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Walking with a Vegas Ghost
Part Six

here to read Part 1, here to read Part 2, here to read Part 3  here to read Part 4 or here to read part 5 )

The profit that I earned at the Horseshoe was limited, but I was still gratified nonetheless.  After staging a $504 comeback after a quick $440 loss meant a lot to me at the time, and it still does today.

My playing partner for the day was my friend, Mel.  His position as a senior executive at on of the Strip’s monolith-type mega-resorts was cause for some colorful stories about, “the good old days.”

As soon as we stepped out the west doors of Binions, we were looking directly at:

The Freemont Hotel

“The Freemont wasn’t always the clean and shiny success story that it is today.   “I’ve slipped in so much tobacco juice on the floor in this place, it’s not funny.  The reason they called them sawdust joints is because they actually used sawdust to soak up the spit on the floor.  Places like the Freemont only really came into its’ modern era during the ‘90’s.”

“Even up to the late ‘80’s, this place was a true dump.  The food was lousy, the staff was lousy, the rooms were lousy, but Lefty Rosenthal decided that he wanted to be in the “gaming entertainment” business and not the “gambling” business.  He tols “the boys back East”, what he was going to do.  They didn’t care as long as he continued to ring the cash-register for them.  As soon as he did that, everything changed, and the money really started to tumble in.  He found that if you keep things clean and decent, then people are more willing to part with their money, and they don’t resent you as much when you lose, because they had a good time doing it.  When Sam Boyd bought the place, they just improved upon what Lefty started.”

“A place like this is still for the semi-serious gambler, but it’s not as rough around the edges as it used to be.  That way, when a tourist comes in here, whether they’re from Hawaii or the mainland, they get in some good play, and they can go home and tell their friends that Boyd’s gave them a good run for their money.  That builds a clientele base that will come back two, three or four times a year, and they’ll bring their friends too,” stated Mel.

We started play at an empty $5 table.  Establishing the Point of 6, was quickly followed-up with a “Winner Hard-6”.   Mel made the stick-call of “Hard-6, two whites lines make a Miami breakfast,” and we all chuckled at his warped sense of humor.  The dealers collected their hardways bet, and I was happy with the quick win.  I made two more Point winners, but didn’t string together very many Place numbers in between.  


Mel took a turn with the dice, and cursed his misfortune when his entire hand lasted for exactly two rolls.  “*ing Continental breakfast, two *ing rolls and no *ing coffee, “ bellowed Mel.  I intentionally put “*’s” in place of three words in that last quote, because each word was exactly the same that punctuated the air when Mel let his venom fly.

 10fremont.jpg (11410 bytes)

From the Freemont, we crossed the pedestrian-mall and entered:


I am biased in my opinion about the Four Queens.  The Pit staff is lousy, but the three craps tables are glorious!  The padded rails are covered with white leather, not vinyl, and the tables have the most perfect deck surface for the novice Precision-Shooter.   By that I mean that, it is a “forgiving” felt surface.  It’s not too soft and not too hard.  If Goldilocks was a Precision-Shooter, she’d be permanently camped out at these tables.  Of course, the fact that the Pit Critters act like a bunch of cranky, aggravated bears doesn’t do anything to add to the pleasure of winning money, but I can put up with the annoyance because of the profit.

 11fourqueenscraps.jpg (10014 bytes)

There were two players at the table already when Mel and I bought in.  The boxman recognized me, and said, “These guys have been waiting for shooters all morning, they’re like vultures.  Every time a new shooter steps up, they bet against him, and they’ve been winning a fortune off of other people’s misery.”  I eyed the two guys.  They didn’t look like vultures, well one guy did have beady eyes and a hawk-like nose, but I didn’t see any feathers.  I put my Pass Line bet down, and their look of gleeful anticipation landed squarely on their faces as they made $1000 Don’t Pass bets.  Two “Winner-7’s” in a row dampened their enthusiasm.  I established the 4 as the Point, and their look of hopefulness reappeared.  They layed $4000 in odds, and put up $1000 in the Don’t Come box.  Mel hadn’t said one single word as he posted his $50 bets on the Field and 5, and his $60 each on the 6 & 8.

An 11 rolled, which paid Mel’s Field bet that was exposed in the “garden”.  With a “Yippee”, Mel finally spoke up and yelled, “DC’s dead, Farmers get fed.”   From that point on, the big “don’t” players were getting more enraged with every toss of the dice.  They were relentless in their pursuit of the Don’t Come box, but every time a bet made it’s way “behind” a Place number, I’d repeat it.   “That’s right buddy, kick their dick around in the dirt,” Mel pleaded to me.

 12fourqueens.jpg (13671 bytes)

He started telling me about the casino that was in Haiti before the downfall of “Baby Doc” DuVallier several years back. “The game was called in French, English and Spanish.  “I felt like I was in the middle if the bloody United Nations.  There was a pack of starving dogs outside the complex, but the armed guards would shoot them if they got closer than five feet.  I was more concerned about getting accidentally shot than I was about being attacked by some stray dog with rabies AND AIDS!” he said emphatically.

Several more rolls later, the Don’t Pass Posse had run out of ammunition.   They dropped at least $27,000 during that hand.  I don’t know how long it took them to build up their bankroll, but it took less than twenty minutes to decimate it!  Mel was happy about THAT!  I was just happy to collect some profit, regardless of what other players were or weren’t doing with THEIR money.  I focus on my money-management.  It’s tough enough maintaining discipline over my bankroll, and I don’t have any inclination to fret over someone else’s.

