The next Detroit: The catastrophic collapse of Atlantic City
With the closure of almost half of Atlantic City's casinos, Newark set to vote on gambling and casinos or racinos in almost every state, it seems as if the reasons for the very existence of Atlantic City are in serious jeopardy. Israel Joffe Atlantic City, once a major vacation spot during the roaring 20s and 1930s, as seen on HBOs Boardwalk Empire, collapsed when cheap air fare became the norm and people had no reason to head to the many beach town resorts on the East Coast. Within a few decades, the city, known for being an ‘oasis of sin’ during the prohibition era, fell into serious decline and dilapidation. New Jersey officials felt the only way to bring Atlantic City back from the brink of disaster would be to legalize gambling. Atlantic City’s first casino, Resorts, first opened its doors in 1978. People stood shoulder to shoulder, packed into the hotel as gambling officially made its way to the East Coast. Folks in the East Coast didn't have to make a special trip all the way to Vegas in order to enjoy some craps, slots, roulette and more. As time wore on, Atlantic City became the premier gambling spots in the country. While detractors felt that the area still remained poor and dilapidated, officials were quick to point out that the casinos didn't bring the mass gentrification to Atlantic City as much as they hoped but the billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs for the surrounding communities was well worth it. Atlantic City developed a reputation as more of a short-stay ‘day-cation’ type of place, yet managed to stand firm against the 'adult playground' and 'entertainment capital of the world' Las Vegas. Through-out the 1980s, Atlantic City would become an integral part of American pop culture as a place for east coast residents to gamble, watch boxing, wrestling, concerts and other sporting events. However in the late 1980s, a landmark ruling considered Native-American reservations to be sovereign entities not bound by state law. It was the first potential threat to the iron grip Atlantic City and Vegas had on the gambling and entertainment industry. Huge 'mega casinos' were built on reservations that rivaled Atlantic City and Vegas. In turn, Vegas built even more impressive casinos. Atlantic City, in an attempt to make the city more appealing to the ‘big whale’ millionaire and billionaire gamblers, and in effort to move away from its ‘seedy’ reputation, built the luxurious Borgata casino in 2003. Harrah’s created a billion dollar extension and other casinos in the area went through serious renovations and re-branded themselves. It seemed as if the bite that the Native American casinos took out of AC and Vegas’ profits was negligible and that the dominance of those two cities in the world of gambling would remain unchallenged. Then Macau, formally a colony of Portugal, was handed back to the Chinese in 1999. The gambling industry there had been operated under a government-issued monopoly license by Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau. The monopoly was ended in 2002 and several casino owners from Las Vegas attempted to enter the market. Under the one country, two systems policy, the territory remained virtually unchanged aside from mega casinos popping up everywhere. All the rich ‘whales’ from the far east had no reason anymore to go to the United States to spend their money. Then came the biggest threat. As revenue from dog and horse racing tracks around the United States dried up, government officials needed a way to bring back jobs and revitalize the surrounding communities. Slot machines in race tracks started in Iowa in 1994 but took off in 2004 when Pennsylvania introduced ‘Racinos’ in an effort to reduce property taxes for the state and to help depressed areas bounce back. As of 2013, racinos were legal in ten states: Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia with more expected in 2015. Tracks like Delaware Park and West Virginia's Mountaineer Park, once considered places where local degenerates bet on broken-down nags in claiming races, are now among the wealthiest tracks around, with the best races. The famous Aqueduct race track in Queens, NY, once facing an uncertain future, now possesses the most profitable casino in the United States. From June 2012 to June 2013, Aqueduct matched a quarter of Atlantic City's total gaming revenue from its dozen casinos: $729.2 million compared with A.C.'s $2.9 billion. It has taken an estimated 15 percent hit on New Jersey casino revenue and climbing. And it isn't just Aqueduct that's taking business away from them. Atlantic City's closest major city, Philadelphia, only 35-40 minutes away, and one of the largest cities in America, now has a casino that has contributed heavily to the decline in gamers visiting the area. New Jersey is the third state in the U.S. to have authorized internet gambling. However, these online casinos are owned and controlled by Atlantic City casinos in an effort to boost profits in the face of fierce competition. California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Texas are hoping to join Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and the U.S. Virgin Islands in offering online gambling to their residents. With this in mind, it seems the very niche that Atlantic City once offered as a gambling and entertainment hub for east coast residents is heading toward the dustbin of history. Time will tell if this city will end up like Detroit. However, the fact that they are losing their biggest industry to major competition, much like Detroit did, with depressed housing, casinos bankrupting/closing and businesses fleeing , it all makes Atlantic City’s fate seem eerily similar.
