the Boys Expand Their Gambling Budgets Using the American Casino
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4 || Part 5
Joker's Wild dollar craps.
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Stuffed yet again with several thousand calories
of meat and carbs, we could not slow down or we would never start
moving again. We had serious gambling to do. Piling into two cars,
we headed southeast to Henderson, a sleepy town nestled among the
tumbleweeds and dust at the foothills leading to Lake Mead. Out
here is the Joker's Wild, a casino that still deals a $1 craps game
on weeknights. The catch is they shut it down at 1 A.M. Actually,
they call last shooter around 12:30, so unless that guy has a hell
of a roll, the table closes around 12:35. Tonight, we threatened
to drag the table crew into the wee hours.
When we arrived, the table was nearly full. We
moved into openings one by one as people left. Although we only
play here a few times a year, the crew remembers us. Not for our
charm and not for our looks. "I remember you guys; you're loud,"
said the most competent of the female dealers. The action started
choppy, but my $100 buy-in stayed around there or slightly above.
Earlier in the day, I purchased a pack of More
cigarettes. These are the most sophisticated and elegant of all
tobacco products. Each pack contains twenty slender, dark 120mm
tubes of perfection. I don't smoke, but god damn do I feel cool
with a cigarette dangling from my lips. I pulled out my pack and
stuck one in my mouth. Instantly, I got the same jealousy-fueled
question as always: "Aren't those ladies' cigarettes?"
Matt enjoys More.
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I shrugged. "All I know is they give me more flavor,
more pleasure and more quality. More. Ask for it by name." Within
an hour, my friends also had Mores dangling from their lips, and
none of us smoked them. I also learned a valuable lesson: take your
cigarette out of your mouth before you drink your Heineken. They
stink as straws and wilt when wet. Then you only look half as cool.
At the opposite end of the table, Jeff Barr played near his alter
ego, dubbed Bizarro Barr. The Bizarro Barr looked sort of like Jeff
mixed with a girl with Down's Syndrome who cut her own hair with
pruning shears. I mean the comparison in only the most flattering
By 11:00 PM, it was hard not to make money. Unless
you were the Asian guy at the far end of the table who insisted
on never betting pass. See, he went to dealer school and they taught
you these things. I initially nicknamed him UCI, after my alma mater,
where 50% of the school population is Asian guys cooler than me.
But, this guy was a drunken fool and probably would have been more
appropriately dubbed CSUF, or Northwestern. Another person having
no fun was the young dealer at the far end of the table. In a chip-tobacco-and-free-beer
frenzy, Burt rocketed the dice down while she arranged her stacks
and whacked her on the knuckle. She recoiled and nursed the wound.
For the rest of the evening, she was unable to adequately do her
job. She flinched each time the dice were thrown in her direction.
Near her was a woman in a Barack Obama T-shirt
with a foul disposition and a unique skill for throwing fives and
nines. They quickly became "Hope" and "Change" as in, "Press my
bet on hope and take down my change."
Burt also enjoys More.
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Over the years, Stevie has developed a stylish
knuckleball toss. He will occasionally play while wearing a Mexican
wrestling mask. Tonight, Burt named him "El Gripo". The name proved
most effective when shouted in a falsetto by everyone else at the
table as he was about the throw. This worked well for us as he hit
several points. Along the way, he hit every come bet we put out
there, and the Joker's Wild was filled with shouts of "°AndalÈ!"
and "°Arriba!" and "°El Gripo!"
Once El Gripo finally sevened out, Robert took
the dice. He's been known as Shakes ever since a night at the El
Co where he threw for an hour, all the while needing to pee. He
threatened to wet himself again this evening with a roll of near-epic
proportions. Burt gambled on the hardways. I have to say, despite
my envy, that among the three most manly images in the world are
Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, a lumberjack wrestling a bear
in a charnel house and Burt directing a craps table crew of where
to parlay his winnings while an unlit More dangles from his lower
lip. He hit a one-dollar hard six at 10-for-one, let it ride and
hit the hard six again. He wanted to let the $100 ride once more,
but the table limit on payouts was $500, so he pulled down $50 and
left the rest up.
At the Joker, the bald boxman serves double duty
as supervisor for the adjacent blackjack tables. He sits in at craps
occasionally, and it usually means the rules tighten and the break-in
dealers get scolded for overpaying us. The clock had advanced past
midnight. We knew one of his appearances would be when he shouted,
"Last shooter." We would grumble and beg for another hour, to no
The dice finally passed to me. By this time, my
winnings had spilled into a second rack. I had a few Heinekens in
me and I was working on my fourth unlit More. In short, I felt like
Ryan Howard against a Little Leaguer. With certainty in my shooting,
I wanted to set a new personal record for dice height. My quest
was aided by the fact we had been extremely generous in tipping
the young crew so they wouldn't yell at me to keep them down. We
had been so generous, in fact, that they even laughed at our jokes
and forgave the occasional drink spilled on the felt. I started
to "climb the ladder" beginning with a throw at eye level, then
tossing them a foot higher each time the dice were returned. The
Joker's Wild craps table is one of the softest I've ever played.
