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Best of Barney Vinson

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Surviving in Vegas

28 October 2004

Here I was, almost 30 years old, all my old friends working at great jobs with great benefits and great futures, and me? I was a student dealer at the Mint Hotel in Las Vegas, scratching out a living at $14 a day. If it wasn't for the free food and a 20-minute break every hour, I would've probably fled back to Texas, my tail between my legs.

Oh, and one other thing I learned. My work schedule was misleading. Pete, the pit boss, told me I was working noon to eight, off Mondays and Tuesdays, so you'd think that meant I was putting in 40 hours a week, and that wasn't quite accurate. See, it was so busy on weekends that they didn't have enough dealers to go around, so they scheduled us for double shifts. In other words, we'd go in at noon, work until eight on our regular shift, then work from eight at night until four in the morning on our second shift. The old timers called it "pulling a double."

Me, I didn't care. That meant twice as much money, and twice as many tokes. The only problem was a weekend radio show I was doing to make some extra bucks. My show started at six in the morning, and if I didn't get off at the Mint until four in the morning that meant I only got two hours of sleep on Sundays. Hell no, I wouldn't even get that much. I had to get home, get undressed, go to sleep, get up, get dressed, and go to the radio station. I might as well just stay up, for chrisakes. Or just sleep as hard as I could, and make every second count.

Well, I'll tell you, that first weekend was a frigging nightmare. The first eight hours went by okay, my body was used to that, but at the ten-hour mark fatigue started to set in. On my next break, one of the other guys suggested we go outside and get some fresh air. Next thing, we were bellied up to the bar in the Horseshoe, putting down Budweisers.

An hour droned by, then here came another break. Word got around and this time there were a dozen of us, all making a beeline for the Horseshoe. By now I was drinking vodka on the rocks. You got a better buzz and nobody could smell it on your breath.

I don't have to tell you what happened next. Dealers all over the dice pit began to slowly slide to the floor, blank looks on their faces and eyes rolled back in their heads. Bruce, the head honcho on swing shift, thought it was from overwork, and sent the collapsees home early. I guess I was used to just about anything, and at four in the morning I was still standing upright.

I got back to the apartment and tiptoed into bed. All I could see of my roommate Diane was a big huddle under the sheet. Just one hour of sweet precious slumber, and I would be as good as new, ready for my six-hour stint at the radio station and 16 more hours at the Mint. Just one hour . . .

Diane was shaking me. "Wake up, wake up!"

"Huh?"

"It's eight-thirty. Aren't you supposed to be at the radio station?"

"Eight-thirty! Why the hell didn't you get me up sooner? Goddammit, I was supposed to be there at six o'clock!"

"I'm sorry," she said. "I must've forgot to set the alarm clock." She checked the back of it. "No, I guess we just didn't hear it go off, that's all."

I threw on my dealer's clothes and charged out the door, the speedometer needle on my Mustang all the way over in the red zone. If there was a cop anywhere in the vicinity, I would've probably got arrested, but I guess they were all busy eating doughnuts at Winchell's.

The night shift deejay gave me a dirty look as I stumbled into the control room. "Sorry," I gasped. "I overslept." He was getting ready to read me the riot act when I pulled some bills out of my wallet and tossed them in his direction. "Thanks for everything," I said, grabbing my earphones and settling down behind the mike.

"Thank YOU!" he said.

Later I found out I gave him something like $45, which was more than I was making at the radio station for the whole damn weekend. Hell, I was running my life like Jimmy Carter was running the country.

All I knew for sure was what I'd be doing in my retirement years. No golf, no trips, no working in the garden. Once I hit 65, I was going to get me a big feather bed, and just sleep the rest of my life away.

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