I was to work five days that first week. Tuesday and Wednesday were to be my days off. (When you are part-time, you do not have set days off and they would change every week.) All of my starts were for 11 am.
I woke up Monday around 9 am. After completing all those things you do in the bathroom, I had some tea and toast and then got dressed.
The ride to the employee parking lot was not going to take more than 15 minutes. Parking spots in the city were limited, so those were kept for gamblers. The solution was a two or three mile long, four stall wide, parking lot built in the middle of the Atlantic City Expressway, four or five miles outside of town. The casinos would give us a permit to park there and provide shuttle busses to work. The busses left every ten minutes from the hour. I wanted to get there early, so I left my house at 10 am.
Every casino had a specific place to park and you could only park where your permit allowed. Bally's had an agreement with its neighbors the Claridage and the Sands. Employees of these three casinos could park in any spot with those names on it and take any one of their busses. I parked and boarded a bus already waiting at the stop.
The bus was packed with people from all three casinos. It was noisy as everyone talked with each other. Each time someone boarded they were greeted with "good mornings" from everywhere. It was quit a warm atmosphere with everyone joking, laughing, and talking shop with his or her friends. But most were older than I was and that made me feel a little uneasy. I found an open seat and sat myself down from where I would just listen.
The bus stopped at Brighton Park where everyone got off and went to their place of work. I followed the Bally's crowd to the employee entrance.
Once through the door there was a booth in the middle of the hall. One side was for people punching in while the other was for those punching out. In the booth sat an older gentleman. As we entered, each would stop at the booth and hand the man his employee I.D. badge. The man was very pleasant. He would take the badge, say good morning, stick it in some machine, wait for a beep, and than hand it back to us, all without holding up either line.
Inside, people started going every which way. Some went to the cafeteria, some to the dealer's lounge, others to the daily schedule board or the locker room. I went to the daily board.
The daily board was a cabinet just outside the scheduling office that had everyone's position for the day on it. It was broken down according to pits. The craps pit started with a line on top that read "Pitboss" underneath. That told everyone who the Pitboss was in that particular pit. Under that was written "Floorperson" and it had eight lines with numbers under them corresponding to the eight games in the pit. On those lines were the names of the people who would be standing Floor and what game they were on. Beneath that was the same deal for the Boxpeople and below them were the lines for the dealers. The game numbers were underneath with four lines on top. To the left of each line, from top to bottom, was a 1, 2, 3, or R. The numbers stood for the base the dealers had to report to. The "R" meant that the dealer was relief and would start out on break. Then there was a spot for the extras and the relief supervisors. My name was either in that spot or not on the board at all. Either way, I started out as an extra. The casino had an advantage with that system. They could manipulate the crews and place on break, or keep separated from, dealers and supervisors as they saw fit for what ever reason they might have.
When the time start was 11 am, that meant we had to be on our game no later than five of, else we were considered late. At ten minutes of, I followed some dealers going up to the casino.
There were about four games open when I arrived at the pit. Some had action - others were dead games.
When I signed in I told the Pitboss I was an extra and that it was also my first day as a dealer. He told me to take a break and see him at twenty after.
Downstairs, I walked around and checked things out. My first stop was the cafeteria. After taking that in, I went into the dealers lounge and spent my break watching TV.
The lounge would do. There were two entrances; one through the alcove connecting the lounge with the men's room right by the door which lead to the escalator which brought people coming off of Park Place to the casino, the other at the hallway where the cafeteria was located just a few feet from. Between that door and the lounge was an alcove with one house and five pay phones. Inside the lounge, on the entire wall behind the phones, was where the weekly schedule was hung. All information about the tokes was placed there along with the weeklies. There were also notes hanging on it from people looking to pick up, get off, or trade work days and days off. At the end of the wall was a 19" color TV in the upper corner. Continuing along the wall to the left of that TV were a couple of Pac Man machines for anyone to use free of charge. Swinging right around that wall was another, opposite the schedule, which had a filing cabinet and a desk that faced the lounge. This was where the toke committee worked. On the wall behind the desk was a magazine rack with periodicals for us to read. The first entrance door of which I spoke of was also along this wall only it extended into the lounge. In the upper corner of that extension and the last wall was another television. This entrance was for the men only. That was because the men's room was on the right as you exited the lounge. In the center of the lounge were hard rubber chairs to sit on. They may have been hard, but they took the load off our aching feet. The clock on the wall said it was time to go up.
At the pit stand, the boss told me what game to tap in on. He also mentioned that it would be my game for the day. I looked over. There was a live game in progress. I took a deep breath and tapped in on one of the bases.
There were two Boxpersons on the game, so I had my own. After a few minutes he asked me my name and how long I had been dealing. I told him both. He replied that I was doing fine and if there was anything I needed to know to just ask.
About ten minutes into it, I was able to catch a breath of air. I stood up and looked at the players on my end. Before this, all I saw was their hands giving and taking money.
There was one man who was watching what was going on but not playing. I looked at the man, then my layout. No sooner than I did that, I heard a voice say, "Get ready to call no action." I looked up confused about where the voice came from. It spoke again, "Get ready to call no action. In the hook, the man in the hook, he's going to throw cash on the game. Get ready to call no action." I peered around a bit not to take my eyes completely off the game and found a dealer standing behind me. I turned back around and sure enough, the man threw money on the game.
The dealer to my rear was, what they called in the biz, a sponsor. This was an experienced dealer who stood behind a first day dealer and helped them out whenever needed. They gave advice while the break-in dealt and showed them around on break. In school we were told this was a common practice and to expect it.