 13fourqueensfse.jpg (51377 bytes)

Mel was in an elated mood.  Even though he had only won a couple of hundred dollars at the Freemont, he was gloating over the other guy’s loss.  I was going to say something about Mother Nature having a cruel sense of humor, but his voice interrupted my intention.  “Do we have to really go into the Fitz,” he asked.  “Yeah, this is a great place.  It won’t be crowded, especially at this hour, and the tables are usually pretty good,” I said.   Mel retorted with, “Man, I hate this place.  That damn leprechaun gives me the creeps as much as Happy the Clown at Circus Circus does.”  So with reluctance, Mel stepped into the old:


“How can you NOT feel uneasy in here,” asked Mel.  “Relax,” I said, “and tell me one of your stories.”

“The Madam opens the brothel door to see a frail, elderly gentleman. “Can I help you?” the madam asked. “I want Natalie,” the old man replied. “Sir, Natalie is one of our most expensive ladies, perhaps someone else...”  “No, I must see Natalie.” Just then Natalie appeared and announced to the old man that she charges $1,000 per visit. Without blinking, the man reached into his pocket and hands her ten $100 bills. The two went up to a room to do their thing for an hour, whereupon the man calmly left. The next night he appeared again demanding to see Natalie. Natalie explained that no one had ever come back two nights in a row and that there were no discounts...it was still $1,000 a visit. Again the old man took out the money, the two went up to the room and for one hour they go at it like crazed banshees. When he showed up the third consecutive night, no one could believe it. Again he handed Natalie the money and up to the room they went. At the end of the sweating, writhing, mind-blowing hour, Natalie questioned the old man.  “No one has ever used my services three nights in a row. Where are you from?” The old man replied, “I’m from Philadelphia.” “Really?” replied Natalie. “I have family who lives there.” “Yes, I know,” said the old man. “Your father died, and I’m your sister’s attorney. She asked me to give you your inheritance of $3,000.” 

 14fitzgeralds.jpg (11376 bytes)

I was still chuckling as I began to shoot.  It wasn’t a spectacular hand, but then it wasn’t embarrassing either.  “This place, as the Sundance, was the last “openly-mobbed-up” place in town,” intoned Mel.  I asked him what he meant. 

“Well, ya see there were some places that were secretly run by the mob.  They’d use front-men, and dummy corporations, and “legit” suppliers, and make everything look kosher.  But then there were places like the Sundance, where everybody operated in the open.  They felt that they were above the law, ‘cause they WERE the law.  They had some “dirty” folks in places of power back then.  Not just on the Gaming Commission, but on the County Commission, in the Sheriff’s Department, in the Mayor’s office, on City Council and so on.   The guys that ran this place didn’t even care about looking “legit”, they were more interested in the garbage bags full of cash that they could haul right out of the cage, and take it upstairs to be divvied up.  There was no subtlety about it.  They were brutal, in that they made it difficult for all the other “fronts” to maintain their modest “skim”, because these guys were ladling the money out of here by the bucketful.  So when the “boys back East”, start comparing notes, they see that the lowly Sundance is bringing in more to “their people”, than the Stardust is bringing in to “my people.”  Well it doesn’t take long before we get called onto the carpet to explain why “our” take isn’t as big as “their” take.  It just made it difficult to maintain appearances, AND keep “the big guys” happy, if ya know what I mean.  Right up to ’86, this place kept the coffers full back East, while on the books, it didn’t show a profit for years upon years,” said Mel in a conspiratorial tone. 

15fitzgeralds.jpg (30817 bytes)

Another reasonably profitable hand satisfied us both.  We stopped at Mr. O’Lucky’s Coffee Bar, where a casual female friend of mine works.  She makes me a custom-designed coffee by adding a number of tastes from her collection on the bottled-flavors rack.

Mel and I walked slowly back onto Freemont Street, where an eclectic “street-artist” creates low-rent masterpieces with Krylon spray-paint.  If you ever see a huge crowd gathered around a young man on his knees with several spray-bombs in his hand.  Take a look, but PLEASE do not take his picture.  He is temperamental, and as soon as he finishes his painting and holds it up to applause and admiration, he immediately rips it up and asks people to obey the “No Pictures” sign.

“How about we take a pass on El Cortez and the Western,” asked Mel.  Knowing that the Western no longer had a craps table, and knowing that my dysentery shots weren’t up to date, I happily agreed to leave the Cortez to stew in it’s own pot of communicable diseases.  Off in the distance we made our way to: 


Again, I no longer play at the Lady luck as much as I used to.  They use a various assortment of dice.  Different colors and sizes make for difficult choices, when the dice have discernable chunks missing from their edges.  Thirty-year old Monopoly dice as usually in better shape than their dice, although recent reports tell me that the situation has improved somewhat.

 16ladyluck.jpg (8298 bytes)

Mel pointed to where the Jolly Trolley Casino used to be across from Lady Luck   “If you think Jackie Gaughan’s El Cortez and Western Casino Hotel are bad, the Jolly Trolley required rabies and distemper shots before they’d even allow you to enter,” said Mel.  Some players stayed at the tables there for so long, they looked like death-merchants.  They were white and pale, and they probably had scurvy as well. The closest they came to vegetables, was the malted barley in the 25-cent beer.

 17ladyluck.jpg (15637 bytes)

Our hand at this place was extremely short.  I managed to just barely get my $26 off the table before the random-roller tossed a 7-out.  Mel’s $14 profit was made the same way.

The sun had long gone down, and the darkness of night had descended on the town, but not on our mood.  There were a couple of more casinos to play at before we called it a night.

The walk shall continue…

Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.

By:  The Mad Professor

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