Dice rarely bounce off. In fact, you can throw them ten feet into
the air and they will plop without a bounce, like a pair of dead
quail. A few times I did exactly that, and was mildly chastised
by the stickman to hit the back wall. I feigned remorse and went
right back to my routine.
After a couple of points, another beer and more
chips stuffed into the racks, I felt even more certain of my dicing.
I floated the dice ten to twelve feet above the ground, they were
like two glittery hummingbirds buzzing through the casino. They
tumbled gracefully, catching a reflection of the dusty lights in
the ceiling. I believed I could do no wrong because, well, I can't
once I've had enough alcohol. I could drive a racecar, have sex
with ten women, fight a dragon or breakdance if I wanted.
This is, of course, exactly why the Joker's Wild
feared me. Management decided to "ice" me, by slowing the game to
a crawl and denying me the dice. The boxman poked his head into
the game with two security guards carrying huge cases of chips.
While I waited and my hot streak dissipated, they turned the playground
into an accounting exercise. The chips were added to the casino's
table stash, the boxman filled out paper work and squared up the
stacks. A cold chill ran through my throwing arm.
"Come on," I barked as the luck drained from my
fingers. "It's getting cold down here."
Hunched over the table with his paperwork, the
boxman nodded and said, "So shoot then." He dared me. He thought
I wouldn't. He was betting I didn't have the balls to throw the
dice while he blocked my path, like a teenager on a skateboard who
gives you a sullen look for having the audacity to want to drive
on the street he was seeing how slowly he could cross. I don't back
down from dares. Except the scary ones, or the ones that involve
talking to cute girls. But dare me to yank out a tooth with a pair
of pliers, and I can't say no. Dare me to punch myself in the forehead
as hard as I can, and I will.
Of course, I took the boxman's dare. I nodded to
the stickman who reluctantly pushed five dice my way. After scrutinizing
the bunch like a six-year-old choosing a 12-cent goldfish from a
tank at the pet store, I selected the two prettiest ones. I rubbed
them against the felt and then gripped them between the first three
fingers of my left hand. The boxman kept counting chips. I took
aim and fired. The dice sailed. Time froze. All went silent. The
The boxman looked up briefly. The dice grazed the
back of his bald head, landed on the felt and rolled to a stop on
hard ten. Ten was the point. Hard ten was the prop we'd made for
the crew. Ten was somebody's shoe size.
The table erupted in cheers and shouting. I fell
down laughing at my good luck and at how close I came to clocking
the boxman and ending our evening prematurely. The boxman smirked.
To me, it was the Bobby Thomson miracle shot, the Doug Flutie Hail
Mary and the Christian Laettner buzzer beater of my sporting career.
I hit a few more points after that but the cash
didn't compare. With chips still flowing our direction, the boxman
announced last shooter. We grumbled. I was sad, but my best moment
was past, and five minutes later our entire crew put our gains on
the felt to be colored up to green 25-dollar chips. My $100 buy-in
had become $278. Most everyone else had made about the same. Burt
made a bit more thanks to his hard ways, and Jeff was paid his winnings
plus another $100 due to dealer error.
Frankie's Tiki Lounge.
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I promised a friend named Slappyjack (slappyjack.com)
who now lives in Las Vegas that I would meet him at midnight. By
the time we cashed out, it was 1 AM. Being a good guy, he had waited
at our appointed meeting place, Frankie's Tiki Lounge on West Sahara.
He had brought along some of his coworkers from the MGM Grand's
Cirque show "Ka". Since I had no car, Jerry graciously offered to
go with me.
Frankie's is a small joint by the owners of the
Double Down Saloon. It has a bamboo, thatched roof and tiki dÈcor,
loads of posters for retro-hip bands and a decent surf-rock soundtrack.
It's pretty hard to imagine anyone doing a tiki bar in an original
way these days. Frankie's doesn't, it just does more of it. It was
a fine place to meet up with my friend Slappy, though, while Jerry
got relegated to listening to the backstage gripes of his friends.
A bit after 2 AM, Jerry and I retured to downtown.
I slept soundly, dreaming of the thwick sound of dice tickling the
baby hairs on a bald man's head.