During break, my sponsor showed me how to read the daily and weekly schedules. Then he showed me how to read the toke information. He pointed out where everything went, but said he did not really understand the system too well. All he looked at was the "bottom line", that number next to the big sign which read "Toke Rate:". The rate up that morning was the one they all saw in their last paychecks. It was around eight dollars. He said last week's rate would not be posted for another day. I added that rate to the wage the casino was paying me and realized that I would be making almost $12 an hour. If the toke rate ever reached $8.75 that would translate to $100 a day. Not bad pay for anyone willing to persevere through what I had to the first five months of the year. After showing me how the cafeteria worked, my sponsor spent his breaks by himself and with an occasional friend.
The rest of the day went smoothly. A lot of seven outs were rolling, so all I had to do was pick up the line and "lock up" the money. Lucky for the house they didn't have to watch me too closely. And everyone I met was extra nice.
Whenever the Floorperson would change, I would walk up to them, shake their hand, and introduce myself. I remembered Bobby Jones telling us how it was important that we made a name for ourselves in the business. He said once they knew us, and trusted us, the job would become that much more easier. If we could make a name as a good dealer, then promotions would be easier and we could find ourselves dealing on the best games with the best crews. I was confident that I was going to be a good dealer, so right away I made sure to start making a name for myself. What a mistake that would turn out to be.
That night, Jane came over to get me high. I caught a buzz and told her about my first day of work as a big Atlantic City craps dealer. I had a great day but I did not kid myself. Becoming a good dealer was going to take time. But the first day was over with; it was now time to relax.
Before starting my second day of work, I was scheduled to show up for orientation. I had to be at some hotel, two blocks from the casino, at 10 am. There, there were many people from every department sitting in a large room. I had to be on the game by eleven, so I was wearing my uniform. One other dealer had to do the same thing. The first thing was to show us a movie. I thought that to be stupid.
The movie was really a slide show to music and voice. The beginning was a picture and sound of some woman's hand throwing the dice on a "Monopoly" game. We hear her call the number and move her piece. On the next frame, we see her landing on the Park Place spot and she says, "Oh, Park Place, I think I'll build." (How retarded) Then the sound changes to machinery and the slides turn to pictures of trucks tearing down buildings. Next, the story about how Bally's Park Place was built and some other mumbo jumbo about the Chicago based company. Afterwards, talk about the benefits Bally's had to offer.
I could tell (being the educated guy on big business that I was) that it was nothing more than a raw-raw, brainwashing, pep rally to psych up the new employees. I really had no idea businesses did such things, but this was the first time I had ever worked for such a large company and figured that every large corporation did this. (How disappointing.) The only thing that interested me was the profit sharing they spoke about called Cash Builder. Soon, it was time to report to my game. When the other dealer and myself tried to leave, the ladies running the orientation were surprised we had to work at a time we were sent to them. No, I always wear my uniform to go out. We were able to get out of there before being lead to believe that Bally's was Big Brother.
My second day of work was not as pleasant as the first. Early on in the day the game got jammed up. I was getting buried. The Boxpersons were helpful as they walked me through everything I had to do. That is, they told me what to do step by step. It was not figuring out the payoffs which was bothering me so much as it was getting my hands to do what my brain was telling them. I was in pit 3a dealing on the last game in the back. That game faced a giant escalator located in the center of the casino that brought people up to the restaurants. I remember dealing on second base. I always had problems on that base because I am left-handed and the right hand is mostly used there. One player in particular was getting perturbed with me. He was yelling at me and telling my supervisors to have me replaced. But the Box was great and stuck up for me.
His name was Steve O'Leary. When the player complained, Steve jumped right back, "It is his second day dealing sir, give him a break."
The player was obnoxious, "Well Jesus Christ (I can't stand it when people use that term), I thought these guys were supposed to go to school for this."
Steve came right back, "Yes sir, and he is just learning the game."
"Well let him go learn on another table, I'm trying to make some money here. He's holding up the game."
"Sir," Steve began to ask, "what is it you do for a living?"
The man would not answer, he just kept complaining. When the jerk finally stopped bitching, Steve tore into him, "Yeah, well I'm sure the first day you started doing whatever it is you do, you were the best at it. I'm sure you knew everything there was to know about doing it." Yes! I could not believe he said that to a customer. What a guy.
The player still would not let it rest. He tried to complain some more, "That's not the point..."
Steve, was quick to cut him off, "...That is the point, sir. Leave the kid alone, he's just trying to make a living."
From the start, I liked Steve a lot. He was in his early thirties, slightly taller than I, but weighing around 200 pounds. Later on, when the game went dead, we got to talking. He spoke about a bike-a-thon he was going to be participating in, over the holiday weekend, to help fight MS (I believe). He asked me if I would like to sponsor him. I donated what would amount to be ten or twenty dollars. The day I handed the check over to him, he gave ma a big warm smile, thanked me, and said my check would be my receipt. Everyone seemed nice.
Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend was the busiest weekend in Atlantic City. For a break-in dealer, with a couple dozen hours of dealing experience, it was a nightmare. The money kept on coming. When one player left, another was quick to take their place. It was never ending. But I made it through. The next Tuesday and Wednesday was the weekend I truly required.
After the holiday, work at the casino began letting up. There were many occasions where I spent five or six of the eight hours standing on a dead game. The Box or Floor would say to me, "Not a bad job, huh Lou? I bet this is the easiest hundred dollars you ever made." Only, there were two things wrong with that statement. One, the toke rate was below $8.75 an hour and two, I could buy a quarter pound of pot and, without leaving my dorm room, have it sold by the end of the night for a one hundred dollar profit. I would also have had my time freed up for studying and gained a half ounce to smoke for myself when through. But I would just smile at them and say that it was. At least the law could not put me in jail for doing that job.