What drives a person to cover themselves in gasoline and drop a match by their feet? That was the question that ran through the minds of many in a crowd outside the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey on March 23rd, 2019. At approximately 7:45PM on that cold spring eve, a Mr. James Ferdini, age 47, covered himself in gasoline and was prepared to drop a match in the fuel. As the crowd shouted for him to stop and several witnesses called the police, Mr. Ferdini reportedly stood unfazed, simply grinning and appearing to revel in the crowd’s shock. “It was a suicidal action but it didn’t look like a suicidal person,” says Sam Kenset, an eyewitness to the incident. “I guess I don’t really know what a suicidal person looks like, but his movements and the way he was talking -- he just didn’t seem like a man down on his luck.” Ms. Kenset is quite astute in her observation -- Mr. Feredini was certainly not down on his luck. In fact only moments before covering himself in gasoline, Mr. Ferdini had cashed out more than $1.3 million in winnings from the Borgata Hotel and Casino, making his suicidal action all the more puzzling. However dangerous, Mr. Ferdini’s gasoline soaked stunt would not lead to his death on March 23rd, but his life was not long for this world either. Three days later on March 26th he would be found dead from an entirely different cause. In Mr. Ferdini’s incredible winnings and suicidal tendencies leading up to his unusual and grizzly death on March 26th, many questions remain. Who was James Ferdini? What happened to his more than million dollars in winnings? And what was the lead up of events that caused his demise? Based on interviews with management at the Borgata Hotel and Casino, local police and investigators, and corroborated with eyewitness accounts, independent investigative reporter Myra Kindle, for the first time, brings you a report on the man who nearly bankrupted a casino, and whose luck seemed to make him invincible until his highly improbable death.
What are the Odds?
As the match fell to James Ferdini’s feet outside the Borgata Hotel and Casino, the crowd stood agasp as they waited for the inevitable fire and horrible death of a gas soaked man. This moment would never come however, and the match reportedly landed in the puddle of gasoline meeting it as though it were water. “The crowd started to look away the moment he dropped the match,” says Matthew Gershowitz, a witness to the event. “I couldn’t though -- I needed to see what would happen. I mean we all thought we were witnessing a suicide or something, but the guy was jovial, happy, making jokes with the crowd before he lit the match. And then when it hit the gas, it just burned out, and the man started laughing. We were all amazed. It was like a miracle -- we thought he’d die for sure.” While it’s quite understandable that the crowd believed they had witnessed a miracle when James did not burst into flames, professor of organic chemistry at Villanova University, Marcy Li, says the odds of Mr. Ferdini’s death were far less than certain. “Gasoline is certainly flammable, but not like in the way shown in movies and TV,” says professor Li. “It’s the layer of vapor above that gasoline that is most likely to combust. There could be a number of factors like wind, humidity and temperature that improved Mr. Ferdini’s chance of avoiding being burned alive. I would certainly say he’s lucky, but I wouldn’t say it’s a miracle he didn’t burst into flames.” If Mr. Ferdini relied on luck that day to survive, it would appear to have been with him in spades for quite some time. Having just come from the Borgata casino floor, James was reportedly on a ‘hot-streak’, winning tens of thousands of dollars an hour over the preceding two days. “You have to imagine we were pretty happy when he left the casino,” says Richard Markelson, a floor manager at the Borgata. “Normally we want customers to stay as long as possible so the house can win our money back, but Mr. Ferdini never had a bad roll, spin, or lever pull the whole 40 consecutive hours he was gambling at the Borgata. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Mr. Markelson was able to confirm through cash-logs and casino surveillance that Mr. Ferdini had indeed won big at the Borgata, and records show his total winnings amounted to $1,348,427. Mr. Markelson said of the winnings: “It was enough of a loss over a short period of time that the owners of the casino were worried our insurance premiums were gonna jump. A casino in Atlantic City simply doesn’t lose that much money in such a short time, at least not to a nobody, and Mr. Ferdini was certainly a nobody.”
A Career Loser
While management at the Borgata Hotel and Casino did not know Mr. Ferdini prior to his 40 hour lucrative gambling binge, many on Atlantic City’s boardwalk have been acutely aware of James for years. For example after James’s stunt with the gasoline, he was arrested and taken to the Atlantic City jail and held on the possible charge of disorderly conduct, but was released after the charges were dropped. The reason? The police had a long record of interactions with Mr. Ferdini and thought of him only as a minor risk. “We were more worried about the guy’s mental health than him causing a scene on the boardwalk,” says Atlantic City officer Paul Stevenson. “We’ve known James for years -- I mean he’s a loser. Is it a shock to me that he would try and commit suicide like that? Absolutely not.” When asked why the police did not opt to commit Mr. Ferdini to a hospital on a psychological evaluation, officer Stevenson replied: “The plan was to have him committed, but some lawyer showed up and we didn’t want a legal fight, so we decided to release him instead. I felt a bit mixed about it. I mean the guy was clearly suicidal -- why else would you douse yourself in gasoline?” When told that Mr. Ferdini was reportedly jovial and happy during the gasoline incident, and that he had in fact won more than a million dollars immediately prior to the event, officer Stevenson struggled with the narrative: “That doesn’t sound like the James Ferdini I know. He’s always been a depressed gambler, and never won a game in his life as far as I know. He couldn’t win a hundred bucks, let alone a million. I can’t even believe they let him into the Borgata in the first place, but I guess the cash winnings explains the lawyer.” Officer Stevenson asked if I could confirm the details of the winnings and that Mr. Ferdini was in a jovial mood during the gasoline incident. When I showed documentation of Mr. Ferdini’s winnings provided by Mr. Markelson and relayed several eyewitness accounts as to his temperament, officer Stevenson replied: “I don’t get it. So, why’d he try to burn himself alive?”
