My Bookmaking Venture at the Dunes Hotel
I went to work in the blackjack pit at the Dunes Hotel in 1968. It was a big opportunity for getting into the big leagues in many ways. There were not many dealers my age and I certainly looked up to many old timers in the business that had years of experience. Dean Harrold was about my age and we quickly became friends, with his girlfriend knowing my girlfriend from being neighbors in the Diplomat Apartments on legendary Paradise Road, the street that has been mentioned in many books and movies. The infamous CIA connected Mafia personality, Johnny Rosselli was once a resident at the Diplomat between stints of living at the Sands Hotel. Dean Harrold’s father, Murph Harrold was a legendary poker player. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1984, and regarded as one of the best deuce-to-seven lowball poker players in the game. Murph also operated illegal pinball machines in Shreveport, and did a little bookmaking.
On our dealing breaks at the Dunes, which were 15 or 20 minutes each hour or every 45 minutes, we spent our time in the dealer’s lounge playing hearts or pitch, or watching sports on the wall mounted TV set. Dean told me that he was booking parlay bets to the dealers and wanted to know if I wanted to be a 50% partner. I immediately jumped to the opportunity and we became partners. By the way, Dean Harrold went on to become President and Chief Operating Officer of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and also served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Caesars World Marketing.
We were doing pretty good with the little sports business off the radar of the bosses, which was basically accepting “Parlay Card” style football bets from our fellow employees. In those days you could bet a two team parlay on a card, and the odds payoff looked something like this:
2 Team Parlay: 13 to 5 Odds
3 Team Parlay: 6 to 1 Odds
4 Team Parlay: 10 to 1 Odds
5 Team Parlay: 20 to 1 Odds
6 Team Parlay: 40 to 1 Odds
7 Team Parlay: 75 to 1 Odds
8 Team Parlay: 100 to 1 Odds
9 Team Parlay: 150 to 1 Odds
10 Team Parlay: 300 to 1 Odds
11 Team Parlay: 450 to 1 Odds
12 Team Parlay: 600 to 1 Odds
13 Team Parlay: 750 to 1 Odds
14 Team Parlay: 900 to 1 Odds
15 Team Parlay: 1500 to 1 Odds
Typically, sports books hold 25-30 percent on these bets, even after the occasional $100,000 payout that makes the news. The hold percentage on straight bets is less than 5 percent. We did pretty good until Dean refused Sherlock Feldman, one of the Dunes Hotel bosses a part of the action. Sherlock wanted to be our partner. Dean told Sherlock he already had a partner. Some of you might remember Sherlock appearing on various shows in the 60s, like Steve Allen, Mike Douglas etc., promoting the Dunes Hotel and explaining how to play the games.
I remember saying to Dean, “Why didn’t you let Sherlock in the deal?” I thought it would be perfect to have a Dunes boss in with us and then we would not be bothered and then even do more volume of business. By refusing him, Sherlock got even with us and told the Dunes Hotel big boss, Sid Wyman about the little arrangement Dean and I had. (Google Sid Wyman for an eye opener)
Sid called Dean in his office for an inquisition style hearing! Sid asked Dean, “What is this booking thing all about and who your partners?” Dean said Sid was pounding his fist on the table and yelling at the top of his lungs. Sid also was a poker playing friend of Dean’s dad, hence Dean’s employment at the Dunes.
Sid had a small office and a very small desk. The desk almost busted into scrap lumber with the pounding of Sid’s fist. Dean was brought to tears with all the yelling and berating.
Sid yelling, “No one is going to do any booking in this hotel except me, you got that. Who is your partner? Dean didn’t want to tell him but said, “Geno, in the baccarat pit” Sid yelled, “Geno!”
He then grabbed the phone off the wall to call the baccarat pit. Dean said he was so mad that he practically pulled the entire phone off the wall. He called the baccarat pit and asked for Geno. The baccarat boss said it was Geno’s day off. That was the last of the story and not another word was even mentioned to me by anyone, including Sid Wyman. That is the way they did things at the Dunes Hotel. They were great bosses.