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Best of Barney Vinson

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The Mint

1 September 2004

It was my first day as a student dealer at the Mint Hotel in downtown Vegas. I never even actually worked that day, but instead got a pep talk from some woman in a red suit, then trouped through the casino with a bunch of other new hires doing something called our "indoctrination." The nice thing about it, though, was that one of the stops was the staff dining room where I got to eat anything I wanted. And man, did I put the hurt on them.

After the meal, I burped and belched all through the rest of the tour, then headed back to Sixth Street again. My roommate Diane wanted to hear all about it, and I told her everything, leaving out the part about the free chow. She didn't even get coffee at the Pioneer Club, where she was working as a shill. I wasn't going to rub her face in it.

The next day I practically ran to work, getting there an hour early. I zapped my card at the time office, flew into the dining room, and after a waffle, two eggs over easy, bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns, whole wheat toast, and three slugs of orange juice I was starting to feel like my old self again. The only problem was, I could hardly move.

One of the pit bosses by the name of Pete introduced me to three dealers and told me I'd be working with them all day. They seemed nice enough, and I was wondering if they just got out of dealers school, too. No, it turned out they'd been working there a while. In fact, they weren't even student dealers anymore. They were honest-to-God real pros, and I'd be under their wing. The plan was that they'd deal the game, and I'd work the stick. I would just call the numbers and watch these seasoned veterans in action. And if it got slow, then I'd get a chance to try my stuff. Sort of like the Pioneer, but with dignity this time. Real dignity.

The day went by in a blur. I'd work the stick for an hour, go get something to eat, work the stick for an hour, eat, stick, eat, stick, eat. Then we were walking out the door, our aprons in our back pockets, rehashing the day and thinking about the next one. That's when Rick, who was like the captain of the crew, stuck a wad of bills in my hand and said, "Here's your cut."

Cut? What the hell was this? Oh my God! I was in on the tokes! I stuttered and stammered and practically knelt on the pavement. If they'd told me to fetch a stick or roll over and play dead, I would've done it. God bless these guys, each and every one.

I was hesitant to count the money out there on the street, what with people all around me and a billion light bulbs hitting me square in the face, but I just couldn't help myself. Here was a twenty, another twenty, another twenty, a ten, a five, three singles. Oh Jesus, I was walking around in public with $78 in my hand! Seventy-eight dollars. Almost four times my life's savings. More than I made in a whole week at the Pioneer Club. And that was just for one day!

Remember that old expression: "Today's the first day of what's left of your life?" Well, I was going to make it count. After all these years, I was finally getting somewhere, thanks to the Mint, which was just about the best casino in the whole damn world . . . except for the Strip.

Cruising the streets and talking with the other guys, I already figured something out. Downtown was different from the Strip. The Strip oozed money and class. Downtown oozed something else. In fact, I think I had some of it stuck to my shoe.

It seemed to me that dealers downtown were either on their way up, or on their way out. In other words, no one was there because they wanted to be. It was just a stopping place, like an airport.

Most of the new dealers were kids, barely old enough to even be in a casino. The boxmen and floor people, on the other hand, were throwbacks to the dinosaur age. There was one boxman at the Mint named Sundown who was so old he could actually remember Prohibition. Somewhere along the way he'd lost his hearing, probably from tommy guns going off during the Roaring Twenties.

There was another boxman named Fred, who was even older than Sundown if you could believe it, and he was blind as a bat. So what the Mint did was team the two of them up together on the same dice game. One could still see and one could still hear, so between the two of them they made up one boxman.

(To be continued)

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