One of the criteria in Rockstar’s free-roaming Western game Red Dead Redemption for achieving the Treasure Hunter outfit is playing blackjack at Rathskeller Fork and leaving with a profit. That doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize that the dealers in Red Dead play the game basically like a real one in Vegas would; they make you play forever.
“Let’s clean this dealer out,” says our main character John Marston as I sit at the small table. Perfect, my own player character is hustling me into the game. You start at this table with 200 chips, and the maximum bet is 10. I start out wonderfully, getting to about 260. I figure 300 is a modest profit to aim for.
(photo copped from ign.com's Red Dead page. Thanks, IGN.)
“In-teresting.” Marston is the smuggest jerk when gambling, whether the game’s poker, blackjack or the incredulous $200 table of Liar’s Dice. One of the other two players, computer-driven non-player characters, stands with a score of 16, and Marston replies, “Do you piss sitting down, too?”
Things then take a turn for the worse. I lose a hand, and then another, and another. I soon find myself swimming between 60 and 130 chips, neither winning nor losing streaks long enough to get me to quit. I keep on going knowing that I can just quit at any time, pay the $20 to start again, and leave as soon as I win a single hand. But that would feel incredibly cheap, and lose me twenty bucks to boot.
“For Chrissakes,” he spouts, as I double down and lose even more chips, about half a dozen times. The dealer wins blackjack three aces in a row. I’ve now become completely convinced that there should never be an in-game requirement for a quest that relies on winning a casino game – especially if the dealer behaves realistically.
After an amazingly agonizing hour and a half, I finally eke out a chip count of 202, and notch the check mark on the Treasure Hunter list. I hope it actually helps me hunt treasure, once I fill out the three remaining objectives needed to obtain it.
On one of the last hands I lost, Marston looks away from his cards in disgust and says, “I don’t know why I play this game.” Right now I’m inclined to agree.