Winners &Losers

Winner & Losers
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Oh Not The Ritz

One Dark Night>
A spinall played
traced back< India
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1984 Aspinal
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Gordon Moody
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In The Casino

Take Risks
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Percentages and Chances

Percentages and Chances

      Action Man

Action Man
Las Vegas
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Blanc Dies
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Nevada & New Jersey

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The Game of Life
Real Until


Lesson 1

Exactly, it ’s in the air, in the water.  The connection between poker crime and gambling is, in one way, quite productive. I believe it explains why everybody in Las Vegas and Atlantic City works so hard.  The pit bosses, the dealers the cashiers, the keno girls. The waitresses, the bus boys are all of them dead tired.  Beneath their tans, they are exhausted.  The reason they work so hard is fear of losing their jobs.  In towns where people are desperate for jobs, where there is no recognized system of employment and no unions to speak of, in an industry where the dollar in your hand is the only measure of performance, everybody down the line has to produce results or they’re out.

  It ’s not the Protestant work ethic, it ’s the far of ‘the man’ upstairs the figure in the background who demands results.  It doesn’t make much difference if the people up on the top floor are legitimate button-down businessmen, or if they are (as it so often has turned out) subject to other shadowy operators at a distance: the sense of money-power radiating all the way down to the ever-open doors at the casino entrance has the same concentrating effect.  One step, literally, beyond the door you can see what happened to the poor guys who didn’t understand, who didn’t make it the bums on the sidewalk, panhandling for quarters.
            ‘The prosperity of the desert resort after World War II was remarkable.  In 1945 Las Vegas feared that the conditions that created rapid wartime growth would disappear, but the decline never fully materialized , ‘ notes historian John Findlay of Pennsylvania State University in People of Chance (1986).  The number of visitors grew steadily: in 1957 people employed in hotels and gaming in Clark county totaled 10,800 and gross gaming revenues $ 79,551,000; by 1972 employment had risen to 35,300 and revenues to $476,126,000.  By 1985 the totals had leaped to 76,900 and $ 2,232,793,000.  (University of Nevada, Reno, bureau of Business and Economic Research.)  How’s that for productivity?  And this despite the rival attraction of Atlantic City gaming.
            How has it been possible?  Many reasons, obviously, but above all its reputation for excitement.  Las Vegas far outshone Reno, whose claim to be ‘the biggest little city in the world’ came to seem small-time.  Las Vegas was big time.  Even today its name spells a kind of dangerous glamour, beamed out to every home by James Bond movies and myriad TV thrillers.  This dangerous image had been aided and abetted, unconsciously perhaps, by the sinister side of gambling, the unsavoury reputation of the characters who were known to be running the operation or calling the shots behind the operation.
            The odds saw to it that Vegas casinos made money ‘legitimately’.  For not only were their doors open round the clock for the benefit of free-wheelers on a three-night package, but the resort also succeeded in extending its racy appeal to conventioneers and business groups, while on the ‘illegitimate’ side there was the attraction, as Findlay suggest, of rubbing shoulders  with gangsters.  In bygone days a taste for low life was known as ‘nostalgie de la boue’; in Vegas it is the other way round.  The thrill comes from the crudity and crime which lie just behind the surface of high life.

