Vegas Poker - HOLD 'EM UP!
The first time I strolled into the Stardust card room my first impression was, the California Board of Prisons had arranged a tour for death row inmates from Alcatraz. That first impression wasn't too far off. We could have been a safe haven for the FBI's 10 most wanted. Every hustler, scammer and desperado had their space, and the rent was free. The dealers, floor men and card room shift bosses were in with the scam. The only square guy in the room was the Card Room Manager, Meyer Goldberg and he was in the twilight of his career, surrounded by teams, gangs and "holdout artists."
It was cherry picking time, comparable to the poolrooms in the 40's and 50's. I was a casino executive on my way up and was told by the veterans of the casino that the Poker room was considered to be a separate entity within the property. It had 20 straight winning years around the Million dollar range. It was the only game in a casino whereby the house does not gamble. They had a million locks and why not leave it be. The only time that I would walk into the room was during a break to visit a very dear friend of my family named Harry "Stony" Solavit who was one hell of a super human being. He belonged to a club called "MYOB" which translated to Mind Your Own Business. Stony warned me to be careful if I decided to attack that room. He further cautioned that I might be in over my head, considering that just about everyone in the room was "wired." I gave it some thought, and decided to give it a try with the understanding and condition that I would receive total support from the head of the corporation. The word came back, "it's a go, good luck and watch you back." In retrospect, I wonder why I took the chances that were real and life threatening.
When I slowly began to look and evaluate, the gangs looked at me like, hey man, you better move on and out while you can. One day I overheard a scammer ask the shift boss, "who's that jackoff with the fancy suit and shinny shoes." The shift manger had no fear, he answered, "don't worry about him, he's just one of those Johnny Come Lately hot shots from the casino, he won't last." He became the first victim, I arranged for his pink slip within 10 minutes. Meyer Goldberg didn't understand, and I just patted him on the back and hoped that he wouldn't interfere. I placed our security on alert and arranged to have a wagon close by for trouble.
I learned the basics of the various games, broke up the teams, 86th the career bandits, and literally terminated 98% of the room's personnel. By the way, the card room dealers were the very best of the entire casino, quick, good dexterity and sharp. "Hold 'em was a very popular game and still is. If a stranger were to enter the card room looking for action and recreation he or she would get swallowed by the band of sharks. The other card rooms on the strip were just as bad, maybe worse. The Dunes in particular had their share of problems. The other major casinos didn't respect or understand that the potential for card room revenue was enormous. Eventually they found out after our corporation filed our 10-K report.
After 18 months of 14 to 16 hour days the Stardust Card room was winning around $5.5 million, and equally important we had regained our reputation for running an honest and first class room. No longer was there concern or need to zip up your bankroll out of fear. The" teams" were convinced to prey elsewhere. If they did not, we would 86 them, sometimes the hard way. The word spread quickly amongst the "cross roaders" and all other gangs that if you get nailed in the Stardust for ganging up or double teaming legitimate customers you would be running the chance to windup in either the Las Vegas County Jail, or the emergency room at Sunrise Hospital.
I did receive a pat on the back for a job well done, and moved up one step closer to the top. My life went back to normal and the Stardust became the standard bearer for Hold 'em, rather then "HOLD 'EM UP." Today the majority of the card rooms are clean. On the strip the Mirage reigns as king of the Las Vegas poker hill. Can they be dethroned, ABSOLUTELY! Will they be, that's a horse of a different color? In downtown Las Vegas Benny Binion was king. When we lost Benny, who was a personal friend and would occasionally drop by to visit and cut up touches, the game changed. Benny created and inspired the World Series of Poker and is largely responsible for it's current popularity. If the Horseshoe doesn't regroup, the Four Queens may take a stab at the downtown top spot. They could get there if Jackie Gaughan doesn't decide to expand his Union Plaza room.
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