I was hired as a craps dealer, at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget (August 1982) under the typical favoritism circumstances that everyone hates...unless it works in their favor. Before that, I was doing the same job, at a dive up the street, (the Las Vegas Club). One night after my shift, my wife and her girlfriend came downtown to meet me for drinks. At about 5:AM, the three of us became separated. I had chased a couple of Jack Daniels shots with several Heinekens as my staggering search for the girls led me through the nearby casinos.
Fate was on my side as I breezed through the Nugget. I saw my former Stardust coworker DaveF, working as the boxman, at the only open craps table. There were two men playing (making small bets) as he and I reminisced about the old days. I was still swilling beer when Dino (the floor supervisor) returned from his break, (he was another former Stardust buddy).
|ITALIAN-BORN DINO SOUNDED LIKE CHICO MARX BUT HE LOOKED LIKE MOVIE, TV AND BROADWAY ACTOR, LOUIS JOURDAN (JUNE 19, 1921-PRESENT).|
Suddenly, Dino turned around and said, "Dave, tell thisa good man to tappa into thord base." I held up my Heineken bottle and said, "I'm a little messed up." Dave said, "Look at this Mickey Mouse shit, don't worry about it." I settled into the dealer station and saw that the two players only had one bet each. The closer gambler had one red chip ($5.00) on the don't pass and his friend had three white chips ($3.00) also on the don't.
The first roll was a three (craps). Both men won. I paid the one red chip with a white and I paid the three whites with reds. Dave the boxman laughed, "Look what you did." I picked up the chips, crisscrossed my arms and fixed my mistake. Impatiently Dino said to the dealer I replaced, "Okay, tappa him back out." I was so unhappy with myself, in one roll, I screwed-up a great opportunity. Dino didn't speak as he lead me to the pit stand. When he got to his boss he pounded my back and exploded in enthusiasm, "You see-a that Scotty? I told you me was a gooda man." Scotty couldn't be bothered. His ghostly white hand, dotted with liver spots scribbled a phone number down. He said, "Call the office tomorrow during business hours." I did and started two days later.
|IN 1982, THE NUGGET WAS A LOW-CLASS GRIND JOINT BUT I DOUBLED MY TOKE (TIP) INCOME. LUCK WAS REALLY ON MY SIDE BECAUSE SHORTLY AFTER I GOT HIRED, THEY RE-MODELED AND THIS CHEAP CLIP JOINT BECAME A MEGA, WORLDWIDE DESTINATION.|
One of the first characters I met was a fellow dealer named Mark Staten. This fat, loud-mouth was bullying two other Southern California craps dealers, (both named Carlos). Thanks to Staten, these low-lifes...or as he called them "the evil twins," were immediately on my radar. I mentioned one of them in my short story, "NO HELP'S HALL," when the would-be thief opened my tip envelop and tried to steal twenty dollars from me.
In my first week, I also learned that Staten liked to pick on Victor Jasuri. Jasuri (the first person I ever knew from India) was a prim and proper gentleman. While I never found out what landed him in America's version of the Foreign Legion, his acumen, manners and friendliness made him stand-out from the rabble...which included myself.
|THE LEGION WAS CREATED IN 1831 FOR FOREIGNERS TO SERVE THE FRENCH MILITARY'S MOST GOD FORSAKEN OUTPOSTS. TODAY, HI-TECH BACKGROUND CHECKS ARE PERFORMED BUT IN THE OLD DAYS, THE LEGION (LIKE LAS VEGAS) SEEMED TO BE A REPOSITORY FOR THE SCUM OF THE EARTH, i.e. NE'ER-DO-WELLS LIKE CUT-THROATS, CROOKS, FUGITIVES AND THOSE ESCAPING FAILED ROMANCES.|
Despite Staten's taunts, Jasuri maintained his dignity except when baited by one specific term. I'm certain Staten wouldn't have picked on him this particular way if he was ignored. But Jasuri was comical how he robotically responded to Staten's needling. It was usually something simple like, "Hey 'Paki,' what time do you start on Saturday?" I wouldn't put it past Staten if he was taking bets on Jasuri because every time, the rebuttal, in a refined English accent was, "My name is not Paki. My name is Victor. I am from a privileged family in Bombay. I am not like the rest of you....I'm an educated man (sometimes he'd name drop that his school was Eton). Therefore, please don't insult me by implying that I am from Pakistan." Staten would wait until Jasuri's triumphant sigh of conquest before saying, "Sorry...Paki."
