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Best of Barney Vinson

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Rhino

16 April 2006

Rhino was the most feared pit boss at the Dunes Hotel. When he tromped through the dice pit chewing on his cigar, even the players got nervous. So you can imagine what it was like for the employees.

One day he tromped up to the table where I was working, and growled to the boxman, "When you get a break, call home. Your house is on fire." Then he tromped off to begin a reign of terror on another dice table.

The boxman, whose name I can't remember for the life of me, sat there for a couple of minutes, digesting the information. Then his mouth tightened and he motioned to Rhino. "I've got to leave," he pleaded. "My house is on fire."

"Yeah?" said Rhino. "What can you do? You're no fireman."

It turned out to be nothing more than a grease fire. The boxman didn't know it, though, until he got home that night.

I was lucky. Rhino had been in the Marines, and my dad was in the Marines. Any son of a leatherneck was okay in his book, so he never gave me a hard time. This, of course, got around to the other dealers. Pretty soon I was getting phone calls at home. "I can't come in today. I twisted my ankle," one told me.

"What are you calling me for? You've got to call Rhino."

"Yeah, I know. But I was wondering if you'd do it for me."

At the Dunes, getting two days off wasn't a mortal lock, even if you were scheduled for two days off. You were liable to get called in to work any time, and you'd better damn well answer your phone. If you didn't, you'd better have a doctor's excuse, although a death certificate usually worked better.

I was off one day, expecting some friends over for a barbecue. It was eleven in the morning, and I was already three sheets to the wind. The phone rang, and I figured it was one of my buddies having trouble finding the house.

The instant I picked up the phone I heard crowd noises in the background, a dead giveaway that it was the Dunes calling.

"Vinson? Barney Vinson?" It was Kenny, my most un-favorite pit boss.

Dropping my voice a couple of octaves, I said, "Uh, he's not here right now."

"You lying son of a BITCH!" Kenny roared. "He is there, and I'm talking to him!"

Another day off, shot to hell.

I wasn't much of a history buff, but I thought Abraham Lincoln freed all the slaves back in the 19th century. Here it was, a millennium later, and in Vegas we were still totin' that barge and liftin' that bale. No one, and I mean no one, was standing up for the zook-earners of America.

The casinos treated us like dirt, the customers treated us like dirt, and now the I.R.S. was breathing down our necks, wanting their cut. If you got fired for some idiotic thing, you only got workmen's compensation based on your salary ($25 a day), nothing for your zooks. If you got sick, you only got disability pay based on your salary ($25 a day), nothing for your zooks. When you filed your income tax return, Big Daddy said, "Yeah, I see your salary here ($25 a day), but what about your zooks? You've gotta pay taxes on your zooks."

Even today, it's not much better. The casinos still get away with murder, even with all the state and government programs designed to protect the worker. When you get hired in some casinos nowadays, you're put on something called the "extra board." You work regular hours just like everyone else, but without a few of the nicer things in life, such as medical insurance, sick leave, or a 401 (k) plan. You're stuck on the extra board until a permanent position opens up. It might take a month. It might take a year. If you last that long, then you're on the team. If you don't, then you start at another casino, on their extra board.

Now you know why dealers never smile.

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