Tim Denzel screams into the phone: "I'm trying to help a guy who lost his home, what is so difficult to understand?"
Denzel's voice echoes about the 300sq m hotel suite, 50 floors above the mad street-level scene that is Las Vegas Boulevard.
Lanky and slim, Denzel, in his early 50s, has a deep stubble covering the lower half of his face while sunglasses and a Nike baseball hat cover the rest.
There is no hiding his anger as he yells into the phone, "You've got a million dollars of my money. I will gamble when I feel like gambling, right now I am going to help this guy."
Denzel radiates confidence as he rips into the senior vice-president of the casino; it appears he enjoys battling the titans of capitalism from his elite VIP suite, enjoys the knowledge that in less than 48 hours he expects to count his winnings in the tens of thousands and fly a jet back home.
But now he is still on the phone, fighting. "This is unbelievable. You are asking me when I am going to play? And how much I am going to bet? I never said anything about amounts, I just said I was bringing a million dollars and was ready to play."
As he argues, Denzel stretches his legs on to a glass table, nudges aside a plastic supermarket bag which holds US$125,000 cash ($172,500).
Downstairs, a further million in cash is ready to be gambled and now the casino's senior V-P screams at Denzel, orders him to stop lounging about the US$10,000-a-night hotel suite and start gambling.
Denzel announces he is changing hotels.
As a professional gambler, Denzel has a permanent love-hate relationship with the Las Vegas casinos. It's simple: they love it when he loses and hate it when he wins.
Denzel claims to take home as much as US$1 million in a single streak ("I have also lost a million in a day," he confides) and now he has come to Vegas not only to win a small fortune but to then hand over the cash to a stranger in need.
Denzel is not his real name - to me he is known as "RobinHood 702" or "RH702", the "702" being the telephone area code for Las Vegas and "RobinHood" his way of explaining that his mission is to redistribute wealth from casino blackjack tables into the hands of America's busted middle class.
It is a tale so simple it sounds like a storybook, only in this case the villains, heroes, heroines and saviours are all far more compelling - because they are real.
"People are suffering," says Denzel in reference to the estimated three million American families who have lost their homes in the current recession.
"RobinHood is a way for me to help."
The formula is simple. In 2008 Denzel set up www.robinhood702.com, a site where he invites families to upload a one-to-three-minute video explaining their plight and what they need to get back on their financial feet.
"Are you buried in bills? About to lose your home? On the brink of financial ruin? If so, this could be your big break" reads the introduction on the webpage.
The internet site explains how Denzel ("a self-made man and expert blackjack player [who] wants to use his skills to help you") will pick one family (every several months) and then offer what can be modestly described as "extreme financial makeover".
In a single weekend, Denzel will notify the family they have been chosen, put them up at Vegas' best hotels, provide limousine service, spa packages and dinners at the best Vegas restaurants, reservations at chic shows and, ultimately, dump his winnings into their grateful hands.
Cash flows into their pockets faster than even Vegas could suck it out.
Denzel has helped families from all over the United States, but for his July, 2010, mission, he chose a Las Vegas family.
If any city can claim to be Ground Zero for this new catastrophe it is Vegas, where in 2008, a two-decade-long housing boom collapsed as credit defaults and mortgagee sales sliced property values by up to 60 per cent.
This weekend, Denzel allows me to come along for the ride, a journey that feels rough as "RobinHood" screams at his assistants to fix last-minute details and jousts with powerful casino bosses.
"Looks like we are moving," Denzel announces as he slams down the phone and prepares to evacuate his massive suite.
But first Denzel grabs "Lady Gracie", his 20-year-old Brazilian wife, and gives her a long hug and a short kiss.
"It's always like this, we often change three or four times in a week," says Richard Schulze, a close friend of Denzel who has come along to accompany his buddy but also to donate part of his personal fortune (www.herbdoc.com) to the lucky family.
"This is a junk room. The other places have their own pools - are much bigger," says Schulze, pointing to the panoramic window in the suite, itself the size of highway billboard. "This is nothing."
Schulze (whom everyone calls "The Doctor") has made millions in herbal supplements, energy boosters and real estate.
He looks like a gregarious television host with his broad smile and a relaxed attitude.
Schulze and Denzel have a seemingly unquenchable desire to give away cash: US$400 tips to cocktail waitresses and US$100 bills to strangers in wheelchairs are so frequent it feels like the set for a reality-TV show where the host has gone mad and decided to give away the production budget.
WHERE does Denzel's money come from? How much has he given away to date? These questions can wait.
Right now RobinHood and The Doc are in a black stretch limo, headed to Henderson, a middle class city that borders Las Vegas in the heat and heart of the desert.
With temperatures pushing 44 degrees C, the windows are rolled up as they converge on the middle class condo of their next winner - an unsuspecting, hardworking Samoan-American named Jeff Martinez , 37, who recently lost his home to the bank after his family savings succumbed to an onslaught of medical bills - a result of his battle with colon and lung cancer.
Lady Gracie struts to the door, her voice an adorable mix of Brazilian Portuguese and recently-acquired English.
"Mr Jeff, RobinHood has picked you," she says to a bewildered, squat man who answers the door. "Mr Jeff, your money problems are over."
While a phalanx of film and TV crews jostle to capture the moment, Denzel strides in to announce that after long deliberation, hundreds of video entries and days of background checks and verification, Jeff Martinez has just won the RobinHood lottery.
His life will never be the same.
