THE TROP

 

 

    I was worried about losing my job at Bally's.  The thought that I could not quit and walk away made me think I had to replace that job with another one as soon as possible.  I had yet to achieve my goal of quitting on good terms with them.  I was fired and they did not want to have anything to do with me.  The only thing I reasoned could be done to help save my life was to get right back into the business.

    I called around the different places in town to see if they were hiring.  I finally got a yes from the Tropicana to come in the next morning at 11 am for an audition.

    When I arrived for the audition there were three other guys waiting as well.  A short balding man with glasses asked us how long we had been dealing.  None of the others ever dealt before.  When I mentioned I had three years experience he pointed to me with his pencil and told me I was hired.  He didn't even know my name yet, but three years experience was strong.  He gave me an application to fill out and told me I did not have to audition.  Five or ten minutes later he got off the phone and said he had to bring me to the pit for the audition as a formality.  Even though I was hung over, I wasn't worried--the job had become second nature.

    I made two or three calls on stick and was put in base.  There was no problem there either.  They pulled me off after a few payoffs and asked how long I had been dealing.  When I told them three years they said to get out of there, that I was the best they had seen apply, and I passed the audition.  It was like riding a bike.

    During the audition I noticed the Tropicana was the same as Bally's to the point that they also had gum marks all over the pit.  Why shouldn't there be?  Bobby Tingle once said that that was where the mastermind came from. And every casino had gum marks all over the pits to let the people know where to stand to control the game.  That is around every game, in every pit, in every casino on the planet had them.  They definitely did not try to hide it from the employees.  In fact, it was a given that we had to learn how to use them.

    As I was walking downstairs, back to where I came in, the man who hired me explained I had the job as long as they didn't find out that I was fired for stealing or something like that and gave me my choice of shifts since he had only one day spot available and I had the most experience.  The problem with that comment, though, was that I had stolen from Bally's, but I was never caught.

    It occurred one afternoon when I was dealing in pit 3a and a die when off the game.  No one could locate it.  I was on stick when it happened.  One hour later I went on break and found the die myself.  It went into a small opening between two buttons on my shirt.  Since no one, including myself, knew it was there I knew I could keep it.  That die could prove to be valuable evidence some day.  A Floorperson was up shit's creek with upper management whenever they lost a die.

    I took it home and hid it. First behind a painting and then behind the washing machine. A couple of years later I went to look for it and it was gone.  To this day I never told anyone I had it.

    I know only one of six people could have taken it.  But I think it was either Howard, Mary Ingemar, or Bally's Park Place.  Howard, a friend of Leif's, I did not trust and was in the house many times when no one else was home.  He was an egotistical spoiled brat who was very capable of snooping around.  It could have very well have been Mary.  She might have taken it because she was Mafia and was ordered to find it or she just might have come across it and realized she could use it for bargaining power some day.  Although, to my knowledge, she has never used it against me.   My roommates are a strong maybe.  But I really felt it was taken by the casino themselves.  They might have had the cameras on that game and after reviewing the film saw it go into my shirt.  I would not put it past them to search or bug my house.  I was not cooperating with them and when you have someone who could be a threat to your continuing to make 15-30 million dollars a month, plus whatever you could steal for yourself, you are going to keep a close eye on him.  Many times I felt I was being followed home from work.  I would drive to another development and circle their parking lot to find out.  They had me so scared when I worked there that I did not put anything past them.

    The casinos acted as separate parts of a whole.  They had to look out for each other because they were all in on it together.  There was a black list, which everyone knew existed.  I was sure I was placed on it.  Getting that job without being asked my name was the break I was looking for.  But I still wondered what might happen to me once they got hold of my record and found out who I really was.

    The Tropicana sucked.  It was the worst company I had ever worked for.  I knew they were crooked because of the comment I heard Bobby Tingle say on a bus ride to the parking lot.  Bobby was talking with a dealer about the Tropicana when he asked him if he knew a so and so.  When the dealer replied no and asked him who he was, Tingle stated that he was the mastermind of the business.

    I remembered that comment, especially after I had picked up a woman at La Sleaze, a bar, one night after work.  I don't remember her name, but afterwards she told me her husband had just died a month or two ago and she was getting the results from the coroner as to the cause the next morning.  She just came home one day and found him dead.  Then she gave me a story about how her brother was a Shiftboss at the Tropicana.  I just wanted to get her home.  I had a strange feeling that it was her brother who arranged the death either because she wanted it or because he did.  While we were in bed discussing it she said, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could just push a button and be wherever we wanted to go or have what ever we wanted."  That was all I needed to hear.  I had to get her home and fast.  I thought she was a plant by the Boys to pick me up and find out my reaction to that comment.  But it had been a couple of years since that encounter and I forgot I might have been known by that girl's brother either because it was a set up or because I never called her after that night.  I was so confused that I never mentioned her to anyone.