Perhaps no individual has a better sense of who Mr. Ferdini is and what happened to him than the floor manager at the Borgata, Mr. Markelson. For 40 hours prior to the gasoline incident, Mr. Ferdini bet heavily at the Borgata casino, and Mr. Markelson was in close proximity for much of his hot-streak. “I was actually supposed to be on vacation that week,” says Mr. Markelson, “but I got called in because the other cooler was sick.” A ‘cooler’ as Mr. Markelson explained, is a relic of old casinos that today is rarely used, however some establishments still invest in what could be called ‘charms’ to bring bad luck to high rollers. “I got hired because I’m unlucky,” explains Mr. Markelson. “I can do the job of floor manager just fine -- don't get me wrong -- but it was my knack for bad luck that got me the job for sure.” A cooler operates by simply being present around those that are on a run of good luck. In Mr. Markelson’s account, he says that being around him will bring such bad luck to any gambler that their cards will go cold, their lever pulls result in no winnings, and their wheel spins doomed to lose money. “It’s a talent I’ve had since, well, forever,” says Mr. Markelson. “If I just stand near someone, they’ll start to have bad luck like me. I know it sounds crazy, and sometimes I don’t believe it myself, but it’s true. I mean, like I said, I think that’s why the casino hired me. They could count on me to go onto the casino floor and bring bad luck to anyone that’s winning a bit too much. Best part, since it’s based on superstition, it’s completely above board.” With James Ferdini, Richard Markelson found that his power did not work however. “I don’t know about before I showed up, but for when I was watching him, that man could not lose. The casino made me stay multiple shifts, I’m talking nearly 40 hours to watch him and were hoping I’d bring him bad luck, but it never happened. He just kept on winning no matter what game he played.”
An Escalation of Bets
In attempting to find James Ferdini’s state of mind prior to the gasoline incident, floor manager Richard Markelson provided unfettered access to video of the casino floor, even though he realized he could be breaking several state gambling commission laws by allowing a reporter to look at such surveillance. In fact, more than taking the risk, it was Mr. Markelson that called me and led me to this story in the first place. “The police didn’t send him to the hospital after the gas thing I’ve been told. I figured the truth has to be somewhere and when police won’t do their job, I guess it’s reporters that have to step in,” says Mr. Markelson. “The most important thing to be me personally is finding out why he died just a few days later in that horrible freak accident -- the one on March 26th.” When asked if Mr. Markelson had any interest in finding Mr. Ferdini’s still missing $1.3 million, he replied: “Of course, but that’s not my primary concern here. I just want to know what the fuck happened. How does a guy who should have felt on top of the world go to dousing himself in gasoline, and then ends up dead a few days later? I really want to know.” In the video access provided by Mr. Markelson, I managed to find new clues that might be able to explain Mr. Ferdini’s downward spiral. It could best be described as an escalation of bets that appeared to take place soon after Mr. Ferdini began his run of good luck. According to video of the casino floor, around the time manager Richard Markelson appeared, Mr. Ferdini started his miraculous winning streak. The video shows Mr. Ferdini starting with craps, moving to baccarat, then slot machines, and followed by a long run at twenty-one. He continues to gamble for 40 straight hours, much of it with Mr. Markelson in close proximity. “I was the only cooler around, so the higher ups at the Borgata made me stay the whole time. I got a lot of overtime that week,” says Mr. Markelson. Curiously, the video shows that at around the 25 hour mark Mr. Ferdini attracts something of a crowd. While the video offers no sound, it appears as though Mr. Ferdini is making several wagers with his new found groupies. At first a few in his new entourage gamble him directly in casino floor games like Texas Holdem, but it appears as though they make several bets outside of the casino games as well. In one instance Mr. Ferdini appears to bet that he can drink boiling hot water. The video shows him drinking a scalding hot cup and immediately receiving a small payout from several people he was talking to before beginning the stunt. It became clear to me after reviewing the video surveillance that for this story, I would need to speak to at least one of the people who witnessed Mr. Ferdini taking on these non-casino game bets. Thankfully, with Mr. Markelson’s help I was able to track down Maria Nowak, who in the video appears to spend several hours with Mr. Ferdini. A resident of Atlantic City, Ms. Nowak was able to confirm that Mr. Ferdini was taking part in what she describes as “extreme behavior”, and that he was seemingly willing to bet on anything and everything. Even games that were clearly not of chance, like drinking boiling hot water.
”For $500, Right?”