The crews in the casino always changed. We would never be on the same game with the same people everyday. That was so we could not get too friendly with each other and plan a scam. It also gave me the chance to meet many people.
In the beginning, I liked everyone. There was no reason not too. But meeting different people every day gave me insights into the type of people I worked with and them insights into myself. None of which would jibe.
Whenever I would meet someone new the first thing they asked was what I did before getting into the business. A lot of them were in their forties and had other careers or jobs before gaming passed. To them, getting into the biz was like striking a gold mine. And compared to what many of them used to do, it was. Most were uneducated, and pointed out that the highest paying job they ever had, or would have had if not for the casinos, was around $7 an hour. A lot also had families. When I told them I was in college and only doing the job part-time, their attitudes changed to oh, so what do you want to be when you grow up. It was yet to hit me what the job meant to them.
The employment I had in the past were just jobs to make extra spending money. I never had responsibility. Even the previous summer when I was renting the apartment with James, my half of the rent was just $115 a month and for only two months. Hell, I made more than that in one-week. So the importance of having a "real job" never fazed me. If I was to get fired, so what, big deal. Another attitude I brought with me was that it was just a game. The people who were playing it were on vacation and only having fun, so how seriously could anyone take such a job as that? When I was on vacation in Hawaii I saw many people doing fun things to make us feel good, but I never thought any of them were making a career out of it. I mean, for how long can you teach someone to wind surf? That was my thinking. By the same measure, for how long could anyone be a dealer? Spending the rest of time playing games did not seem like the type of thing I wanted to do with my life. To me, this job was like all the rest - a way to make some spending money while I was in school. That was all I wanted out of it.
And it took a while, but I finally began to see how the people viewed their jobs. To them, it was a "real job". They had wives, kids, credit cards, bank loans for their cars, and 30-year mortgages. They depended on the paycheck from the casino to pay for all that. Their only other alternative would be to go back to driving a truck or sweeping floors for six or seven dollars on hour. This was "going to the office" for them. I had to remember what I learned back in the fall of 1983; that the job anyone did was not what was important, but what he or she did afterwards.
I was able to sense their attitudes regarding the job when talking with supervisors who always initiated a conversation with me. They all had a rags to riches story. Well, most of them. Some did it for the other benefits provided. Things like the free meals, free medical and dental, climate-controlled workplace, and of course, the money for nothing. In their other jobs they had to work. At the casino they got paid to sit or stand around and watch dealers do all the work. But the hard luck stories were always the best. They would tell me something like they drove a truck for a local meat distributor making seven dollars an hour and then laugh at what they were getting paid to do now. In fact, most of them laughed at what they got paid to do.
On account of the fact that I was not looking for a career in the casino business, many people began to think that I thought I was better than them. Some people would even refer to me as "college boy". But for the most part, everyone was very warm to me that summer.
The dealers did not ask a lot of questions. Mainly, it was the supervisors who did all the talking, so most of the people I spoke with was them. There was Horace, a lovable guy, Martin, an ex-truck driver and nice guy, and Wally, the playboy, the best person to work for. Another was Eliot. He was an ex-Atlantic City High School teacher who actually taught Wally when he attended it. Eliot was a short guy around five foot nothing and weighing less then I did. His haircut looked like his wife put a rice bowl on his head and cut around the rim. I suspected he went into the business because he got beat up a lot at school. But this job made him feel six foot tall. He loved it and was not afraid to get wise with the players. He must have eaten, slept, and breathed craps because he thought it was the cutest thing when the family cat got run over by a car and his young son said, "Daddy, the cat just sevened out." There were many short guys who could feel big and strong behind the ropes. And then there were others like Eddie Course. He was an Atlantic City native only twenty-six years old and standing floor. I heard plenty of stories about what a great dealer he had been and gained a lot of respect for him. The first time we met, he gave me his "red" business card. He made bean pies on the side. Sounded disgusting to me but I just figured it was some kind of ethnic food. He always dressed sharp looking like he just stepped out of "GQ" magazine. A lot of the men there looked like that--perfect hair, tailored suits, and manicures on their fingers. And they all asked nosy questions. This was all going to take some getting used to.
There were many more memorable personalities at Bally's who were supervisors as well. One was Jeff Barish, who I liked a lot. He had a wife who was a cocktail waitress there, as did most of these guys. Between the two, they must have pulled in 60 or 70 thousand dollars a year for him to sit on his ass and her to serve drinks. (Not bad for not needing a high school education.) Still, Jeff was a lovable guy. There was another short guy named Gary Lombardy, who the joint nick-named Flipper. He was high strung. He got his name because he would always wave his hand back and forth to indicate that he wanted the stick to send the dice out to the shooter. Another small guy was Las Vegas Joe. He sat Box all his life and would not have it any other way. He would say it was the best job in the house. Joe was very easy going and everyone liked that. Robert was another small guy. Very European looking and with no personality to match. Lenny was a tall guy; good looking and easy to work for. And then there was Macky. He was seventy years old and looked a lot like W.C. Fields. He started dealing in Las Vegas when he was twenty. That's right, fifty years in the biz. This guy would not quit. He was always a trip to work for. Whenever a beautiful girl would walk behind him in the pit, Macky would break out singing Irish love songs. Which brings me to the women of the craps pit.
