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here is a tension in the crowd, a sizzling silence as words and cheers cut short and all eyes focus on the same point, everyone holding their breath, every jaw and fist clenched like in the final moments before a fight, as if everyone is about to explode at once.More people are huddling around the table now, closer to the action, pushing against one another until there are no distinct bodies anymore but rather a single compacted entity made of suits and cleavages and spilled glasses, a wordless human volcano ready to erupt under the wary watch of the floor muscle, the entire casino going silent as the wheel spins and spins and spins.
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After a few moments, a man from Keng Joo’s party comes up and slips a folded $50 bill on the counter. Paul informs a colleague he’ll take a smoke break, then heads to the garage where his car is parked with a small amount of illegal substances inside.
“Vegas, baby,” he winks at me when he comes back, carrying a CVS plastic bag filled with what I imagine to be MDMA and other club drugs.
“Black eleven,” the croupier announces as the ball stops in a jolt. A deafening cry of victory immediately surges from the crowd’s collective throat.
Strangers shout at the top of their lungs until their lungs are shut out of air.
“One time we had to hire a whole team to clean his suite. Like, overturned mattresses, upside-down chairs, and glitter, glitter everywhere.
God, the glitter.” Keng Joo always books the same 2,000-square-foot, ,000-a-night penthouse on the top floor.
The girl’s eyes are locked onto him and she laughs nervously every time he shows her something new. The two of them are eating Wagyu sirloins the casino’s chef imports from the Liverpool Plains in Australia. By the pool, an attractive UCLA biomedical physics student tries explaining circular dichroism and angular momentum to a perplexed man in swim shorts.
On the seat near mine, Ralph Molina, a hedge fund manager and an investor in some of Keng Joo’s ventures, is debating another guest on the value of entertainment. “We’re a nation whose success is based on how hard we party. An older woman in a flashy bikini complains that a local lady kicked her out of a blackjack game because she thought she was ruining the flow of cards.
Keng Joo texts me to say that the party will continue in his penthouse.
“U dont want to miss this.” * * * here is something about marble bathrooms and haute couture silk cushions that insulates you from the rest of the world.
“I went for a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon,” says another. When the music gets too loud, I walk to the front desk to see Paul, a hotel employee I’ve been talking to for a few weeks.