Odds slim, but tic-tac-toe playing chicken attracts crowd

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Arriving in style in a stretch limousine, the newest star at Isle of Capri casino has understudies in case she gets bored.

Or lays an egg.

Pearl the chicken, whose trainers claim she is an expert at the art of Tic Tac Toe, is in town the rest of the month and gave Isle of Capri customers a run for their money on Wednesday.

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They don’t actually have to pay to play &045; but if they beat the chicken, they get $5,000.

Part sales gimmick, part bizarre circus trick, Pearl and her sisters are a marketing tool for Isle of Capri casinos across the country.

Twenty-seven people have beaten the chicken so far, slim odds considering at least that many lined up to play Pearl in the first couple of hours she was in Natchez.

Chicken wrangler Joel Faulk &045; also known as a &uot;chicken tender&uot; &045; said Pearl has been traveling to Isle locations throughout the year. She just spent a month in Biloxi.

&uot;You just can’t imagine that people would want to line up to play a chicken, but people have just gone out of their minds with this bird,&uot; said Isle of Capri’s Kim Cauthen.

Pearl struts around in a glassed-in red box outfitted with chicken feed and a mysterious door labeled &uot;thinkin’ booth.&uot; She pokes her head behind the door when she wants to make a move.

Isle contestants, however, tap a computer screen to choose their squares.

Pearl’s opponents have only 12 seconds to decide where to place their X’s, but she can take as much time as she wants.

&uot;Sometimes she just gets bored and decides she doesn’t want to play,&uot; Cauthen said. &uot;She has understudies in case she gets bored or lays an egg.&uot;

(Hence the stunt doubles.)

The only rule to &uot;Chick Tac Dough&uot;? The chicken has to go first.

It doesn’t leave her opponents with great odds when you think about it. A few people on Wednesday were perhaps unaware of how the game is played, leaving themselves wide open for a chicken victory in just three moves.

Susan Nunnery’s game ended in a draw.

&uot;Anything’s possible,&uot; the Woodville resident said, clutching her consolation prize &045; a booklet of chicken recipes. &uot;It was fun.&uot;

But does she really think she was playing a chicken? Cocking her head at Pearl, she said simply, &uot;No.&uot;

The veracity of Pearl’s playing ability seemed doubtful to more than one spectator, although one man stared at the display and chuckled, &uot;I seen everything.&uot;

Another patron, sauntering by the red case as lights flashed and the &uot;chicken dance&uot; song bubbled from somewhere within, sniffed and said, &uot;I don’t believe so.&uot;