gone now. It was torn down years ago, replaced by a more modern facility. They probably have sturdier light fixtures and more secure lids for the kettle drums. I haven’t lived in Du Quoin since I started college, and I didn’t even know about the high school being replaced until years after I happened. It felt like part of my childhood had been taken away, but thank goodness many of the friendships I made there still endure.
            Well, maybe not me and Kevin’s. Sorry, buddy. I really hope your aim has improved since then. 

The story you read will be included in John's upcoming book of equally hilarious stories, I LAUGH TOO MUCH.   You can keep an eye out for it by checking John's website at   John Yeo Jr. is the author of THE KING'S TOURNAMENT and MAMA SAUVETERRE'S CURIOSITY SHOPPE, which you can by at Amazon today!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How do I come up with those character names?

A co-worker asked me something interesting the other day after he read THE KING’S TOURNAMENT.  He wanted to know how I went about choosing the names for my characters. The first thing that came to mind was “Wow, this would make a great blog entry!”

You know, the truth is, I can toss off a good dozen character names without breaking a sweat. That’s the easy part. The trickier part is figuring out which character names won’t really work. If you’re an aspiring author, stick around and let me share some insights with you.  There are many great reference books on this subject, written by people far more experienced than I am, but I can at least share a few things I’ve learned.  I'll start with some of the fantasy characters from my latest book.

In THE KING’S TOURNAMENT, I had a centaur named Khora, and a gorgon named Ora.  The two gals are right there on the cover, illustrated by my talented wife Christina. These girls weren’t best of friends, to be honest.  After going over the first draft, it occurred to me that because their names rhymed, it might seem that there was some connection between the two.  There wasn’t. So Ora became Oira.  Which really taught me that I need to think long and hard about those names before writing the book.  It was a bitch going back through the entire manuscript and adding an extra letter to Oira’s name.  Which, in turn, taught me to become more familiar with my Word program, which can substitute one word for another in an entire manuscript with just a press of a button. This probably explained why I ended up hating Oira, and why I was so cruel to her in my book.  Let’s move on.

If you’re going to write a book about a young boy who dabbles in magic, you obviously need to avoid names like Harry, Ron and Hermione, or anything close to that. If it’s a sci-fi epic, don’t use names like Luke or Leia or Han. This should be obvious to most of you, but you should get what I’m talking about. Basically, if you’re writing a book about a teen-aged wizard, don’t name him after another literary teen-aged wizard written by someone more famous than you. (And no one is going to be fooled by naming him Barry Kotter, either. Put some work into it!)

THE KING’S TOURNAMENT is set during the medieval era. The characters have names such as Levinia, Balor and Cyrus. Unless you’re going for comic irony, you don’t name them Bob or Frank or Mercedes. If your book is set in the Civil War, have names that are appropriate to the 19th century. And on that note, if you have a Chinese character, try not to give him or her a common Japanese name.  Just do your research before you commit to a name. Nothing makes you seem like an amateur than naming your 17th century pirate “Dustin.”

Do you know the reason why most killers don’t have middle initials in crime fiction? It’s because you run the risk of naming him or her after a real person, and you don’t want them suing for defamation of character. God knows it’s hard enough to make money off writing to begin with without worrying about frivolous lawsuits. After one of my books was published, it occurred to me that I didn’t closely check to see if one of the antagonist’s names existed anywhere. I won’t call attention to it by naming the book or the character I’m talking about, but I did some research recently and found this particular name is shared by a realty agent in Tennessee, and a registered sex offender in Colorado. I’m neither looking for a home or into small children, so I’m probably safe. But it’s something you should think about when naming your characters.  (Full disclosure? In MAMA SAUVETERRE’S CURIOSITY SHOPPE, I actually did intentionally name one unsympathetic character after the guy who stole my girlfriend freshman year in high school. But that’s okay, I’m fairly sure he’s totally illiterate.)

Sometimes names look good on paper. Sometimes they don’t sound as good when you speak them out loud. So as you’re writing your story, read it aloud. If it sounds completely awkward, you should consider changing it. A character in THE KING’S TOURNAMENT was named Levinia Viper. You can’t name someone Viper without it sounding completely snake-like and instantly untrustworthy, so it was changed to Vesper in the final draft.  Same goes with the Sorceress Tremandhalia, which I had named to reflect a regal, aristocratic feel. In truth, that just makes your brain hurt to read it and your mouth hurt to speak it. Which is why she became Tamora, which is much more easier on the brain.

While I try not to overuse it, I do have characters with alliterative names.  Hector Horvendue, Arctic Annie, Sadie McSnatch. It’s the same principal as to why we remember names like Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Peter Parker, and so on.  I try to save the use of alliteration for characters that I want to call special attention to.  Don’t waste it on the main villains’ minion’s girlfriend. 

A character I wrote about in a short story once was a 90-year-old scientist named Jonathan Progeriat. By the end of the story, it was revealed that he was actually in his twenties, but a freak accident caused him to age prematurely. Progeria is a rare disease that causes children to prematurely age. If you can find an obscure or not-so-well known word to describe your character, you might consider using that as their name. Highly literate readers will appreciate your cleverness.

So that’s just a few tips that spring to mind. Hope I could inspire you to come up with some of your own names, such as some of the characters from my books like Tassina D’Emerald, Ceaser Lithglow, Gorman Scudd, Tolliver Chardello and Pennsylvania Tucker.  And remember, when all else fails, you can always pull a bunch of Scrabble letters out of a bag.  That’s how I came up with the demonic character T’Shier-Iyla.  She’s a horrible bitch that plagued the heroes of my comic book series THE ADVENTURERS, but to this day I still couldn’t begin to tell you how to pronounce it.  But at least she doesn’t share her name with any child molesters in Colorado.

John Yeo Jr. is the author of Mama Sauveterre's Curiosity Shoppe, and The King's Tournament.  Both of his books are available at Amazon.  His new book, The Infinite League, will be available in October 2017.  You can see more of his books and art at