The other thorn in Victor Jasuri's side was Mark Staten's running mate, Victor Jimenez, (he used the American pronunciation Jim-in-ez rather than the Spanish, Him-MEN-ez). Victor (the first Native American I personally knew) was a brash, drunken, braggart who playfully referred to himself as; a full blooded Apache, that was half Sioux...with a dead-beat loser Tex-Mex father.
Most of the Nugget craps dealers liked Jimenez and his colorful stories but he was such a loose-cannon that nobody wanted to work with him. Most notably, he tried to play the customers money. By taking control of a beginner's betting, he could siphon (steal) his own tokes. This ploy was highly unnecessary and dangerous because the tokes were pooled with the entire shift rather than the four craps dealers AND, this form of hustling was a firable offense. The situation was made worse due to the potential for collateral damage, getting the innocent coworkers fired...who didn't stop him.
A modern day odd couple, meticulous Victor Jasuri was outraged whenever he was confused with such a slob like Victor Jimenez, (or as Jasuri called him, an unwashed guttersnipe). Jasuri was a spiritual pacifist who was perfectly groomed each day with a freshly cleaned and pressed dealer shirt. His black oxford dress shoes were polished to a high gloss and each day, he came to work ready to serve.
Jimenez was a brawler and a hard knocks realist who looked like he slept in his uniform. He reeked of booze, marijuana and tobacco, and had a bipolar surliness mixed into a funny personality. Still, it pissed him off to be mistaken for the sophisticated Jasuri.
When Jasuri was over-the-top subservient to the players, Jimenez called him "Ma-Hat-Ma-Coat." Jimenez on the other hand spent most of his time on duty trying to rid his table of undesirable customers. To do this, Jimenez used, "the Apache, ceremonial seven-out dance," a (pretend) superstitious ritual that was particularly unprofessional, This rite included authentic looking footwork, a muttering of stereotypical tribal chants between his dice calls and the pumping, (up and down) and chopping motion (like a tomahawk), of the craps stick.
If that didn't work, he liked to pull aside his hair and show a bullet hole scar above his ear. He claimed he was shot by a white man when he tried to get a drink in a "cowboy" bar in Flagstaff Arizona. If he didn't get any sympathy at that point he'd add, "It's inoperable...the slug has to stay in...if it ever gets jarred from that exact spot, I will die immediately!"
Three months into my tenure at the Nugget, management announced that our flea-bitten, sawdust joint was going to be converted into the classiest casino, not only downtown but in all of Las Vegas. Soon, the owner chaired mandatory meetings in an empty restaurant to explain the new mindset we needed to go forward. He backed up his assertions by promising raises, bonuses and doubling (dealer) toke income within six months.
The concept seemed far-fetched so in my group there was a lot of snickering going on. Mark Staten and Victor Jimenez were especially vocal about the absurdity of shining up this downtown piece of shit and calling it a diamond. Victor Jasuri shushed them and called for their support. Staten said, "Shut up Paki."
Jasuri controlled himself till the pep rally was over. Out in the corridor he blasted Staten and Jasuri, "How can anyone ever win if backwards thinkers such as yourselves take joy in everyone losing." Staten said, "Now Paki..." Jimenez cut him off and said, "Lookey here shit-for-brains....casinos are hell disguised as heaven...either side of the table...is a fucking dead end..."
By November 1982, the company absorbed the little casino on the corner (The Friendly Club) and bought city-owned land behind the Nugget. Soon the metamorphosis was in full force. Walls were torn down and the property expanded in every direction. The hotel rooms were all refurbished and high-end shops and restaurants mystically appeared. During the re-modeling, the casino area was covered in clear plastic drop-cloths as the action never slowed down in the omnipresent hammering, sawing and drilling.
Like the Phoenix rising from its own ashes, the casino's ceiling was raised, the dark western decor vanished and was replaced with a bright, beige and white Victorian motif. The equipment was also updated...most notably the checks (chips). The wafer-thin, worn-out checks with their disgusting, gummy black crudberries were replaced. Plus, higher denominations like thousand dollar and five-thousand dollar beauties were stocked on most tables. Then like magic...the table minimums went up and a higher class of clientele pushed out the budget-minded players.
The Golden Nugget became the toast of the town. The promises made to the staff came true. We got raises, a stock bonus and the bustling influx of high-rollers more than doubled our toke income, (in less than six months). But these boon times had a serious, negative side effect. The Nugget had become such a cherry job that managers found it profitable to broker jobs either in the name of cronyism or as straight bribes. But in order to bring in their people...there needed to be openings.