It had been said many times; no woman who plays craps is a lady. I have even heard that from the women themselves. You already learned why it is a "man's" game. By the same virtues, a woman who worked in the craps pit was by no means a lady. One thing I learned was that the people who played that game were all pigs. If a woman wanted to put up with that, the only way she could accomplish it was to become a pig herself. She had to turn tough and hard. (In fact, until that time, Las Vegas would not allow women to even step into a craps pit. This had of course changed due to discrimination laws.) The women of Bally's were just that; tough and hard; or they were pigs.
When the July 4th holiday came, the summer season went into full swing. I can remember a game I was on that weekend. It was the last game in the back of pit 4b. This was a corner game and I was on second base; the base which was on that corner. To my right were noisy slot machines, behind me was another craps table, and in front of me was the Big Six wheel in the back of pit 5b. This was a high traffic area because between the craps pit and the slot machines was a hallway from the hotel lobby to a boardwalk entrance. We opened the game at 2 pm and from the time we dropped the lid we were working none stop.
By the time he walked up to the game I had seven players on my end. He walked up and dropped $2,000 in front of me. I went into shock. I had never seen that much cash up until that time. He stood right beside me, smoking a smelly cigar, and talking with friends. There were no black checks on the game. We informed him. He didn't care, "Give me the green than," he demanded, "and get some black." Immediately he started showing off to the other players who were only betting the $5 minimum.
His first bet was $550 across. With the point being 5 that translated to $100 a number with $120 on the 6 and 8 and ten dollars for juice since he bought the 4 and 10 for $100 each. All of these bets had to be set up in green. The Floorperson ordered an emergency fill of black checks. But while we were waiting for it to come, the dice got hot. It was not enough that the pompous player was winning his bets, he had to press them as well. Each time he did this I had to use green. Tunnel vision started to affect me, as all I could look at were his bets. When a number would roll, rather than paying everybody in order from one to eight, I would pay him first. I was starting to lose it. By the time the black checks arrived, he had pressed his bets to the point where there was $1,000 on the 9. This bet had to be set up with two full stacks (40 checks) of green. When the bet hit, I had to pay him in green, which by this time we were running low on. To do that, I had to run down a stack in the come, stack it together, size into it with another stack of green, and than run down $400 more in that color for a total payoff of $1,400 or 56 green checks. My nerves were getting to me. When the black finally arrived, he was up many thousands of dollars. We changed up his bets and I was pulled from the game. It was nothing personal and I was more than happy to leave.
Numerous players were showoffs. They would get a kick out of showing how they could throw around their money. One day I was standing in second base on a game that faced the boardwalk in pit 4a. The game was dead when an older gentleman walked up to me. He started to sound confused, "Let me see, this is..." He couldn't get it out. I looked right at him and with a confident smile said craps. "Huh, yes, craps," he said. "OK, I'll try it." He took out ten dollars and placed it on the pass line. Now, the last thing a group of dealers wanted to do was open a game for one bet being placed by someone who had no clue about the game, especially when we were having fun shooting the shit and exchanging jokes. We all gave each other a disgusted look and the stickman dumped the bowl. The player shot the dice and got a point. Again he looked confused as he dug around his jacket pocket. He put some odds behind his bet, took out a handful of purple checks and said with a grin, "Let's see, five hundred a number." He scratched his chin as he looked up at the mirrors, "What's that, twenty-seven fifty across?" If he was not right he was damn close. This guy knew what he was doing and just thought it would be fun to bust our balls for a while. It was kind of funny and I handled it well. After a couple of minutes, he lost a few thousand dollars and walked away.
While writing the play information on a rating card and getting his inventory slip in order, the Floorperson walked up to us and said, "Do you know who that was? He owns the Steele Pier and leases it to Resort's for $450,000 a year. He's got a lot of money."
I could not comprehend what I just witnessed. A man who made so much easy money just pissing it away when he could have been out doing great things in the world with it. It was my first real look at how the rich do not value what they have.
Another type of player I was taught to recognize was the shill. Although it was against the law to employ such people in New Jersey, I heard the stories about how Nevada used them. It was because most gamblers and tourists would not open a dead game to play on. If the other games were full, they might not play at all and that meant lost revenues for the house. The house would give a person one or two hundred dollars of their money and instruct them to open dead games. Once the game had filled, they would move on to the next.
Bally's had their own notorious game opener named Charlie Cannon. He was around retirement age and claimed to have lived in North Jersey, although, I thought I saw him in a motel on Brigantine Island once. The man was in the casino every day and would only play on a dead game. As soon as other players filled the game, he would move on to the next. Everyone would always be on the look out for Charlie. They knew as soon as he arrived at the game, break would be over.
Charlie had a flair all his own. He could always get a crowd. Because of that, many people did not want him on their game. If there were other dead games in the joint, and he was about to stop at a game where the Floorperson did not want him, they would say, keep walking Charlie. For some reason they could show disrespect to him even though, by casino standards, he would be considered a valuable player since he was there every day. Charlie would just smile, give a wave, and move on to the next game. That usually triggered a response from that Floorperson who would look back at the other and sarcastically thank him. But when Charlie played, he could make you laugh--or sick, depending on your point of view.
Charlie Cannon was there every morning at ten o'clock and was the first person to open a game. He only bet the minimum. Whatever his point was, he would take the place side. Then he would bet a dollar on anywhere from one to all four of the hardway bets. Each time he shot the dice, he got loud. Before picking them up, he would play with the pair. He would turn them every which way and do the hokie-pokie with them. No one ever said anything to him about that unless there were other players on the game. While shaking them, he would start, "If I throw the hard four would you," then he would throw the dice and raise his voice, "pay me now!" It was like clock work.