Why did Mr. Ferdini cover himself in gasoline and drop a match? It’s a question essential to understanding his mindset, and one for which the answer appears to be quite simple. After tracking down Ms. Nowak, a long time resident who often partakes in long gambling binges herself, she claims Mr. Ferdini covered himself in gasoline and dropped a match in the fuel simply because of a wager. “We had been doing side bets for hours,” says Ms. Nowak, who agreed to meet me at Hayday Cafe, a local coffee shop. “I was with a group of friends and we noticed that this guy [Mr. Ferdini] had not been losing any bets for hours. The guy was pretty much throwing money around and that type of attitude attracts the crowd I was with. So, we started making small talk and then made a few bets, dumb, small ones to start.” When asked what bets her group made with Mr. Ferdini, Ms. Nowak replies: “At first it was things like, how many casino chips he could fit into his mouth. But then it escalated pretty quickly, like soon we were betting on how much money he could win in an hour. Then a bit after that he did this really stupid boiling hot water challenge -- he simply bet he could drink boiling hot water without having to go to the hospital. The bet didn’t make any sense, but like everything else, he won.” “The gasoline challenge was the craziest though,” she continues. “It was clearly a joke when my friend suggested it, but James took him up on it right away. The challenge was, like, ‘can you cover yourself in gasoline, drop a match, and survive?’ James said he would do it for $500, and we just assumed he was kidding, but sure enough he was dead serious.” Ms. Nowak claims that she too was present in the crowd outside the Borgata when Mr. Ferdini made good on the gasoline bet, and that immediately prior to him dropping the match, he said to her and the rest of the gambling entourage, “This is for $500, right?” “He said it but I’m not too sure how many people heard it,” Ms. Nowak says. “I mean the whole crowd was screaming for him to stop. They all thought the guy wanted to kill himself. I guess one of us nodded our heads to James’s question, and then he dropped the match. I’ll be damned, but he won that bet too. We gave him $500 alright, not that he needed it after making all that money at the Borgata.” When asked if Ms. Nowak saw Mr. Ferdini after he was released from the police station, she responds: “Yea, we hung out for the next two or three days -- all of us -- the gambling group that had formed at the casino, James Ferdini, and then, oh yea, that guy Richard Makel-something. I think he worked at the Borgata but he hung around with us for a couple days while we partied at a different hotel. It was around the time Richard and the rest of us left that James was in that freak accident.”
The details of Ms. Nowak’s account have confirmed two things to this reporter. One, Mr. Ferdini’s suicidal gesture to cover himself in gasoline was nothing more than a bet to earn more money. Feeling high from his good luck at the casino, it would appear Mr. Ferdini thought himself invincible and was willing to take on any challenge, even if it put his life on the line. Two, Borgata floor manager and ‘cooler’ Richard Markelson has not been fully forthcoming in his account of what happened. For example, he never mentioned spending time with Mr. Ferdini after leaving the Borgata. Confronting Mr. Markelson, I ask him for a more accurate account of what happened after Mr. Ferdini’s gasoline soaked stunt. Mr. Markelson is nervous in his reply, realizing he’s been caught withholding valuable information. “You have to understand that James is not particularly good with money,” starts Mr. Markelson. “I know I’m saying that having really only met the guy at the Borgata casino, but you could just tell he was something of a loser. Maybe other people told you that too, I don’t know. My point is James was destined to spend that money on drugs and alcohol, and well, we all kind of just tagged along for the ride.” Mr. Markelson goes on to describe a drug fueled binge that lasted from Saturday March 23rd until sometime before Mr. Ferdini’s death on Tuesday, March 26th. “James and I had been awake for more than 40 hours when he left the casino, and I was going to go to bed, but somehow I got roped into his entourage he found at the Borgata when he was raking in cash. I would’ve gone home, but free cocaine is free cocaine. I’m not particularly proud of saying that, but it’s true -- I really like the drug.” Richard Markelson says that in addition to drugs, Mr. Ferdini hired prostitutes and strippers for the group’s amusement. “I’m not into all the seedy stuff, but we had been awake for a long long time and on so much shit. I mean we were taking meth rips and stuff. Yea, it’s weird now that I look back on it, but a binge can be like that sometimes.” The most important question to this reporter is what happened in the final hours of Mr. Ferdini’s life. In this respect, Mr. Markelson claims to know nothing. “I left before he died on Tuesday,” says Mr. Markelson. “It doesn’t surprise me that he died though. The gasoline bet was just the beginning of it. That girl, Maria Nowak, the one that told you I was hanging out with the impromptu entourage -- it was her boyfriend that really stepped things up in a pretty violent way in terms of betting.” When asked what he means by “violent”, Mr. Markelson responds: “I mean they were actually gambling on Russian roulette in the hotel room when I left.”