Amid tears, phone calls and a celebration with his wife, Marilou, and his two children, Martinez begins to cry. Then the whole family is crying. The TV reporters are crying.
With perfect sense of timing, Denzel takes Martinez aside and explains the gambling gambit.
For the next 24 hours, Denzel will take a huge stash of cash (estimate: $1 million) of his own money and gamble with the goal of making tens of thousands in profits.
If he hits that goal he will stop gambling and deposit the winning chips in Martinez's anorexic bank account.
"You usually need between five and 10 times the amount you want to win," says Denzel who describes himself as a professional gambler with enough cash to ride out the swings of bad luck and then quit when he is a mere 10 per cent ahead.
His strategy is to bring a wad of cash and then quit when he is up by a small percentage - thus turning US$200,000 into US$230,000.
"If you want to win US$10,000 you better bring US$100,000," he says.
"People who think they can double their money are crazy. I only try to get up by 10 to 20 per cent, then I walk out. The key is to know what your goal is and stop as soon as you get there."
With luck playing such a large role, he is particularly superstitious - "never gamble with a woman, with alcohol or drugs and I hate it when people touch me while I play, it feels like they are stealing my luck."
Asked about the reality of someone being a "professional gambler" and consistently beating the casinos, Denzel says, "I know 10 people, at least, who make their living as gamblers," he says.
"If you don't believe me, come out to Vegas and I will show you."
As Denzel tours Vegas, he is greeted with subtle deference and instant access to the VIP world reserved for celebrities and high-rollers.
These are private VIP areas where Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods can lose a million dollars in an evening, find some new girls and escape (at least temporarily) the scrutiny that comes with life as a celebrity.
"Michael Jordan is the casino's best friend," says Denzel, describing the NBA star as "a great guy but a terrible gambler".
When Vanity Fair magazine in New York wanted an inside guide to Tiger Woods' secret life in Las Vegas, it was "RobinHood 702" they quoted throughout their cover story.
When he gambles, Denzel is as superstitious as a Haitian Priest.
He does not like others to watch him. Nor touch him. Nor to play at the same table. He prefers to be alone, in a quiet locale - but this is Vegas and the crowds are sometimes impossible to avoid.
As Denzel plays blackjack, he runs two hands at the same time, often betting the maximum US$10,000 per hand.
He touches the cards in a certain way, spins them this way and that.
Denzel uses his mother's wedding ring for good luck and combines enough mysterious behaviour that it starts to look like a scene in a Harry Potter film.
While I watch, within minutes he triples his stash and his jerky movements and unorthodox winning style have casino officials lurking around the perimeter, aware this is a guy to be watched.
Though most casinos will deny it, successful gamblers like Denzel are routinely bounced out and sent home on fabricated evidence.
"He's been thrown out of half the casinos in this city," says Schulze with an air of authority. "They all know him."
Denzel refuses to provide even a skeletal accounting of his life history - revealing neither where in the US he grew up nor where his first career began.
Questions about Denzel's family background are met with more mystery: "Look, this is not about me. I do this all the time without the press around, I don't want the focus on me, this is about helping an underdog, a man [Martinez] who had no reason to smile, no reason to be positive."
In that regard, there is no mystery - just relief.
Just two days after being chosen as RobinHood's next mission, Martinez is summoned to Denzel's latest rock star suite inside a Las Vegas casino.
Martinez, with his wife and daughter Jemare, 17, and son Jarren, 12, are here to collect the rewards and winnings.
Schulze first explains that he is prescribing a new diet for the family - only healthy foods - and he spends five minutes lambasting the family for not drinking fresh juices daily.
Then the goodies and prizes are announced. It is like an American TV game show where the contestant receives a new life.
Schulze and Denzel announce they will pay two years' rent for the family apartment.
They have also leased a new Toyota for the family for two years and bought a computer and PlayStation for the children.
A complimentary spa treatment to the tune of US$5000 is presented to Marilou Martinez.
The family are crying and hugging one another, the occasional "thank you, thank you" between sobs.
Finally, Lady Gracie brings a white cloth sack filled with casino chips, which she hands to Denzel.
In a flash he dumps the chips on the table - some are worth US$1000, some US$5000 and together the chips are worth approximately US$25,000.
"I never announce a specific figure," says Denzel. "If I do, people will always want me to give more and more each time. The point is not about the money, the money, the money. The point is that this family now has an opportunity to rebuild their life."
That same evening, Martinez and 10 family and friends are invited by Denzel to be transported from his small, rented apartment in suburban Las Vegas to a 12-person VIP table at Pure Nightclub, one of the hottest venues in Vegas, inside Caesar's Palace.
Sitting on the edge of the balcony, Martinez has a different view on life - hundreds of dancing couples, party girls and wannabe Paris Hilton babes flounce by. Dom Perignon corks fly.
A staff of hyper-attentive waiters pour the champagne, bring trays of vodka, mixed drinks, juice, pretty much anything Martinez could order at a world class bar.
Except for his recent chemotherapy treatments, Martinez has never received such vigilant service.
Sitting in the shadows, a few metres from the celebration table, RobinHood nurses his one and only drink for the evening.
Few words come from him and he looks exhausted, worn down by the marathon gambling or the constant scrutiny of the press.
RobinHood goes to bed early; his assistants have been ordered to deliver toys and electronics to the Martinez family.
For now, his mission is over and he can go back to his anonymous life which, like the real Robin Hood, remains shrouded in mystery.
"I just want people around the world to start copying this idea," he explains.
"Imagine if we had 50 RobinHoods."By Jonathan Franklin