Everyone always said that Charlie Cannon was a shill. They would ask him stupid questions like; Charlie, what are your days off? Charlie, the books just opened for vacation, what week are you taking? Charlie, does Mr. Bally's (we used to pretend there was a Mr. Bally's) ever give you a raise? Charlie, do you also get paid double time and a half for today being a holiday? No matter what the question, Charlie would just ignore them. He did that a lot and sometimes I would feel sorry for the guy. But judging by the way he was treated, I believed what they said about him.
Besides the shoobie, the show off, the rich asshole, and the shill, the other type of player I learned about, early on, was the flea. They were the ones said to have brought the sand fleas in off the beach with them. Sand fleas were the worst. They would bite the hell out of your ankles and leave you itching all day. I was even later accused of bringing some of them home with me when I worked at Trump Plaza.
The first flea I ever met was Harry, from Georgia Avenue. That guy was so dirty and smelly that the dealers nicknamed him The Maggot. At the time, the smallest minimum you could find on any dice game in town was three dollars. Bally's had to be different. Their minimum was two dollars. That only helped entice every flea off the street. Harry was just that kind of flea. He would buy in for four dollars and only make $2 don't come bets. He held out making his bet until he felt the moment was just right. If he lost the bet, he became the biggest crybaby in the world. He would jump up and down, hit the table with his fist, and curse a lot. It was hard to respect a man who did that. For the crew, it was free entertainment and everyone would get a good laugh out of him. I could never figure out why anyone who could not afford to lose two dollars would even put himself through such torture.
Another well-known flea was Morris and his wife. That pair was quite the joke. Morris always wore the loudest plaid jacket from the sixties and had a one inch, filterless cigarette butt stuck in his face. He never smoked it; it just hung there. It was so small that to even put a match to it would burn off the tip of his nose. One afternoon a Floorperson who was not particularly fond of the pair leaned over the game at Morris and politely asked if he could get him a light for his cigarette. When Morris just smiled back at this jesting Floorperson, the crew broke out in laughter. But that pair would take the abuse. He would play on one side of the table and she would play on the other. He would bet the Pass line and she would bet the Don't Pass line. If he lost, she won. If she lost, he won. Either way, they could not lose unless the twelve rolled on the come out roll. All they were doing was running a scam. They would do that all day so they could stand at the game and drink for free. Sometimes during their visit, at different times, each would ask for a comp. Lunch and dinner were then on the house. They were in there and did that every weekend--for almost the full three years I was there--until Bally's came out with a way of tracking the two and the others who pulled that scam. It looked like a credit card with the Bally's logo on it, but it was nothing more then the casino's way of tracking your play through their computer system.
Walking through the halls of Bally's was like walking through the halls of Stockton. Many of the blackjack dealers were Stockton students. I probably knew a dozen of them on day shift. I would be walking down the hall, hear my name called, and be asked how long I had been working there. It felt good to have friends in a place that was totally alien to me.
I started spending many breaks in the cafeteria. There was always somebody from the school sitting at one of the tables with whom I could sit, talk, and drink coffee.
The cafeteria scene was like a little subculture unto its own. It was quit large. It had to be; there could be 1000 employees in the building at any given time. The different departments had their own particular space where they each "hung out".
The games department was no different from the rest. They took up the tables closest to the door. It was also closest to the food and the TV. But even that section was segregated according to game. At the very front were the craps people; the first couple of tables were for the suits. Next came the craps dealers. Then came the blackjack and baccarat people followed by the roulette pit taking a position in the rear. It was strange.
Many of the craps people did not know the blackjack people and vice versa. I, on the other hand, knew the opposite. That always got me looks from the dice people. Not only were the people I hung with blackjack dealers, but college students as well. That just gave the craps pit one more thing to believe made me think I considered myself to be too good for them. And I did hear it from some of them.
I was often invited out to bars, but I was only nineteen and did not feel like being asked to leave because of that. I would very politely tell them no thank you and that I was going home to read. They could never understand why I would rather do that than play with them. The fact that I never socialized with them was another mark against me. People in the biz only socialized with people in the biz. I already had friends and a life of my own outside of work. That job was supposed to be temporary. I did not feel it necessary to make more friends; I had all I needed.
Towards the end of July, work became steady. My eyes were looking down at the layout so often that I never saw what the inside of the casino looked like until September. At night, it caused dreams filled with scenes of me dealing. It made my head spin. And even though it made me crazy, it was better than standing on a dead game.
The dead game was where I learned about the infantile and egotistic mind needed to want a career in the casino industry. It gave everyone a chance to prove just how immature he or she really was. One thing they did was play a pointless game called, "Who am I?" That game was a treat. The rules were simple; someone on the crew would do or say something dumb that some other employee would do or say and the rest had to guess who it was they were making fun of. You had to be working there a while to be good at it. And they were very good at that - making fun of other people. No person could walk by the table without someone making fun of them. Adolescent sayings like; Did you see that ladies hair? God, his suit is ugly; Shit, did you see the side of that guy's face? Holy fuck (that was another thing, all the men and the women used that word like it was saying darn), that couple must weigh 800 pounds between them, how do you think they fuck? No one who walked in that joint was ever good enough to be ranked with the casino workers. Those guys unceasingly thought they were better than anyone else.
Beetle was the best at making fun of others. His real name was James Bretz. If they were too short, too tall, too thin, too fat, or even funny looking, he would tear into them as they walked by. Jim also had a lot of chances to practice his art. He hated to work. Anytime a player opened his game while he was on stick he would go into action and kill it. His motto was, "A dead game is a happy game." He never made a tip, yet he benefited from everyone else's work. Soon, he would be back to busting on folks.