That Other Roulette
Once again reaching out to Ms. Nowak, I ask her about Mr. Markelson’s description of partying and gambling in a hotel with Mr. Ferdini. It was at this point that Ms. Nowak declined any further questions, only providing the statement: “I’ve said everything I’m going to say.” While this seemed like a certain dead end to discovering what happened in the final hours of Mr. Ferdini’s life and also possibly to tracking down what happened to his $1.3 million in winnings, I by luck received a phone call shortly before I was ready to call it quits on this investigation. The phone call was from one Mr. Samuel Howlser, boyfriend to Ms. Maria Nowak. Mr. Howlser said he wished to speak with me to clarify a few details that Ms. Nowak had shared with me and to dispute any “lies” stated by Mr. Markelson. “Me and Maria didn’t steal nobody’s money and we’re not gonna get in trouble for what Richard Markelson or anyone in that entourage might be telling you,” Mr. Howsler said to me in a phone interview. When asked about details of the drug fueled gambling binge shared by Mr. Markelson and Ms. Nowak, Mr. Howsler mostly confirms their accounts, however his description of floor manager Makelson is less favorable than what Mr. Markelson told me himself. “He was the craziest fucker of the bunch, definitely,” says Mr. Howlser. “He knew the hookups for the crystal and coke, got us ketamine too. But the nuttiest thing about him is what the fuck he’d bet on. Like if Ferdini thought he was invincible, doubly so for that manger from the Borgata. Markelson was the one that brought out a revolver for Russian roulette too, and they played like dozens of games.” Russian roulette, a lethal game of chance that has the player hold a loaded pistol to their head and fire, is an extremely dangerous game that has been popularized in media and fiction for decades. The game requires a loaded revolver to have at least one bullet chambered before firing, with the odds of death usually being one in six. “It was fucking crazy when Markelson said he’d play it, but the dude was having as good luck as Ferdini so he thought he could do it,” says Mr. Howlser. “So they load a pistol with a bullet and start playing each other cause they were the only two fuckers crazy enough to do it. They play one round, but no winner so they go again. Second round, no winner so a third. Eventually they play enough rounds where they figure they gotta up the odds. So instead of loading one bullet, they load two. They play round after round with two out of six chambers loaded with bullets, spinning the revolver cylinder each time before they pull the trigger. This goes on for a while right, and then they load another fucking bullet. Each round now these guys have a one-in-two chance of blowing their brains out, but they keep playing.” In Mr. Howlser’s recounting over the phone, I hear he is deeply disturbed by this story and ask why him and everyone in the gambling entourage continued to sit in the hotel room. In response he says, “We had been up for days smoking crystal and doing other shit. We were fuckng zombies. It’s only looking back now, sober, that I can see how crazy it was.” But the game of lethal roulette was not over yet. Mr. Howlser claims that Mr. Ferdini and Mr. Makelson continued to play round after round, occasionally loading another bullet until finally the revolver was fully loaded. “With six out of six chambers loaded, the odds of them dying on the next trigger pull was 100%,” says Mr. Howsler. “And I’ll damned, but they both went, and they both fucking lived. Somehow, they both got dud cartridges. After that, they both just had huge laugh for a while. A little bit later, Richard Markelson leaves and James Ferdini and the rest of us stay doing drugs for a bit until the rest of us guests leave too.” Before Mr. Howlser ends the phone call, he stresses again the reason for contacting me. “What happened is a messed up story, I know, but the point is that me and Maria don’t know anything about James Ferdini’s death or where his money is. Once we were sober enough to leave that seedy hotel outside Atlantic City, we left along with the rest of the people that were following James. And when we left, he was alive, and he had his money.”
While Mr. Markelson, Mr. Howlser, and Ms. Nowak all say they only know the most basic details of how James Ferdini died, his death has actually been well documented by investigators and the coroner's office for Atlantic City. Prior to this report, it was the mindset of Mr. Ferdini that was previously unknown. Sill up in the air is the whereabouts of his $1.3 million. But from what I've found, the report on his death is fully accurate, and even clears any of the entourage that was following him from being involved in any possible wrongdoing related to James Ferdini’s death. On Tuesday March 26th at approximately 4:30AM, it would appear Mr. Ferdini’s luck simply ran out. In that early morning hour, someone on Mr. Ferdini’s floor had ordered room service. As the porter was delivering the food, he slipped and fell outside of Mr. Ferdini’s room. The noise from the fall awoke Mr. Ferdini who opened his door to find the porter picking up a tray of food in the hallway. Upset at the disruption and the clanging of silverware outside his room, Mr. Ferdini proceeded to yell at the porter, pushing him against the wall in the hallway. The confrontation ended when Mr. Ferdini told the porter that he was so upset that he was going to go down to the lobby and speak to management about the disruption. Heading to the elevator, the porter told Mr. Ferdini that it was out of service. Frustrated, he turned to the stairwell and began walking downstairs. Mr. Ferdini would never make it to the lobby however. What Mr. Ferdini didn’t know was that the porter had also used the stairs to walk up to his floor, and that along the way he had spilled a small dish of ketchup. When Mr. Ferdini walked across the spot where the porter had dropped the ketchup, he slipped and fell, falling down the stairs and knocking himself unconscious on the ground floor. While in bad shape, investigators say that Mr. Ferdini was still alive at this moment, but what came next would be the fatal blow, or series of blows. With the elevator out, the stairwell was the only way up and down the hotel floors. While Mr. Ferdini was unconscious on the ground, he blocked the entryway to the stairwell from the ground floor. A guest a moment later would attempt to open the door to the stairwell, but found that it was blocked by some obstruction that he could not see. Bothered and wanting to get to his room, the guest then started slamming on the door, thrusting it open with all his energy. He did not realize it, but the door he was thrusting over and over was slamming into the left side of Mr. Ferdini’s temple. The heavy metal door banged away over and over again, causing Mr. Ferdini’s brain to hemorrhage, and eventually doing enough damage that it would kill him fully. The guest only stopped thrusting as the porter came back down the stairs to see Mr. Ferdini with his head being repeatedly bashed in by the door. The porter screamed and soon the guest was made aware that he had accidentally killed Mr. Ferdini. In this unusual and grizzly death, a confluence of bad luck came together to end Mr. Ferdini’s life. If the elevator had not been out. If a guest on Mr. Ferdini’s floor had not ordered room service. If the guest had not ordered a dish that came with ketchup. If the porter had not spilled ketchup in the stairwell or dropped plates outside Mr. Ferdini’s room. If Mr. Ferdini had not waken up. If he had not confronted the porter and decided to go down to the lobby. If he had not slipped in the stairwell. If a guest on the ground floor did not repeatedly try to enter the stairwell. If any of these things had gone slightly differently, Mr. Ferdini would still be alive. It could be said that Mr. Ferdini had finally found a run of bad luck, and incredible bad luck at that.
I cannot speak to Mr. Ferdini. He died long before I came to Atlantic City. For this story I’ve had to rely on the video surveillance from the Borgata casino and several eyewitness accounts of the drug fueled binge at the seedy hotel outside Atlantic City. In those accounts from Mr. Ferdini’s hotel room, I’m left with conflicting views and shattered narratives. It is clear to me that Ms. Nowak, Mr. Howlser, and Mr. Markelson cannot be trusted to give a full accounting of what happened. In my mind, the clearest liar of them is Mr. Markelson, who both omitted his story of seeing James after the gasoline incident, and also whose story is in direct conflict with Mr. Howsler and Ms. Nowak. While Mr. Markelson claims it was Mr. Howlser that had a revolver to play roulette, Mr. Howlser and Ms. Nowak both say it was Mr. Markelson. Embedded in these lies and less than full accounts is a still missing $1.3 million. Something I believe Mr. Markelson is desperate to try and find, and for which was his original impulse to contact this reporter. Now with an understanding of James Ferdini’s mindset leading up to his death, I am left with the unanswered question of what happened to Mr. Ferdini’s missing money. I head back to where this story started, the Borgata where the gambling binge took fold. I seek an interview with Bill Hornbuckle, President of MGM resorts and a majority stakeholder in the Borgata Hotel and Casino. He agrees to speak with me and provides a full record on floor manger Richard Markelson. I start the interview by asking if he’s aware if Richard Markelson owns a handgun, and in particular a revolver. In response, he says: “Our records indicate Mr. Markelson has a concealed carry license from the state of New Jersey for a Ruger LCR Six-Shot revolver. We have this in our records because Mr. Markelson is authorized to carry the weapon on the premises.” Mr. Hornbuckle asks if I believe Mr. Markelson was involved in Mr. Ferdini’s death, to which I tell him I do not believe he is. I give the accounts of Mr. Markelson, Mr. Howlser, and Ms. Nowak, and while Mr. Hornbuckle is disturbed by the story, he agrees that Mr. Markelson has done nothing strictly illegal outside of drug use. He does add however: “The story with Russian roulette, if true, would certainly make us reconsider allowing Mr. Markelson to carry a weapon in the casino.” Confirming that Mr. Markelson was the owner of the revolver has led me to believe Mr. Howlser and Ms. Nowak’s account over Markelson’s. It seems likely now that like Mr. Markelson did indeed play a dangerous game of Russian roulette with Mr. Ferdini, and that it was he who provided the gun to use. Before I leave the Borgata, I ask Mr. Hornbuckle about another detail Mr. Markelson told me that I am no longer sure is true. I ask if a ‘cooler’ is something casinos really use, and if specifically Mr. Markelson is designated as one at the Borgata. His response is to laugh at first, but he goes on to say: “Yes, a cooler is a real term. I actually believe in them myself. Luck is real. It’s a tangible thing that follows people around -- good luck and bad luck. I believe coolers have saved my casinos a lot of money over the years, and Mr. Markelson certainly fits that role at the Borgata. He's terribly unlucky, couldn't win a game of cards if his life depended on it. Still, he's invaluable at cutting the luck high rollers short." He pauses before continuing: “There is of course the problem of the double negative, or when two coolers are together. It happens when a cooler is around someone who has luck just as bad as him or her. Like two positive or negative charges on a magnet, they repel each other, and the cooler’s effect instead of bad luck is one of incredible good luck. I’ve never seen it myself, but I’ve heard that even the most unlikely people on earth can have incredible runs of good luck if someone as equally unlucky as them is near.” I propose the idea that maybe Mr. Ferdini was as unlucky as Mr. Markelson, and that together they achieved this ‘double negative,’ bringing them good luck while they were together. “Yes,” Mr. Hornbuckle says. “I suppose that’s possible. It’s a very dangerous situation though for an unlucky person to suddenly be met with non-stop good luck. It could make you think yourself invincible, unable to be defeated in any challenge. You might even start to take on bets on things that aren’t real games of chance, like harming yourself by drinking boiling water. There’s also the danger of what happens when the double negative effect is over. One cooler parts ways, then each would fall into their own run of terrible luck, not realizing that their hot-streak has ended.” As the interview concludes and I leave the Borgata, I think about the good luck Mr. Ferdini and Mr. Markelson had. I consider the incredible odds that both survived firing a loaded gun to their temples only for each to find a dud cartridge. I ponder the unfortunate series of events that would kill Mr. Ferdini after Mr. Markelson left his hotel room. Lastly, I think about Mr. Markelson’s own luck since March 26th. Maybe it hasn’t been as bad as Mr. Ferdini's, but I know he contacted a reporter and as a result management at his casino will be looking into his behavior. I consider and think, that is not too lucky.
