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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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By All Means, Ask Barney!

27 May 2002

It seems like ages since I last saw a new Barney Vinson book on the shelves. For those of you who are unaware of the name, Barney Vinson is the author of several of the best books I've ever read on casinos, including Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas, Casino Secrets and Las Vegas Behind the Tables. But for the last half dozen years or so, it's been all quiet on the Vinson front.

However, with the publication of Vinson's hilarious, insightful, and informative new book, Ask Barney: An Insider's Guide to Las Vegas (Bonus Books, $14.95), the drought has ended for his thirsty fans, chief among whom is me!

Ask Barney is a delightful confection of questions and answers about any and all topics relating to Las Vegas and casino gambling in general written by a man who has seen and done it all. Vinson has been a dice dealer, a boxman, a casino floor supervisor and, until his recent retirement, the casino games instructor for Caesars Palace. The entire book is informed with the sharp wit of a savvy insider.

Here's a morsel to savor:

Do you know what the following celebrities have in common? Elvis Presley, Tony Curtis, James Woods, Vanna White, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Richard Pryor, John Wayne, James Brown, Clint Eastwood, Annette Funicello, Drew Carey, Magic Johnson, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Dennis Miller, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Ben Afleck and Charles Barclay. They are all described as "dealer favorites" and good tippers!

But some celebrities are not liked at all by the dealers. For instance, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Robert DeNiro, Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Connors, O.J. Simpson, Pete Rose, Larry Flynt, Joe Frazier, Brett Butler, Dennis Rodman, Bill Cosby, Bruce Willis, and Scottie Pippin, who is known as "No Tippin Pippin." The all-time most despised celebrity is none other than Diana Ross. Listen to what dealers had to say about her: "'Not only does she never tip,' one dealer lamented, 'but she also tells the other players not to tip.' Another dealer said, 'I love the lady's music, especially when she sang with the Supremes, but once she beat me out of $40,000 and never toked me a nickel. Whenever one of her songs comes on the radio, I switch immediately to another station."

Delicious stuff, yes?

The book is divided into 12 chapters. Seven chapters deal with the individual games of craps, blackjack, roulette, baccarat, keno, sports betting, and the machines. In these you'll not only be given succinct advice on how to play the games but you'll also be given some fascinating background into the games.

Chapter 10, called "Statisticzzz," has the stuff trivia buffs will love. For example, do you know how many people move into Las Vegas each month? How many visitors use taxi cabs? How many taxi cabs there are in Vegas? How many days of sunshine Vegas gets? How many people under the age of 21 visit sin city? (Hint: not many!) What the average tourists' gambling budget is? How much the average tourist loses during his/her stay?

Do you know how many slot machines there are in Vegas? Do you know what the highest denomination chip is? (No, it's higher than a million!) Do you know how many dice are used in a single casino in one year? How about how many decks of cards in a single year?

Did you know that over 100 million meals are served in Las Vegas every year? Did you know that the Circus Circus buffet serves more people every day -- 10,000! -- than any other restaurant in the world? Did you know that in a single year, the MGM uses 18 million eggs, 292,000 pounds of coffee, and 4.4 million donuts for breakfast? Over at Caesars Palace, where Barney worked, every year 11.7 million Kleenex tissues are used; 249,600 rolls of toilet paper; 240 million gallons of water; 100,000 pens; 12,000 ash trays; 2 million maraschino cherries; 1.3 million ounces of ketchup; 2.5 million pats of butter; 744,000 bottles of beer and, hic-up!, 594,000 shots of vodka!

Since Las Vegas is the single brightest spot on planet Earth (as seen from space), it should come as no surprise that the annual electric bill for one average casino is three million dollars. Since it's also the gaming capital of the world as well, it should surprise no one that 20,000 pawn tickets are written every month (yes, every month!) in the various "hock shops" found throughout the city.

The book is chock-full of such interesting and, at times, unbelievable trivia. Yet, what sets this book apart from other books of this type is the fact that Barney Vinson doesn't just list the incredible. He has fun with his information. Barney Vinson is, after all, known for his wit and humor. Here are some examples:

Question:"If my wife hit a slot machine jackpot for $225,000 and died a week later, what would I get?"
Answer:"Life."
 
Question:"What is the largest hotel in Las Vegas?"
Answer:"The MGM Grand has 5005 rooms and makes it the second-largest hotel in the world. (Some joint in Thailand is number one with 5,100 rooms.)"
Question:"What is the largest hotel in Atlantic City?"
Answer:"Who cares?"

Another chapter that will appeal to just about everyone is the one titled "Crime and Punishment." In this chapter Barney goes into all the various ways cheaters have attempted to illegally beat the casinos. You'll find out about some interesting lawsuits as well. What I found particularly intriguing was how the casino can track how often a guest enters his or her room. The plastic key card generates a "room activity" spread sheet. Barney shows an actual printout from security. Fascinating stuff.

To conclude: It's great to have Barney Vinson back in action. The wait was well worth it as this book is another invaluable read for those of us who want to know everything we can about that most glamorous of towns. Ask Barney is a treat that is not to be missed. (Ask Barney is available at all major book stores and from Amazon.com on the Internet.)


Books mentioned in this review:

Ask Barney by Barney Vinson
Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas by Barney Vinson
Casino Secrets by Barney Vinson
Las Vegas Behind the Tables by Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson