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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Moving up the Corporate Ladder

10 April 2004

I'd been working as a shill at the Pioneer Club in Vegas for almost a week, and now I had two beautiful days off staring me in the face. I should've been walking on air, but I wasn't.

For one thing, I was only making $11 a day and didn't even get free meals like casino employees everywhere else. If it weren't for complimentary refreshments at the snack bar, I'd really be screwed. My money was slowly running out, and I hadn't helped matters by getting tanked on wine at an Italian restaurant the night before.

In fact, I didn't even know I had two days off until I stumbled into work that morning. That's when Mop Top, the assistant shift boss, broke the news to me. Another $22 was out of my grasp forever, but it could've been a blessing in disguise. As weak as I was, there was no way I could stand on my feet all day.

I limped to the snack bar and took a seat on the cleanest stool I could find. Maybe a steaming cup of coffee would clear the cobwebs out of my head. The attendant shifted her gum to a cheek as she walked over.

"What'll it be, babe?"

"Coffee."

She pushed a chipped cup in front of me and filled it to the brim. "Thirty cents," she said in a bored voice.

I chuckled. "It's okay. I work here."

"Thirty cents," she said again.

"What do you mean? I just told you, I work here."

"Didn't you read the memo?"

"What memo?"

"No more free drinks for the employees. The memo came out last night. Here," she said, sticking a piece of grease-spotted paper in front of me.

"Notice to all employees," it read. "Due to financial difficulties, it is necessary to begin charging for ALL beverages at the Pioneer Club Snack Bar. Beginning Monday, July 23, there will be free coffee and water available in the Dealers Room." It was signed by Fredric J. Ward, whoever the hell he was.

Shaking my head, I fumbled for my wallet. The attendant must've seen the frustration on my face and leaned closer. "I'll tell you what really happened," she confided. "Somebody hit a keno ticket yesterday for fifteen hundred, and they had to get the money back somehow. So they figure they'll get it from us."

I wasn't really listening. Instead, I was gazing horror-struck at what was left of my bankroll. A twenty, a ten, a five, and three wrinkled singles, plus 70 cents in change scattered on the counter. One halfway-decent meal in an Italian restaurant, and now I was almost flat broke.

I finished the coffee, slurping every expensive mouthful, left a nickel tip, then hitched up my pants and walked out the front door.

"HOWDY PARDNER!" the Vegas Vic mascot boomed.

"SCREW YOU!" I boomed back.

Here it was, high noon in one of the hottest places on the planet, heat waves rising from the pavement in sizzling little swirls, sweat pouring down my face, pants stuck to my legs, socks stuck to my shoes, shorts stuck to my privates, and $38.65 to my name. I didn't believe in the hereafter, thanks to being bullied and beaten by a bunch of rabid nuns in Texas when I was too young to defend myself, but if there was a heaven and if there was a hell I knew exactly where they were. Heaven was Texas, and hell was Las Vegas.

Then, like an oasis in the Kalahari, a blast of cold air came rushing at me from the gaping entrance of the Mint Hotel. Just in the nick of time, too. I was starting to see spots in front of my eyes. I stumbled inside, then looked around in disbelief. Now this was more like it.

Chandeliers hung from the ceilings, splashing the casino with muted light, and piano music tinkled softly from the cocktail lounge. I even saw a porter, actually sweeping rubbish into a dust pan. At the Pioneer, we just kicked everything out of the way. The thing I noticed most, though, was the sound, or lack of it. It was almost like being in a meadow. Oh, there were a few slot machines ringing and the constant rumble of conversation, but there were no loudspeakers and no sirens, and some of the employees were actually smiling. What I wouldn't give to work in a place like this.

I walked up to one of the dealers on a dead blackjack table. "How's it going?" I asked him.

"Great. How about you?"

"Okay, I guess. Say, who does the hiring around here?"

"Sonny. He's the shift boss. Over there in the dice pit. The one wearing the gray pinstripes."

I thanked him and walked over to where three men were standing behind a crowded dice table, all watching intently as some guy in a cowboy hat shot the dice. Hell, all three of them were wearing gray pinstripes. Waiting at the end of a closed table, I tucked in my shirt and smoothed my hair with my fingers, wishing to myself that I was wearing a pinstripe. Anything but blue jeans and a sport shirt with little yellow stars all over it.

One of the pinstripes was walking in my direction. "Excuse me," I said, standing in his way. "Are you Sonny?"

"I'm Pete. You want to see Sonny?"

"Yes sir. I'm looking for a job."

"Just a minute."

Pete went back to the other two, said something to one of them, and here came another pinstripe. It figured. He was the biggest of them all, about six three, all muscle and bone with hands the size of manhole covers, a face that looked like it was chiseled out of concrete with a rusty pickax, the worst case of acne scarring I'd ever seen, and hard cold eyes that seemed to stare right through you.

"Sonny?" I gulped.

"Yeah, what can I do for you?"

"I'm looking for a job."

"Doing what?"

"Dealing craps."

"Any experience?"

"Yes sir. Fact, I'm working right now. At the Pioneer Club."

"When can you start?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Tell you what. Go to Personnel, fill out an ap, tell them to send it up to my office. You start next Monday, noon to eight. And wear a white shirt. A clean one."

Bingo. Just like that. I was working at the Mint Hotel! And I did it with no help from anyone.

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