What was meant to be a short report about an unusual death in Atlantic City has grown into something longer. This is now a meandering investigation with unreliable characters, newly discovered details, and a still missing $1.3 million. Before I leave New Jersey and return to New York, I go to the seedy hotel where Mr. Ferdini and his entourage consumed drugs and played Russian roulette, and where he would eventually die. It is my hope that I can speak to the porter -- the last person to ever see Mr. Ferdini alive. At the hotel I speak to the manager and ask her who was the porter in the early morning hours of March 26th. The manager tells me that the porter no longer works for the hotel, and that in fact he had quit the very same day Mr. Ferdini died. “After the police left, he flipped us all off,” the manager says. “That son of a bitch quit in style, telling us he didn’t need to work here no more. He said he was set and that we can kiss his ass goodbye.” I ask the manager if they knew where the porter could have gone, to which she replies: “No idea. After he was done talking to the police about the death in the stairwell, I think he was out of New Jersey for good. He used to live nearby so I saw him when he left. He was fully packed. Had all of his stuff with him and three really full duffel bags I’d never seen before. He really didn’t seem like he was coming back -- had everything with him.” Like the porter, I load my bags and finally prepare to leave New Jersey. As I do a thought pops into my mind: Could the porter that night have discovered Mr. Ferdini’s $1.3 million in three duffel bags in his room? I consider and think, maybe, and if he did, maybe this porter is the luckiest man in Atlantic City. Myra Kindle is an independent investigative reporter. She covers tech, law, politics, and other stories that would be impossible to write about in more traditional outlets.
I [24M] was cheated on by my GF [21F] of a year, while I was in hospital getting a bone marrow transplant 8 months ago; still can't get over it.. Please help..
So this is my first post on here, never really used this site before but I see that there are a ton of people on here that respond and maybe I can get some advice on what to do.. And I am going to be really honest in this post, so, here we go.. A little backstory: I was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) back in July of 2010 when I was 20. I was in remission later that year but continued treatment, keeping me from working and school until early 2012. January 2013 I returned to school where I met my ex (Cass). We started going out April 4, 2013. The very next day, I received a call from my doctor saying that my cancer was back and that I needed to start treatment immediately. It was heartbreaking, but she was there for me and really helped me during this time. Throughout the treatment I always came up to see her after getting chemo and just hang out with her. It really felt good to be out of the house during this time. This was also the time we began having sex and when we both admitted we loved each other. The first 3 months of our relationship was spent with me getting varieties of chemo, and coming out to see her (a 30 minute drive for me) as she did not have her license, but eventually I helped her get her license. This 3-month period ended with me going through an experimental treatment called Cart-19, I was the 16th patient to ever go through it, and it almost resulted in me losing my life, but ultimately saved my life in the end. Now a little description of Cass. She is a short brunette (I've always thought she was attractive) that is bi-polar and comes from a shattered home where her parents are just complete scum of the earth, and hate / cheat on each other and are in the middle of the longest divorce I have ever heard of (think Pam's engagement to Roy in the Office, but the opposite). She isn't afraid to speak her mind, but usually rubs people the wrong way and ALWAYS has to get her way, otherwise she acts like a petulant child. She smokes weed and cigarettes like a chimney, sometimes ever smoking right next to me even when I was being treated for fucking cancer (sounds like a winner, right?). She has no ambition to further her life, dropping out of college and not going back into class, constantly putting it on the backburner. She likes to hang with people and is definitely an extrovert. When I got out of the hospital from Cart-19, I began the recovery process. During my recovery we hung out all the time, and got extremely close. I was always at her house - slept over countless times hung out with her friends and they all loved me, we never got into any major fights about anything and I treated her like a queen. There were even talks about our future about getting married and kids and all that, it really seemed like she was the one. Even her mother was asking when the wedding was going to be and pretty much accepted me as a son-in-law already; things were THAT perfect.. Fast forward to January 2014 and my doctors told me that the Cart-19 therapy was starting to fail on me, and I needed to act now and get a bone marrow transplant. I accepted and began the process. The thing that I made sure to let my doctors know, was that I was NOT going to do anything until after Valentine's Day weekend (her birthday is Valentine's Day - and this was her 21st) the reason being, that for Christmas, my aunt had got us a comped room at the Borgata in Atlantic City for the entire weekend (on top of me getting her a $300 Michael Kors bag) and this is where things start to seem different.. When we got to the hotel, we were greeted by my aunt and my mother (who absolutely hated Cass) and we were led to our room and I kept one surprise from her - the room was upgraded to a suite overlooking the water. It was spectacular. When we opened the door, she seemed really disappointed and just barely got out a thank you.. I was mortified. But we got on with our night and we gambled and drank and met up with my old college roommate and his GF and had an amazing night. We didn't get back to the room until almost 4am. The following day our mutual friends made the trip down to party with us and I felt out of place. Cass made no effort to be with me the night before, she hardly acknowledged my existence while her friends were there and I felt miserable. When we were on the floor we kept moving around the casino and hardly spoke to me but had this look of sadness on her face as she had no more money to gamble with. I ended up taking out the last of what money I had left and gave it to her. She barely