A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story
“So I’ve got these three broads at my table — MILFs, you know, but holding up great, and strictly black chip — and they start trading cards around. ‘You’ve got fourteen, and I’ve got a six. Will that help?’ I say, ‘Ladies, that’s cheating.’ ‘Oh, we’re not cheating. We just like to help each other.’ And I believe that, because their mistakes are too perfect to be planned out. I go, ‘It doesn’t matter. You can’t trade cards. You can’t even touch the cards.’ I call the floorman over to watch — not them, me. When people cheat that stupidly, it’s gotta be an inside job, right? Anyway, it’s not as much fun for them if they can’t lose as a team, so they’re up and off, but they toke me one chip each — three hundred bucks. Made my week.”
This was said by The Blackjack Dealer, obviously, and thus will we denominate this particular card. He was one of three dealers I met at the Race and Sports Book at LVH — The Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. LVH is that tall poppy behind the Convention Center that used to be known as The Las Vegas Hilton, before that The International, all of that before the current owners came up with a name that distinguishes the property from nothing. The LVH Sports Books has been popular with people who work in The Resort Corridor — their name for The Strip — since The Stardust, home of the original Las Vegas sports book, was imploded. The reason for the popularity is exactly the same: Easy in-and-out surface-level parking.
The three dealers were all related to each other, cousins of cousins back in Jersey, but they would have looked alike anyway. In casinos and pornography, the girls pop right out at you, very often with surgically-augmented pops, but the men are strictly functional, there to serve their utilitarian purpose as unobtrusively as possible. They worked at three different joints, and yet they were dressed just alike: Cheap tuxedos minus the jackets, flashy waistcoats and hook-around fake bowties — all three unhooked over open collars. There was maybe forty years between them, young to old, but they all three looked just like your punkass nephew at his big sister’s wedding — Mooks to the last man.
The youngest was The Stickman, skinny, almost gaunt, his face still a battlefield of unconquered acne. The Blackjack Dealer was a little paunchy, but the miles of daily walking required to work in a big Sin City casino make it hard for Resort Corridor workers to lay on that thoroughly American Michelin Man physique. The oldest of the three, The Ladderman, had the kind of body that you can only get from decades of hard drinking: He looked like an over-broiled chicken wing, loose sun-baked skin over nothing but bones.
“I got that beat,” said The Stickman. “We had this Barney, nothing but purple chips, and he would not come off of hard-eight. Lose, lose, lose, bitch, bitch, bitch, but he just keeps coming back at it. He goes, ‘I know I can win my money back’ and the boxman says, ‘That’s the kind of optimism that built this town.’ And the guys actually thanks him for the good advice!”
The other two rolled their eyes at that story. To me, The Ladderman said, “They make him hold the stick with both hands so he won’t pick his nose in front of the quality traffic.”
“Don’t let him snow you,” said The Blackjack Dealer, nodding toward The Ladderman. “He works with Whales, and those are the craziest degenerates in this whole crazy town.”
The Ladderman shrugged. “After a while you just get used to it. Burn the cards, drip candle wax on the cards, pray to the cards, shuffle one under the other dozens of times before you spend precisely seven minutes slowly sneaking a peek. I don’t know how many punters have told me they can change the cards with their pet ritual. Who am I to argue? Their tricks work — almost half the time.”
Everyone laughed at that joke. I said, “Here’s my contribution to the party. The other day at New York New York I heard this guy telling his wife the he had worked out the perfect system for slot machines. ‘What I do,’ he said to her, ‘is I cash my ticket out when I get a big win. Then I put a new twenty into the machine. That way it thinks I’m a new player, and it gives me all the new player bonuses.’”
They all laughed at that notion, and if you don’t get the joke, don’t bring any money to Las Vegas until you do. “I thought about correcting him,” I went on, “but then I realized that would get me nowhere. Instead I said, ‘That won’t work. There’s a little video camera on each machine, like the eye-in-the-sky, so Security knows it’s still you.’”
The Blackjack Dealer and The Ladderman both chuckled, but The Stickman said, “That’s really true you know.” It isn’t, but I held my tongue and so did the others.
“First race at Del Mar,” said The Blackjack Dealer. “I’m betting the eleven horse.”
“You can’t bet the eleven horse,” The Ladderman parried. “The eleven horse is bad luck.”
“But I always bet the eleven horse. There’s almost never an eleven horse, but when there is, I bet it.”
“You should bet the seven horse,” The Stickman offered. “The seven horse is always lucky.”
Deploying the strength of eleven mighty racehorses to keep the irony out of my voice, I said, “That’s the kind of optimism that built this town.”
The Ladderman and The Blackjack Dealer both looked disgusted, but The Stickman said, “Hey, thanks! That’s really good advice.”