The “Cult Years” (part 6)

This will be the part of the story about Ted…

…all about Ted and nothing but the Ted.


When I finally got back to Vegas after Florida and Brooklyn and Southern California (again), I wound up running the whole dingy store front Cult establishment as its temporary executive director. Most importantly, I also ran the wee church’s course room and all its training operations. That’s where I met Ted.

Like me, Ted was from Brooklyn. Like me, Ted was a veteran (he had been a US Marine in Vietnam). Like me, Ted was highly suspicious of the Cult’s whole “we’re a religion” angle – as well as all C-Members. Like me, Ted was in awe of the parts of The Cult’s technology that actually worked. It didn’t take long for the two of us to get downright conspiratorial.

He was already disaffected and was really just sticking around to gather actionable intelligence on the whole thing. He was good…played it cool, went along with stuff, but he was just biding his time. From the moment I admitted to him that I was basically just scamming room and board, we were instant best buds. You could say we went to different high schools together.

Ted paid his rent as a professional gambler in Las Vegas. He was born with a head for numbers. At his peak he was able to pay post-graduate math students to calculate odds on certain video poker and slot machine progressive payouts. At his peak he had enough money to pay for these calculations as well as more of the Cult’s courses so he could keep on “watching” their operation.

Ted could tell you how many video poker hands had to be played before a royal flush (the highest payout) was likely. Ted would know every progressive slot game in town, and at which point in the progressive growth of the payout each machine would be worth playing (in terms of dollars per hour given a certain number of hands played per hour). He was no amateur.

Ted’s real bread and butter was a particular type of video poker game that was always set up in a linked group of identical poker machines. This group of machines had the standard payouts for poker hands – except when the “Flush Attack” light turned on. Then a simple flush (5 cards all of the same suit) would be worth 40 points instead of 25 (with the maximum bet of $1.25). Ted had calculated the dollar-per-hour rate of return for Flush Attack machines.It was so much higher when the light was on that it was an irresistible source of income – as long as you stuck to his strategy.

Ted’s strategy on the Flush Attack machine was simple. Let the ignorant tourists dump money into the machine while the light was off. Sit at the machine drinking coffee and only playing a quarter a hand and only as many hands as it took to not get “asked to leave” by the casino. Then, when the tourists finally hit enough flushes with enough money in their machines, they’d turn on the Flush Attack light.

When that Flush Attack light came on, Ted sprang into action! He’d switch from betting a quarter a hand to the maximum bet and switch to playing a strategy that targeted flushes. He’d then play at lightning speed. He was going to be the first one to get a flush with the light on, and get his 40-point max bet payout. Then the light would go out, and he’d downshift, letting the tourists turn the Flush Attack light back on again.

This was worth an average of about $8 an hour. And it worked at whatever Vegas casinos where ignorant tourists were sitting at Flush Attack machines.Normal, non-linked video poker machines that did not have a progressive payout were not worth Ted’s time at all far as their dollar-per-hour rate was concerned.

After we’d been bros for a few months, I hopped on back of his motorcycle on a  rare day off and we hit The Maxim – an older “golden-era” casino that had the lucrative Flush Attack machines. I was an apprentice pro gambler!

He schooled me rigorously on his Flush Attack strategy. Once I passed muster, he would give me $300 of his own cash to work with. I would get to keep all the complimentary benefits and perks the casino offered just for playing (usually worth at least a few beers and a meal at the casino buffet every day I played).

I would get a certain percentage of any royal flush or four aces thad I’d hit (those were worth $1200 and $200 respectively – with maximum bet). And he’d pay me $5 an hour. Ted usually would get his $300 back and sometimes much more. I got to get out and about and drink the casino’s complimentary beer.

This lasted until the Heinekens finally won out over Ted’s strategy. After four or five of’ em, I’d start playing with my gut and chase the elusive Royal Flush – instead of using The Strategy. Naturally, this lost Ted money and eventually it’s what got me fired from the world of professional gambling. We remained close friends, though. In fact, Ted was the best man at my Cult wedding. Now THERE’s a story…one I’ll cover later.

At one point after I’d left The Cult, my Dad actually retired and moved to Vegas. He wound up getting a job as the head tech guy for the biggest gaming company in town – the one that manufactured and programmed most of the video machines. Crazy, right? I just had to get Dad (another Brooklyn boy – and veteran) and Ted together.

Sure enough, when they met it was instant fireworks! It was like the old Mad Magazine Spy versus Spy cartoon. Ted kept trying to wheedle something he could use from my Dad, and my Dad kept dismissing even the possibility that anyone could ever beat the machines with a mathematical strategy. It was epic!

Ted kept going to The Cult’s little church long after I had departed (as a married man with a kid on the way). Finally, he too parted company with The Cult as well. Thus began his long-awaited career as a full-time Protester of The Cult! He would attend every large Cult event, travelling hundreds of miles just to walk around with an anti-cult picket sign. He’d do that in Vegas too – in his spare time

He formally petitioned The Cult on a regular basis to officially declare him a Suppressive Person – as per their own very well-defined rules. Of course the Cult wasn’t going to do anything an Anti-Cult protester said to do, so he never got “declared”. This was very disappointing to him since said official declaration was considered a badge of honor among the Anti-Cult crowd he ran around with.

We kept in touch for years after I’d left Vegas. But, unlike Ted, I couldn’t be bothered being anti-anything.

While still in Vegas, but after The Cult, I sprouted a wife, a child and a promising software career. Then I started chasing money all over the continental United States, willingly re-locating to Memphis and then the Cincinnati area to stay employed.

Literally everywhere I ever lived since then, The Cult always found my address. To this day they still send me many pieces of mail a week.

I guess I have one more Cult story left in me. I’ll give the details surrounding the meeting of the wife, the wedding and the final rain-soaked, nearly violent confrontation with three C-members which led to my exit. That exit was what most would call a dramatic conclusion.

Speaking of dramatic conclusions, the crowdfunding campaign we ran for our new CD Love One Another wound up at 97% of goal – two days after the official end! We learned a lot from the whole thing and it was an unparalleled success. The physical CDs will be here within a week or so and are, of course, for sale. The tracks will be on Spotify, iTunes and all the rest of the world’s finest streaming sites at the end of August.

Go ahead and get your CD if you haven’t already!