said thanks and immediately put it into the machine. Now this is where everything goes hay-wire. The month before I went in for transplant, Cass got her car repaired at a shop in town and she noticed a guy working there that she went to high school with. She used to smoke with him and seemed very interested in hanging with him again. I have no problem with that, a lot of her friends are guys and I completely trusted her, until he uttered the words "He wanted to fuck me in high school.." That's when I got a little nervous, not of her, but of him. But I never met him, and I never said anything about it. The day before I went into the hospital, I walked into her job (Starbucks) and was going to wait for her to get off work so we could hang out - and the FIRST thing she says to me is "I got home really late last night from hanging out with [guy from above] and I'm so tired from smoking so much.." and I was a little upset, and said "So, we're not hanging out?" and she shot back with "YEAH GO HOME" in a super shitty manner. I just stared at her, almost in tears because it was the last chance for me to be with her and started walking away. She knew she was an asshole there because she grabbed me saying she was only kidding. The entire rest of the day was spent in her room napping and smoking weed.. And that really pissed me off, I wanted to go out with her and everything but she had no intention of doing anything with me. In fact, when she went to the bathroom she left her phone on the bed unlocked texting the guy.. He asked if she wanted to smoke and she said yeah and was planning on going over to hang with him and just send me home. I was a little mad, but didn't bring it up and she ended up hanging with me all night which I was happy about; and then I went home. I got into the hospital April 3, 2014 (the day before our 1-year anniversary) and immediately began treatment, and barely heard from her. I was giving her her space even though I wanted to talk to her. A week after going into the hospital was when I was to begin the actual transplant. I had talked to her less and less every day up to this point, and she was hanging with that guy and "his sister" almost every single day. The night before my transplant she went out with some friends to a bar and she called me as they arrived and she was talking to me, kind of pepping me up for the transplant. She admitted she was being a horrible girlfriend because she wasn't around as much as she should be, that she was just scared, and that things were going to change and she was going to talk to me more. It was a really heartfelt moment and she was crying and told me everything was going to be ok. She began a 2nd job at PetSmart and befriended a guy there by the name Lee. I didn't think anything of it, until I noticed that her Facebook page was very different from the last time I checked it out. She removed all posts that had me tagged in them, all posts from me, all her pictures of her gifts from Christmas and birthday, and most importantly, she removed the Relationship Status from view (we were still in a relationship on Facebook, but you couldn't see it anywhere on her page - and by all accounts, you'd never know I even existed). 2 days later I ended up calling her concerned and asked her about it and she just told me that Facebook must've just been fucked up and that I was just being paranoid. I told myself I was being crazy, but I realized that Lee was commenting on a lot of her statuses and posting stuff on her wall and my mind was going insane. I couldn't contain my thoughts and just started really going crazy. I got out of the hospital on May 3, 2014. I told her the exciting news about me getting out of the hospital and she replied with 'K'.. Figuring she was busy, I let it go, I was too happy to let this bitch bring me down. The next day I asked her if she wanted to hang out, and she actually chose the Guy from the car shop over hanging with me. I was severely disappointed, but she said tomorrow definitely. So I texted her the next day and just told her "yeah, we're just gonna probably have to watch some movies in the living room, because my mom doesn't want any germs in my room" and she went INSANE over that, refusing to come down because of a simple sanitary request from my mom. The following morning I texted her to see what was up, and told her that I was sending her a surprise through the mail, and she replied with "Stop sending me gifts" and when I asked her what she was talking about, she claimed that I was "trying to buy her love" and that "we were in different places in the relationship" so I sent her a long, scathing text about how shitty she was over the last 3 months, calling her out on everything that happened and how little she was involved in my life. She told me that it was the worst she's ever felt, but at this point I was beyond angry - I am not someone who gets angry, ever - but I broke up with her on the spot because of her attitude. 2 weeks later I saw she was in a relationship with that guy from her 2nd job.. But only just recently I found out they 'officially' began dating the DAY AFTER we broke up.. I have no evidence of them cheating, but it's kind of apparent that they began "officially" dating the day after we broke up. I am currently in a great relationship now, and am doing much better health-wise but I can't get my ex out of my head. I cannot fathom how someone can be that shitty, and it just always is in the back of my head. My current GF is an amazing girl and has her priorities in order and is all-around a much better person, girl, and girlfriend than Cass; but for some reason I can't get over Cass..
Is there anyone out there that can give me some advice on how to just let the past be the past and move on?
tl;dr: My ex was with me for a year. During that year I treated her like a queen and when I went in for a life-saving Bone Marrow Transplant to treat my leukemia, she ended up getting with another guy.
Hello, I am looking to get better at Chess. I've always preferred a student/teacher approach to learning, than self-teaching, and I'm hoping one of you skilled chess players may be in the same boat for Poker. I specifically play No Limit Hold'em, and have won a handful of casino tournaments (Borgata, Taj Mahal - Atlantic City) And countless casino/online Sit-n-Go's. I played Poker "professionally" at one point, as a means to provide for my family when I was in between jobs. I am no Phil Ivey, but I am not looking for a Carlsen, either. If you are interested, just let me know! Thanks!
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