            ‘Suckers love to see tough guys just like they like to see big-name into a casino or a card room, spot you, and whispter in someone’s ear: “Hey,Joe do you know who that guy is?” If a place gets a name that mob people come in regularly, suckers will flock there just to gape to mob people come in regularly, suckers will flock there just to gape at mob people like they were movie stars and to get next to a table to watch how you gamble …Before you know it, they’re into the game themselves , and they’re dropping a bundle.’ Gambling may be legal but it still carries for most people a risque moral nuance, manifested in the criminal glint at the edges.  Every visitor sense it, in the hard eyes and bulging holsters of the security men emptying the strong boxes: it ’s not a town where you step out of line.
            If one individual couldbe said to embody the high-low spirit of Las Vegas, it is Frank Sinatra.  For three decades he has made it his kind of town.  No other cabaret performer packs in the audiences as he does.  When Sinatra comes to town everybody lives it up.  The crowds come in, not just his own hangers-on, show biz set, the fans of his singing, but all the people drawn to action and excitement.  Mr Sinatra’s reputation down the years hs achieved an extra celebrity by the company he keeps (see the Doonesbury cartoon strip overleaf ) and there have been numerous stories of his rows at the tables and beyond.  He is man who lives gambling, who likes to play high, who mingles with the big boys behind the scenes, and has made no secret of the fact that he owns part of their gambling action and they own part of him.  ‘Let the chips fall where they may, ’ has been Sinatra’s attitude, and Vegas has taken him to its neon heart.
            Stories of his rows at the table are legion.  Here he is, to take a fine example both of his bad temper and his cool, at the baccarat table at Caesar’s.  They were playing high after the show with Sinatra on a limit of $ 8,000 a hand, but demanding to double it.  He kept holding up the game, insisting on betting $ 16,000.  but the house instructions were firm, (the story comes from Lyle Stuart ’s Casinos Gambling For the Winner, 1978).  He was not to be dealt cards unless he committed himself.

‘Mr Sinatra, are you “shilling” or going for the money?’
            He balked at answering: too often he had got up and said he was ‘only fooling’ or ‘just being a shill for you ’, and refused to make good the wager.
            Over the course of a few weeks Sinatra and a real estate broker friend had won nearly a million, and collected every cent.  Now Sinatra was in the process of losing it back, but instead of cash he was papering the cage with markers.
            On the night instructions were to cut off his credit when his losing run hit $ 400,000.  He still had a handful of white ($ 500 chips) but kept insisting on another $25,000.  The croupier called over the casino manager, Sandy Waterman. He told the star: ‘Frank, you owe us four hundred big ones.  If you want more you ’ve got to pay off something.  The boys want their money.’
           Sinatra stood up from the table.  he flung his chips into Waterman’s face, at the same time smacking him on the forehead with the palm of his hand.  According to this account, Waterman turned and ran to his room.  Minutes later he returned with a loaded gun in his hand.  He pointed it at Sinatra.  ‘Listen you! If you ever lay a hand on me again I’ll put a bullet through your head.’
            ‘Aw, come on, ’ Sinatra’s nonchalant approach, Waterman’s arm lowered just enough for one of the Sinatra’s gofers to strike it.  The gun fell to the floor.  Waterman knew he was in trouble.  He turned and sprinted to the cage, with Sinatra and his pack in hot pursuit.
            Sinatra’s left arm was in a sling, the result of some surgery on his veins.  The cashier’s door opened.  As Waterman tried to close it behind him.  Sinatra clung to it.  the door smashed against his bad arm.  Blood spurted upward.  Everyone stood appalled.  The drama was suddenly over.  Sinatra hurried back up to his suite and an aide jumped to phone for the house doctor.
            I was in Vegas at the time and heard rumours of the row, which got little play in the press.  These are the sort of incidents which both damage and enhance Las Vegas’ image.  Under the new style of corporate management of casinos, of course, such things could never happen these days! Sinatra has never lost his drawing power, as was shown when Steve Wynn of the Golden Nugget hired him to headline his new venture in Atlantic City.
  The deal was worth $ 10m to Sinatra, plus enormous perks, spread over three years.  Sinatra’s first appearance of a four-day engagement reportedly brought in $20m in revenue.  But once again trouble was not slow in coming, as The Boardwalk Jungle noted.  Sinatra created chaos at the blackjack table when he insisted that the dealer, an oriental girl, deal from a single deck of cards held in her hand rather than out of a dealing shoe holding six decks.  When she protested that this was against the rules, Sinatra told her, ‘You don’t want to play one deck, you go back to China, ’ and threatened not to perform at the casino unless his demand was accepted.  Terrified, the pit boss gave in

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