    The Tropicana was a joke from the start.  On the day of orientation I got to enjoy yet another company brainwashing bullshit slide show or film about them.  I will never forget what the lady in charge recited from the screen: "We control the [customer's or player's] fun--not their luck."  I wanted to jump up and scream, "The hell we do!"

    They snooped into everyone's business.  There was a department at the Trop called Investigations. On one particular afternoon I received a request to make their acquaintance.  Down under the casino I was confronted with my application and my answers to their questions.  Their man got hold of my rap sheet and told me that the answer to the question about whether or not I was ever arrested or convicted of a crime was yes to a "disorderly persons" offense was a lie because it was a drug charge.  What I explained to the interloper was that what I wrote down was technically correct and was the same response I gave on my renewal application with the CCC.  I also pointed out that he could contact my lawyer about the matter if he wished.  He dismissed me.  I was left with confusion as to why they would even hold lying against me when my job was to lie and steal, and supposition as to how well they would be watching me.

    There were other hypocrites (I thought) as well.  One was a girl who claimed to be a born-again Christian. She was always talking about Jesus during the breaks.  I hope she was doing it because it was her calling, but as for me, there could be no such thing as a Christian in that business.  I had lost all my ethics and was ashamed to be there because I knew it was wrong to participate in what the job asked.  I couldn't take listening to her say "I love Jesus" and then watch her help steal $30,000 off some sap.  If she had not been as weak as me she might have left.

    But I knew that she cared when I found out, shortly after I left, she turned in a group of workers who were stealing checks from the players in a scam between them so they could buy cocaine.  I am sure she was never able to return to the business following that incident.  I was wrong to prejudge her, however, she did date one of the people she turned in and that is what gave me the impression that she didn't mind the people who worked there and I did.  To her I say I am sorry for thinking you would never take a stand.

    Bally's Park Place may have been the cruelest of the three casinos I worked at, but I have seen the Boys of the Tropicana in action.  There was a female break-in dealer they rode constantly.  They did not like her and made it a living hell for her to be there.  She finally gave in, left the game in tears, and quit.

    During my employment with them, dealers from another house uptown tried unsuccessfully to start a dealer's union with the electricians union.  I was at a crossroads over this.  We needed representation due to the way the house treated us.  Management called us to a meeting and gave a presentation as to why we should vote no for a union.  That made me feel we should be with the union even more.  But I also knew all unions were Mafia controlled and it would be bad for us.  Alas, it was defeated at the first joint and we never had the decision to make.

 

    There was little money made there in light of the fact that I only worked the weekends so I could devote my time to NightSky Enterprises and Mary.  My father was covering my rent for me since I was not working much.  But I had to get some money up to get that ring out.  On August 17, two days after my 23rd birthday, I put another $400 down towards the balance.

 

    One morning in September I woke up sick.  I had to work that day, so calling in was in order.  The Tropicana had a policy where if anyone called in sick the Shiftboss, Sunny Lee, would call the person at home to make sure they were home and not out enjoying the day.  When I placed the call I was told to expect a call from Sunny.  It didn't matter.  I was sick.  Where was I going?

    When the phone rang I was in bed fighting off whatever it was that ailed me.  I never expected the other person on the line to be Karen Ingemar.

    Karen had told me that Mary had been taken to the hospital in Mt. Holly.  They thought she might lose the baby.  She said the baby might be in her fallopian tube and their grandmother died from that.

    I got the information from Karen about where to find Mary.  When I hung up, panic struck.  I ran into my room, changed, and took off for the hospital.

    I am not exaggerating when I say I did no less than 95 miles per hour the entire ride. I was very worried. The thought of losing either of them was making me sicker.  I made it in half the time.

    When I saw Mary she was upset and crying.  They were not yet sure what was wrong.  She was happy to see me and calmed down a little.  Thereafter, we were told everything was fine with both.

    The next time I showed up at work, Sunny Lee, that crony, had a write-up waiting for me. She lectured me in her Asian broken English that I was not at home when she called, so she was giving me a write-up.  I explained to her what had happened, but she did not care.

    Mary gave me the paperwork from the hospital visit.  I brought it to Sunny Lee in hopes that once she saw the predicament I was in that day she would rescind the write-up.  But she didn't care to hear it.  According to her the only excuse I could have to call in sick was if I was going to stay home.  I got aggravated.  She told me to drop it and get out of her office.

    As I was leaving I looked back at her and said, "You know, I know you want us to have no compassion for the players and I know you have none, but couldn't you at least show some compassion towards your employees?"  She gave me the same look Steve O'Leary gave me when I told him I wasn't proud of my job.  I just turned around and walked out of her sickening sight.

 

    As the end of the year came, I was yet to achieve my goal and was stuck working my fourth Christmas day in the casino.  This time was a good one however when the game I was on had one of those whining New York Jews busting our balls.  That was not what was good.  What was good was the way we got even with her.