The workers at Bally's Park Place loved to win. To them it was simple; the more the house won, the more money that went into their share of the Cash Builder, Bally's profit sharing plan. In casino school we were taught not to take a personal interest in the game. But Bally's motto was, "Think Cash Builder." I would hear that every time big money hit the table. Bobby Tingle, a Floorperson, was well known for coining that phrase. They would even go out of their way to see that a player lost his beef with them even if that player was right. Arguments over a dollar would be lost to the house. I remember the first time I found out how serious they were about it.
One afternoon I was dealing on the same game where Steve O'Leary stuck up for me. The game was jammin' and I was doing pretty well at holding up my end. All the players were friendly and most were toking. The game was dumping, so heat, in the form of the Pitboss, was behind us.
A gentleman of senior age was playing strait away, to my right, and doing quite well. On every roll he would bet a $50 horn-high-yo. Sometimes he won, other times he lost. On one particular come out roll he won his bet. We paid him his winnings and continued to make more payoffs before the next roll. The man threw in $50 and said, "Let me have a $50 horn high yo."
I never saw that man press his bet on other occasions after it won. I figured he must have gotten confused with so much happening on the game. Holding up his checks, I said with a warm excited voice, "Sir, you already have a $50 horn high yo. Would you like me to press it for you and make it look like a hundred?"
The customer looked down at the layout for a second to see what was going on. "No, no," he said, "I made a mistake. Fifty dollars is what I want. Give me that other fifty back."
I did what he said. No sooner did I have the money back to him when I heard a loud angry voice say from behind, "You send me that dealer the moment he gets tapped off to go on break!" Great, now what did I do?
"You're in trouble now," the Box said to me with a snicker.
"What did I do," I asked him.
"I don't know, but I wouldn't sweat it."
I cannot remember his real name, but they called him Buzz; the biggest, baddest, meanest, ugliest motherfucker I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. As soon as I arrived at the pit stand, he started yelling at me, "When that money hits the layout, I want it! You book whatever the player says! Don't ever give them back their money! Do you understand?"
I wasn't about to mess with that guy. "Yes sir," I said to him as though I was a private in the army.
"Good! Now, think about it when you're on break." I headed right for the door and went downstairs.
In the lounge, a dealer who saw me being "chewed out" by Buzz, asked what happened. When I told him, he said not to worry, that Buzz was probably just worried about the PC. Before I could ask him about that, he walked away.
I had never heard of the term PC, prior to that. I had to find out what it was that got me a considerable lecture.
As I was walking towards the cafeteria, I saw Linda, a Boxperson. She was a very pretty and tall, blond bombshell who was tough and hard and often hung around Lenny. I asked her if I could ask her a question.
"What is it, love?" she asked. She called everyone "love".
"What does PC stand for?"
"I don't know, I never heard that before."
I told her the story about what had just happened in the pit. Linda just smiled as she said, "Sorry I can't help you, love." She walked to the supervisors lounge with coffee in hand.
Buzz got me pissed by the way he took winning so personally and considered the money to be his. I had asked the Box what the PC meant and when he told me he didn't know, I figured it was just something I was not permitted to learn at that time. I let it drop, but a feeling still came over me that was that of revenge. I wished bad fortune on Buzz for his subhuman way of thought and willed for him to be taught a lesson about how the casino did not consider the money his. Within a month or two, Buzz was fired. I guessed it was not his money after all. For some unintelligent reason, though, many of the people liked him and talked about how they would miss him. It turned out fine for him, however; the Claridage, next door, picked him up. Still, I got a good laugh as I watched him leave his friends and the Cash Builder behind.
About one or two months after I began the job, I had been scheduled to work on one of the front games in pit 3a. The four front games of any casino were the tables on which the house allowed only the best dealers to work. These were the games which had the $5000 betting limits compared to the others which only had a $2000 cap. They always had the strong players who gave the best tokes.
Horace was sitting Box when I arrived. Right away, he started teasing me about how someone in the scheduling office must have made a mistake to put a break-in dealer on that table. He bounced it back and forth with the Floorman and then they with the Pitboss. The three of them told me they were going to leave me on that game as my "big chance to prove myself." Thanks for nothing.
The Floorman was a guy named Al Alvalino (or something close to that). I never met him before due to the fact that he only Floored front games. He turned out to be one of the biggest petterbrains I have ever had to meet in my life. He was an ex-Philly cop. Just for that Al lost points with me. He even looked like a cop. He had that cop hair cut similar to the "Joe Casino" look. He even had those beady little cop eyes. He did not smell of jelly doughnuts though. Rather, he smelt like a French whorehouse from all the cheap cologne he wore. From the start, he tried to show me his cop attitude that was that they were tuff-guys and God's gift to women. It was funny watching him get blown-off by all the women he would try to come on to.
At the start of the day Horace and Al began asking questions, trying to be my friend. The standards: name, where I lived, what I wanted to be when I grew up. All I could do was just wish for them to leave me alone.
During my breaks, dealers were coming up to me to ask how I liked working with Al. They saw me dealing on his game, so they came to tell me about him. It seemed like none of the dealers there liked that guy. They warned me to watch out for him because, "He is a big dick and a back stabber." Later in the day Al proved to be the asshole everyone said he was each time he stuck a pen up my ass when I bent over to pay the line.
The game started to turn hot. Horace was getting aggravated that it was losing. He turned to me and said, "Give the puck a turn counter clockwise." I didn't understand what he was talking about. I asked him to repeat himself and again he said, "Do what I said. Turn the puck counter clockwise." I had no clue what he was getting at but I figured I better do it anyway. Bobby Jones always said, "You do what they tell you. If they say jump, you ask how high." With that in mind, I did it.
