Sweating every nickel
This joint is called Bill's now. My fifth dealing job and And number nine overall at that time. This is a fresh story. I just wrote it.
After ten or twelve months at the Union Plaza, my first middle-level job downtown I got fired; fired on the spot after an altercation with a dealer that was sitting on the box.
They got me out of there in a hurry. I had about eighty bucks in my pocket from tokes and the tokes from the shift before. I had about a half weeks rent paid; I had very little margin. I had to get moving. I was already in dealers clothes, black and white and I drove down to the Nevada Palace.
“Why weren’t you here yesterday?” “I didn’t need the job yesterday.” They didn’t ask or care why I was finished at the Union Plaza.
Next, I go to Bourbon Street, a thirty-five dollar envelope job. This little bottom feeder was shoehorned between Maxims and the Barbary Coast. Maxims was a hardcore sleeper, a hot job, a joint that locals favored.
I audition at Bourbon Street and its late afternoon. I had one player and a bad attitude. I needed a job but I was hoping I didn’t get that job, and I didn’t. The shift boss picked up on my attitude.
“You didn’t talk it up on the stick much.” “I had one player.” “Well, I have another person interested in this job and maybe I’ll call you.”
I was a good break-in dealer at this point, I’d been dealing a ten times odds game at the Plaza ten times odds on a quarter flat. I’d been pushing a lot of checks. If you want to get good at anything then you want to pay the dues.
I go home and the next morning I phone O’Sheas, a middle-level satellite adjacent to the Flamingo and owned by Ceasars - O'Sheas was a middle-class joint with low-level play. The word was that they had chronic hemorrhaging there. They were losing money. Even I dumped money when I was auditioning on the stick. I’d auditioned there months before I got canned at the Plaza. It was another shit job that I spurned at the time. But now I needed a job, any fucking job.
“Come in and we’ll talk about it.” I’m driving down Paradise and on impulse I pull into the Landmark. The pit was dead so the shift boss sets up an audition for me. He’s making the bets. He offers me a job on swing.
We go sit at a deserted BJ table, “Around here dealers show up and they shut up and Blackjack make’s the money.” “Yes sir!”
The Landmark was under bankruptcy protection. They had maybe $134,000 bucks in their cage. They couldn’t afford to take a hit.
I was using speed at this time although I wasn’t hardcore strung out yet, I was just chipping away. I had a connection, a lesbian, ex-exotic dancer from LA named Sandy. We would hang out together and she would give me lines.
Once I got lit, if I was working I couldn’t stop because I had to get through my shift I couldn’t crash on my game. In other words, I was up all week; I wouldn’t sleep for six days.
I’m working at the Landmark, and I don’t have a clue – what does my future hold? And really, who even cares? I felt alive at least. I’m living by my wits.
I’d been at the Landmark for about three weeks when the Barbary calls. I’m sitting on the couch. The guy identifies himself. “Want a job?” “I don’t know, what shift?” I’m unsure trying to buy time. “I don’t know, day’s swing, want a job?” “Sure, okay.” I’m unsure because the Barbary had the reputation as the toughest joint in town. I’d left an application before I’d gotten fired from the Plaza, “I’ve only got sixteen months." “That’s just what we’re looking for."
But I figured that if I lasted a week at the Barbary, I'd have my rent paid.
They want to see me. The Barbary was an anomaly in that they didn’t audition. They just hired you. I go in there the next day and I take pains to look nice. The shift boss looks me over, “You’re hired.” And he gives me a shift.
The Plaza was owned by Jackie Gaughan, the Barbary was owned by his son Michael Gaughan. They obviously knew that I’d been fired and why but just as obviously they didn’t care.
I’d been at the Barbary for a brief time and another dealer told me, “You know all the things you’ve heard about the Barbary? They are all true, but it’s not so bad when you are here living it.”
The Barbary was a brutal sweat house located on the corner of Flamingo and Vegas Blvd. Across from Caesars, sideways to Bally’s and kitty corner to the Dunes on the original four corners. The Barbary had a small room base and got hit and run dice action mostly coming from the Dunes.
The object was to kill the game as quickly as possible and drive off the shooter. They ran the dice games at a double speed breakneck pace and if you dumped money they made it personal. The Barbary would sweat nickels, five dollar checks. Casinos don't like to lose but this was ridiculous.
I was surviving there, I was managing. I was even improving.
Now this is the memory the peroration of my entire story. One day I came up with my crew from the dealer’s room in the basement. The dealer’s room was the break room where you could smoke and watch TV. Dealers get a twenty-minute break every hour which is why every dice crew has a four man crew and is manned by three dealers – the stick and two base dealers. One crew member is always on a break.
And you need that break. Craps is a very intense game requiring total concentration. So, I come up from the break room and there is a sign-in sheet. I glance over at the game and it’s jammed up. My coworkers rush to sign-in and grab a base. I’m mystified. We are pushing off the graveyard crew.
I push the stick and look down at the prop box and my stomach drops out. It’s buried in proposition bets, which are mostly one roll bets with various combinations of payouts. Craps numbers, any seven, hi/low, horn bets, craps/eleven. The hard ways stay up until the number rolls the easy way. Or a seven-out clears off the layout.
I start praying for a point. First roll – ace/deuce, a three. The player throws me a check and says, “Press all my bets up one unit.” I have a chalkboard in my mind. I can’t very well fake it. The boxman is watching me with a slight smile on his face and keeping in mind that I’m under intense pressure to keep the game moving. The player knows, he’s been betting the same way for years.
Okay. Now we’ll get a point. But no! Another craps number. By now rivulets of sweat are running from my armpits down my flanks. I’m still holding my own but I’m starting to fall apart.
One more hit and I feel a tap on my shoulder and I’m being pulled off the game. A floorman points to a dead game and I’m made to stand on second base with my face in the layout. I’m getting spanked.
I got pulled off for dumping. Later on, the floorman who was sitting on my game told me I was doing pretty good there for a while. At the Barbary they didn’t have a unique designation for boxman, the floor just took turns sitting down.
Not long after this I got the job at Caesars, got juiced into there doing massage again.