A "reign of terror" swept through the Nugget as mostly dealers (in groups) were fired. I feared I would lose my job because of the "last hired, first fired rule." The feeling was made worse because of this nonsense called "juice." But deep down, I understood that favoritism was the only reason I got the job to begin with.
One night the casino manager visited graveyard. He stood in the middle of the casino and said to the shift boss, "Everyone to my left is fired." On day shift, a newly installed Asian tile game called Pai Gow lost two-hundred thousand dollars on its fourth day of operation, so everyone associated with dealing or supervising the game from all three shifts were fired (the game was removed too). In addition to other chunks of employees getting axed, individuals were getting fired every day. The drunks like Mark Staten, the druggies like the "Evil Twins", the chronic call-outs, the lazy incompetents and personality problems were weeded out.
Every day seemed to require all of us to tip-toe through a virtual mind field to keep our jobs. Soon, DaveF, Dino and Scotty were all out on the street. Yet somehow, obvious guillotine candidate Victor Jimenez remained unscathed.
|THE GUILLOTINE WAS MOST NOTABLE DURING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION BUT THIS DEVICE DESIGNED FOR CARRYING OUT EXECUTIONS (DECAPITATIONS) REMAINED IN OFFICIAL FRENCH USE UNTIL 1977.|
Jimenez even kept his position after a non-tipping player complained that he said, "You shudda toked when you still had money...you'd still be a loser but at least you would have the dealers respect."
One night at around 3:30AM, in the midst of the Nugget's turmoil, two of the three craps tables were standing dead. I was on the table that was working as the pit boss decided to close one dead table and use those dealers (who were on duty till 6:AM) to send home the dealers from the other dead table. In the exchange, the two Victors had a brief argument as out-going Jimenez accused incoming Jusari of setting up his friend Mark Staten to be fired. Jusari said it was preposterous and Jimenez exploded. He socked Jasuri a couple of times before the supervisors squelched the tiff.
Jusari's game remained dead until after my crew left at 4:00AM. When it opened, the brown, plastic-coated dice bowl was lifted off the chip bank and placed in front of the stick man. At some point, Jasuri noticed that the bowl wasn't laying flush to table. When he looked under the bowl, a stray, old, one-hundred dollar chip (full of sticky crudberries) had attached itself to the under side.
|MOST SAVVY GAMBLERS ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE BLACK GUMMY DOTS THAT FORM ON CASINO CHECKS, (STRANGE, I COULDN'T FIND A PHOTO OF ONE ON THE INTERNET). THESE STICKIES ARE FORMED WHEN LIQUOR COMBINED WITH PERSPIRATION COMES IN CONTACT WITH FILTH AND DRIES.|
In seconds, the boxman discovered a "missing tooth" in the chip bank and set the would-be escapee back in its proper place. With all the money fully accounted for, the boxman shared the innocent mishap with the floor supervisor. The shaky floorman was afraid of getting jackpotted during these uncertain times. Stupidly to cover his ass, he informed the pit boss. The ominous chain-reaction continued as the pit boss, to be on the safe side, included this non-incident in a written report to his superior.
Two days later, the four dealers on the out-going crew from that table, the four incoming dealers, three boxmen, two floormen and the pit boss were "suspended pending an investigation." The casino was going to fire them all but they wanted to practice the new corporate policy of "escalating discipline" that going into effect the following week. Therefore, the power brokers thought it prudent, for the sake of appearances, to document the whole rigmarole to justify their ultimate actions. This bullshit was the centerpiece of my short story, "A GUMMY CONSPIRACY."
To legitimize firing all thirteen men, the casino wasted time, energy and money by interviewing each imaginable/imaginary "perpetrator." When none of them implicated them self or anyone else, a professional lie detecting company was hired to conduct polygraph tests. The casino could not unmask the single culprit or unearth a conspiracy because they already knew that nothing was taken and that this high risk, low reward mode of thievery had never been tried before. So to cover their true aim, (creating job openings for their friends), they announced that after their indepth scrutiny failed to detect any hard evidence, to be on the safe side, they were compelled to let everyone go.
Like my current coworker who wanted me to understand that his titanium BMW and my silver Honda were not the same, the two Victors, who hated being associated together will be forever linked as losers in, "THE GUMMY CONSPIRACY."