I turned the puck the wrong way, but corrected myself before the roll. Horace blamed me for screwing up and told me to do it the correct way before the next roll. After I did, the seven out rolled.
Horace laughed, "Did you see what you just did?"
What did I do? All I did was turn the puck around like a shmoe.
All those guys had superstitions. Every time the table got hot, I heard them all. Sayings like; "Turn the dice over, let me see the bottoms"; "Turn one die over"; "Send the dice out on the hard six"; "Send the dice out on the one/three." No matter what it was, the seven out usually rolled on the next roll. Some of the players would get pissed when they heard me being told such things. They would yell at me to quit playing with the dice or would tell my supervisor to stop telling me what to do with them. Then, when the seven out would roll, they would start cursing and walk away from the game. That only gave the crew something to laugh at. After a while I began to formulate an idea that there was a relationship between all that, but it was always explained to me as house and player superstitions. I even saw the house pull Norma, a craps dealer, off the game because they thought she was good luck for the players.
Those happenings were not the only things making me wonder about the dice. There were many others that did not seem to make any sense. One was the "duke". How could the dice be thrown for twenty minutes or longer without one seven rolling? It defied the odds. Management hated the duke. One time, when I came up from break, I found them discussing how much money the game had dumped. They blamed me for singing. I didn't even know what that meant. I thought it was a style of calling the dice with a deep voice. A few weeks later, I caught on.
One thing that the crew got a big kick out of was the player who would bet a dollar yo each and every roll without winning. After about twenty rolls the player would give up. As soon as he did, the eleven would roll. The player would get frustrated, the crew would giggle, and the player would start betting it again. After another twenty consecutive rolls of not winning, he would give up. Again, the eleven would roll immediately after he stopped betting it. The customer would throw up his arms and say he was tired of chasing it. Then the eleven would roll back to back. The crew would snicker and he would go back to betting it. That kind of gambler could never get a break.
One afternoon I was on a game when a man came up and just watched. He bought in for $1600. The Floorperson asked him if he would like to be rated. The man just shook his head, so the Floor responded by saying, "Very well sir, good luck anyway." They always said that whenever a player refused to give his name. The man waited for the game to turn cold and then placed $25 on the Don't Pass line. The winner seven rolled. He doubled up his bet to $50 - winner seven again. He doubled up once more to $100 - winner seven. He went to $200 - winner eleven. Without hesitation or emotion, he went to $400 - winner seven. The man would not stop. He went to $800 - winner eleven. Six naturals in a row! He was tapped. (On the next roll, the bet would have won.) He looked at his last green check, clinched it in his right fist, and with a sad look of astonishment walked away from the game. It reminded me of when Guido and I lost playing roulette at Harrah's Marina.
As I have insinuated earlier, dealing with Beetle was like having a day off with pay. Dave, a friend of his, cultivated the same attitude. The game never lost whenever those guys were together. Because of that, the casino would pair them up. But Beetle always did something that got me thinking whenever we would be on a dead game, having a good time, and fooling around. He would be standing on stick, talking to Dave, when a customer would step up and open us. Beetle would quickly cut off the conversation and send the dice out to him. The game would proceed like this: point, seven out; point, seven out; point, seven out; point, seven out; point, seven out. The player would throw up his hands and walk away in disgust. Beetle would instantly lock up the dice, set down the stick, lean over at me, and with a smile say, "I hate to work." Then he would quickly turn back to Dave and pick up the conversation from where they left off. He could always leave me struck with wonder.
Beetle and Dave were not the only people in the joint who liked to talk; it was an occupational past time. The favorite subject was gossip. When they were not playing "Who am I" or putting down customers, they were talking about each other. It would make me sick. Who was sleeping with whom, what people were saying or doing; they wouldn't quit. Almost all of their conversations would start out, "Did you hear about," or "Guess who..." It was parallel with listening to a pointless soap opera. I'm sure I was the subject when not around.
A conversation might be going on when the person listening would ask the person talking who the particular person was they were talking about. The one speaking would respond by saying, "You know him, he's one of 'The Boys.'" I heard that come up a lot. You were either one of "The Boys", or you were on the outside. They made it sound like it was some kind of an honor to be in with "The Boys". But I wasn't sure who or what they were.
Beside The Boys being a popular subject, they liked to talk about gangster movies. "The Godfather" and "Scarface" were two of their favorites. They were constantly imitating Tony Montana (the character played by Al Pacino in "Scarface"). They also liked to imitate the Italian mob boss--who could not pronounce his swear words--from the movie Johnny Dangerously. They thought it was cool that those guys were rich and powerful. They never put down the gangsters. Rather, they would justify their actions by saying, "I don't care, if a person gets the opportunity to make an easy million bucks, they should take it." I am not exaggerating when I say I heard that quote at least once a week from someone different each time. I also, very often, heard other quotes such as, "It was Vince Lombardi, who once said, 'Winning is everything,'" "It was P. T. Barnum who always said, 'There's a sucker born every minute,'" or "Lose lips, sink ships." The talk always made me dread what it was they were trying to get at.
Movie gangsters were not the only ones talked about; Nichodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, was Atlantic City's real live wise guy. He was constantly in the paper or on the news for being on trial for one thing or another. The Boys in the casino were sympathetic to him. They would follow the cases and talk about what a bum rap he was getting and how he would still get off. And "Little Nicky" would. But Scarfo was a bad man.
