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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Zooks

14 October 2005

My buddy Russ had introduced me to his friend Bill, who was a big shot at the Dunes. After $500 changed hands (half of which I still owed Russ), Bill introduced me to Johnny, the shift boss, and three days later the phone rang. It was Johnny. "We've got an opening on swing shift. You start on Monday, six to two." I was so excited I didn't sleep for two days.

The rest of the week dragged by. Then finally it was Monday and I was at the Dunes, strapping on my apron and meeting the rest of the crew. Every crap table in the joint was going full-blast; men bellied up, drinking up, and betting up. Well, craps was a man's game. Women liked slot machines, and blackjack. Back then anyway. That's where they all were, too, putting quarters in the machines or daintily playing blackjack at $1 a pop, waiting for their "boys" to finish up so they could get down to the real business at hand: shopping, seeing shows, eating in nice restaurants.

Two o'clock finally rolled around, and the four of us headed for the time office to punch out, splitting up our tokes and planning our next move. A hundred and seventeen dollars was my cut. Just like that I had enough money to pay Russ almost half of what I owed him, and that was only one night's tokes. Did I say tokes? All right, here's where it gets a little complicated. Guys on the Strip didn't call them tokes. They called them zooks. So from now on when I say zooks, you know I'm talking about tokes, which is the same thing as tips. Okay?

I was too wired to go home, and so were the other guys. We piled into our cars and headed for a nearby locals hangout called the Dive. It gave us a chance to get acquainted, not to mention spending some of our money on wine, women, and more wine.

Ricardo had been dealing ever since he sneaked into the country from Cuba, and he was dating a Dunes showgirl. Stumpy was from California. I liked him immediately because I was a better dealer than he was, and he'd been on the Strip for three years already. Turk was soft-spoken and polite, which was about as rare in Vegas as a virgin. He'd been to college just like me, and now he was dealing craps, just like me.

We took turns buying, and by the second go-around I could hardly see to get back to my apartment. How I got home I'll never know, but the next afternoon when I got up the Mustang was still in one piece, so I guess I made it back safely. Do that nowadays and you won't see sunlight for five years. In those days, though, driving while intoxicated was pretty much standard operating procedure.

Something else I didn't tell you about was "layoff." When dealers were making money, they didn't keep it all. They laid off money to the other people in the casino, the ones who were there when they made it. The floorman got a cut, the boxman got a cut, all God's chillun got a cut. So if we made say $600 total one night, we'd divvy it up four ways, then each of us would chip in a twenty. This gave us $80 to spread around in layoff. In fact, that first night at the Dunes we gave up $40, twenty to a floorman named Halfacre and twenty to a boxman we called Garlic Breath.

The other guys let me take care of the layoff that first time, just so I could get on friendlier terms with the "upper echelon." And when I dropped that twenty on Garlic Breath, he practically kissed me right on the lips. Ugh, I get sick just thinking about it.

(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