    She was playing on second base, which was my end.  The entire crew was getting fed up with her as she rubbed it in about how great of a day it was to be out playing and enjoying herself.  Finally, the Floorperson switched me with the other base dealer.

    I didn't know what the Floor was doing at first.  When I asked her what gave, she just told me to watch the other dealer when I came back from break. When I got on stick, and did that, it was great. With each payoff he shortchanged her.   The obnoxious player was so concerned with making our day miserable that she never noticed all the money she lost at the dealer's hand.  I know it sounds cruel, but those players all deserved it.

    Next week, on New Year's Eve, we were scheduled to work a ten-hour day. I had to start at ten and would not get out until eight pm on one of the busiest days of the year.  I knew it would take me over an hour to get home because of the traffic that would be around at the time. I wanted to get the early out break, so I got on the game by 9:30 that morning.

    There would be certain people who would show up early each morning so they could get their favorite base.  Some always wanted the early out break, so they would take the stick--second base if it was a nine-hour day.  Other dealers were mono dextrous and could only deal on second or third base depending on whether they were left or right handed.  On a ten-hour day the early out break started on third base and did the first twenty minutes of work.  That is what I took.

    We found out early on that our crew had a sick call.  A duel-rate Boxperson was told to put on a dealers shirt and report to the game as the fourth dealer.

    His name was Tien, a Vietnam refugee.  The city is almost 14% Asian, most of which are Vietnamese.  I had heard many stories about how their relatives, who worked in the casinos, sent over lots of money to them so they could bribe their way out of the country.  One couple even told me that one was once a teacher and the other a dentist there.  Anyway, Tien left at ten o'clock and did not return to the game until twenty of eleven--twenty minutes late.

    Right away I knew what was going on. It did not take forty minutes to change a shirt.  Tien knew whoever tapped in on stick at that time would have the early out break.  I got to that game at 9:30 so I could have that spot and wanted it back.

    They sent me on break first at twenty of eleven after I complained about what the asshole was doing to me.  When I came back at eleven o'clock, I tapped in where Tien would have gone.

    The Floorperson was a guy named Mike Rambone.  He was the only person besides Sunny Lee and Tien whose name I remember from that place.  He tried to be the biggest gangster in the joint.  It was said he had juice and he loved to flaunt it.  I used to think they called him Rambo because he thought he was tough.

    Mike walked over to me and started getting on my case like he always loved to.  "What are you doing?" he asked.

    "I'm taking my E.O. break back."

    He stuck up for the other gangster, "Oh, no you're not.  Get on the stick."

    "Why?  It doesn't take forty minutes to change a shirt.  You know I was here early for the position.  I want it back."

    "Then the stickman [Tien] is going to have to work an hour twenty."

    "So what," I argued, "that base dealer over there is doing an hour twenty no matter what anyway.  So what's the difference?  He should have thought of that before he took a forty minute break to screw me out of my early-out."

    You would think the supervisor would take the side of the person who was right.  Wrong, the Boys stuck together.  "The difference is that I told you to get on the stick.  Now get on the stick."

    Rather than walking to the stick, I walked out of the casino.

    Mary was not too happy that I quit my job.  By that time, though, I was getting the attitude that if she was not going to work in the casino when we had a baby on the way, neither was I.  I left the Tropicana vowing never to return to that business ever again.

 
 
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Dedication

Behind These Eyes

Chapter  1 - OVERTURE

Chapter  2 - IN THE BEGINNING

Chapter  3 - MY FIRST SHOT

Chapter  4 - CHAD AND THE DEALER

Chapter  5 - THE DECISION TO DEAL

Chapter  6 - LICENSE TO STEAL

Chapter  7 - CASINO SCHOOL

Chapter  8 - SPRING '84

Chapter  9 - GETTING IN--THE AUDITION

Chapter 10 - BREAKING IN

Chapter 11 - LEARNING THE BIZ

Chapter 12 - SHOOTING DICE: THE HOOK

Chapter 13 - THE CITY, THE CASINOS, AND THE MOB

Chapter 14 - THE MOVE TO GET OUT

Chapter 15 - FIRED BY THE MAFIA

Chapter 16 - ALONG COMES MARY

Chapter 17 - THE TROP

Chapter 18 - OUTSIDE THE BIZ

Chapter 19 - BACK IN THE BIZ--ANOTHER AUDITION

Chapter 20 - THE BIRTH OF NICOLE

Chapter 21 - TRUMP: THE ART OF THE STEAL

Chapter 22 - PREVIEWS OF THINGS TO COME

Chapter 23 - THE BREAK-UP

Chapter 24 - THE NUT HOUSE

Chapter 25 - RECOVERY

Chapter 26 - PARENTAL ALIENATION

Chapter 27 - FIRED FROM TRUMP

Chapter 28 - I FIGHT FOR NICOLE

Chapter 29 - THE RUN-A-ROUND

Chapter 30 - THROWING IN THE TOWEL

Chapter 31 - WHAT NOW

GLOSSARY