When the casino referendum passed in the late 1970's, a war broke between the New York families and Brunos of Philadelphia, for the domination of Atlantic City. At the time, the Bruno family was the power in "The City of Brotherly Love" and Scarfo was either a soldier, lieutenant, or capo with them. "Little Nicky" knocked off over a dozen of the top people in the Bruno organization and took control. The city was finding dead Brunos all over the place. It was one of Philadelphia's bloodiest times with the Mafia, known as "La Cosa Nostra," which stands for, "Our Thing". With Scarfo then in charge from showing his might, and being from Georgia Avenue in Atlantic City, he was able to take over the action there.
The first known murder committed by "Little Nicky" was when he was a teenager. It was said he stabbed to death a man for some dim-witted reason like the way the man looked at him, or something similar to that. They should have given him the chair then, but he was only a kid. Now he runs Atlantic City and everyone knows it. Drugs, prostitution, protection money, gambling, loan sharking, even hot dog vending; nothing went down in the city without him getting a piece of the action. For as much of a hood as he was (and I say was because I believe he is either scheduled to fry or at the very least never see green grass again), the uneducated idiots I worked with looked up to him.
Let me digress for a moment. Children are very impressionable human beings. You can tell this from observing them play games such as house, doctor, mommy, cops and robbers, war, or any other game that depicts adult doings or occupations. This is very unfortunate for them because life than takes on a game quality. Rather than playing games or reading books which develop human understanding and relationships, individualism, independent and free thinking, and a knowledge of the classics or human nature, which are all not a game, they are watching TV and playing Nintendo until they are thrust into an adult "game" which they learned--in recreation as children--was played by picking the piece most appealing to them and moving it accordingly to what they had witnessed. What is wrong with society when 86% of the grade school kids polled say they would rather play Nintendo or watch TV than read a book? (As Prince once said, "Don't let children watch TV, before they know how to read, or all they will learn is how to curse, fight, and breed.") There are a lot of people to blame here. And the schools are not without fault either. Rather than teaching and encouraging the aforesaid, teachers are instructed to omit such ways of thought and only prepare the child to be able to fill out a tax return. If a child desires to learn more, in school or about life, they must take the necessary steps on their own. When these children become adults and enter society they do not behave as human adults should towards one another, but in accordance to what was watched on TV. The soap operas are very good at teaching immorality. The real issues are cast aside in favor of providing the ego with the individuals’ interpretation of the rules for the "game" they now play. I have noticed that many of the casino workers are just that way.
Everyone liked to show his or her knowledge of the Mafia. Some would compare what they saw in the movies and on TV to what they knew about the real thing. Many references were made to the Godfather movies. I never saw a Godfather movie and I certainly was not about to after listening to these guys talk. Basically, I didn't want to know nuffin' about nuffin'.
John, a Floorman, who liked displaying his understanding of the Mafia, was telling us stories about how he saw some kin of his who was in the Sicilian Mafia and that this relative offered him a job running heroin from boats in the Mediterranean to the shore. It would pay $5,000 a week for one days week. Again, I heard someone on the crew say, "If a person has an opportunity to make an easy million bucks they should take it." John stated that he had his wife and kids to think about and couldn't afford to go to jail if he was caught. Then the subject changed.
We started discussing how far the Mafia would go to protect their interests. John jumped in and told us what he knew about the Kennedy assassination. "It wasn't the CIA or Castro who killed John, it was the Mafia." He turned to me, "You know why, don't you?" I just looked at him and shrugged my shoulders. "It wasn't John they were after, it was Bobby. See, Bobby was doing a lot of investigating on them and was going to make a lot of arrests. John wouldn't call him off. Bobby was the one they really wanted. But they knew if they killed him, John would definitely do something about it and make sure the work was finished. So instead, they knocked off John to teach Bobby a lesson and to get him out of the government. That also left Bobby open to be knocked off without any opposition if they had to, which they did later on." My God! How could they act like it was just taking care of business?
I could not believe all the shit I was hearing in that place. But I did. Everyone was always serious when they spoke. I loved and trusted people, so I saw no reason not to trust their words. Besides, what could they possible gain by lying about such things?
If there was one thing I learned about being a break-in dealer, it's that management was only going to put up with so much. After a while, the fact that you cannot deal the game, or was not interested in becoming one of The Boys, just got on their nerves. Also, having a break-in on the game meant that the Box and Floor had to actually work for a living. Most of them would rather have a crew of experienced dealers who they did not have to watch each roll. By August, the friendly offers for help I was previously receiving began to turn into abandonment.
Everyone turned on me. Even people like Steve O'Leary and Eddie Course were starting to show their true colors. I think a lot of it had to do with me alienating myself from the others, therefore, not networking myself in with them. And they began to take it personally. I was viewed as an outsider. I heard things like, "You're brutal," and "Man, if your hands could talk they would cry." I was also getting a reputation for being a singer. When I was on the stick, I heard, "You're the worst, you couldn't call a seven out to save your life." They were right about that, but then again, I didn't know that I had to try. They had me starting to dislike and question the job.
The floor of the casino was the strangest thing I ever encountered inside the building. Each time an electric tractor, used to hull coins to the slot change booths, drove by, the entire floor shook. The customers would look at us like they were going through an earthquake. The supervisors were quick to ease their minds by explaining to them what was going on by saying, "That's the change carrier going by. These floors are raised a few feet over the existing floor. That's why it's shaking. All the casinos are built that way."
That made no sense to me at all. Why would anyone build a raised floor over an already existing one? It sounded like a waste of money and a meaningless thing to do. But the shaking was not the only thing wrong with the floor; I noticed that whoever laid the carpet did a lousy job. From the moment I walked into the casino I could feel bumps in it. Every square foot of that casino contained a bump. That also did not jibe with me. I would think that if someone was going to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to build a casino/hotel, the least they could get is a smooth floor. None of it made sense to me - until the week after I bought the car.