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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Visitors From Home

1 January 2005

The year was 1977. Jimmy Carter was in the White House and I was in Las Vegas, dealing craps at the Mint Hotel and living in my new apartment at the Outrigger, Apartment 3B. The first thing I did after I got settled was write all my friends back in Texas and give them my new address. Hell, I'd been gone now for more than two months, and nobody knew where I was or if I was even still alive, for that matter.

I wrote Larry, a newsman at the TV station where I used to work; Tim, a salesman at the FM station where I used to work; Vic, an advertising salesman at a TV station where I'd wanted to work; and Warren, who didn't work. They got a form letter.

"Dear ________. Just a note to let you know I finally got my own apartment in Las Vegas, Nevada! I'm working in a casino, can you believe it? I love this town. Here's my address if you want to write back."

I also wrote my dad. This letter was a little more personal. "Dear Dad. Just a note to let you know I finally got my own apartment in Las Vegas, Nevada! I'm working in a casino, can you believe it? I saw Telly Savalas, Milton Berle, and Omar Sharif. They were all playing blackjack on the same table at Caesar's Palace. Here's my address. I love you."

Life was grand. I'd come home from work, pop a cold one, then go down by the swimming pool and watch the sun go down. There were girls all over the place, but I kept mostly to myself. All the other guys living at the Outrigger were working at big-time joints like the Flamingo and the Tropicana. Here I was, swatting balls in the minor leagues, a "student dealer" at the Mint.

That's right. I was still a "student dealer," spending most of my time on the stick, while all the other new hires moved right on up the corporate ladder. If it hadn't been for my weekend radio job, I would've been toast.

Oh, that's another thing. I finally gave KENO the old heave-ho. I was starting to make some decent money, and it just wasn't worth it to blow my weekends at the radio station for $3 an hour. It really didn't matter, though. For some reason, everyone at the Mint thought I was still on the air. Every day someone would come up and say, "Hey, I heard you on the radio last Sunday." Hell, I hadn't been doing that show for over a month now.

I kept checking my mail slot, waiting for letters, but no one wrote back, not even my dad. That's right, nobody wrote me. Instead, everyone starting showing up! One morning there was a knock on the door, and there's my old buddy Vic, a beer in his hand and a grin on his face. Vic always had a beer in his hand, ever since I'd met him. Even when he was working, it seemed like.

Well, I was living in a studio apartment, only one room, but I did have a john and a shower stall. The couch could be turned into a bed, which was where I slept, so Vic got a nice comfortable spot on the carpet under the window looking down at the swimming pool. It was the least I could do.

He didn't have a job, no prospects of a job, and no money, either. He'd told me all kinds of stuff when we lived in Texas. He used to do television commercials in Hollywood, he said, and he used to deal blackjack in Reno. So I said to him, "Hey, Vic, if you dealt blackjack in Reno, you can deal blackjack here in Vegas." He stammered and stalled. "Well, hell, that was a long time ago." Lying bastard. He'd never dealt blackjack in his life!

You know how most people move to a town and immediately open up a checking account at the local bank? The first thing Vic did was open up an account at the tavern down the street. Then, when he did stagger home, he'd go right to the fridge and peer inside intently. "What, no beer?" he would exclaim. Like it was all my fault, and I was the one who was buying everything in the first place.

This went on for a couple of weeks, and here comes another knock on the door. I opened it, and there stood my old buddy Warren, a suitcase in his hand and wearing a "Don't Mess With Texas" sweatshirt. So now there were three of us in the studio apartment. It was like being back in the dorm at college.

Another knock on the door, and Tim moved in. Then Larry showed up, along with a 60-pound Doberman named Gretchen. "She won't hurt you," Larry said. "Just don't make any sudden movements." Yeah, like running for my life.

I know you think I'm making all this up, but I swear every bit of it is true. If you don't believe me, ask the apartment manager. She'd shake her head every time my door opened. It was like kicking over an ant bed. Out would come me, Vic, Warren, Tim, Larry, and Gretchen. I shouldn't complain. At least one of them was a female.

It really wasn't as crowded, though, as you might think. Warren got a job at a country radio station, using the name "The Tiny Texan." That was true enough. He was only about five feet four when he had his boots off. Larry got a job hawking coupons at some grind joint downtown, so he was gone a lot. Tim went to work for the 3-M company. I don't know what it was or what he did, but pretty soon he was paying his own way. Believe it or not, even Vic got a job, working as a waiter's assistant in the Stardust showroom. That's where he met a Bette Davis look-alike, who moved him into her ranch house out in the suburbs.

That left four of us, five counting Gretchen, and every night it was a race to see who got home first. The first one in got half the hide-a-bed, the next one got the other half of the hide-a-bed, the rest of us slept where Gretchen would let us.

(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