The Cowboy Cheat with the diamonds in his boots.
On certain special events and holidays the Dunes Hotel management decided that two Baccarat games should be operating instead of the standard one table policy. Increased room occupancy, more walk in business and capacity filled Junkets all contributed to more gamblers. Initially the Baccarat was a single table game in a sunken pit just adjacent to the casino cage. (see photo) So the owners decided that they would use a portion of the Poker room, which was moved once before from its original position near the entrance to the coffee shop.
A real gambler that knows the business and has qualified staff observing and dealing the game can operate anywhere. Elaborate furnishings and décor aren’t necessary to create a game atmosphere. A hard core player just wants a place to play with the best odds available. A make shift room was set up with two baccarat table, a pit stand to handle the paper work and four high ladder chairs wherein the floor person can observe the games and not have the game view blocked by a customer’s head.
Volume of business is preferable for a cheat and a dealer working together in tandem because it helps detract from the nefarious actions they might transact. If there is plenty of money on the layout for hours at a time, the house is sure to grind away a healthy profit from the sum of the action. If the house is way ahead, it may be pretty unlikely, a couple of thousand dollars is taken off the table.
So a big three-day weekend came around and we positioned the temporary Baccarat pit in a section of the Poker are to handle the increased business. Just prior to this, a Dunes casino executive used his influence to get a Dunes dice dealer JR to get transferred over to the Baccarat to learn the game. This transfer was a political issue because Baccarat was controlled by Irwin Gordon, a personal friend and associate of Sidney Wyman. Wyman was one of the majority owners of the Dunes along with his lifetime business partner, Charlies J. Rich. Charles J. Rich’s stepson was George Duckworth who was also an owner and acting Casino Manager. George Duckworth was an extremely capable and talented operator going back to the East St. Louis days wherein Wyman and Rich were bigtime gamblers and bookies. (See Dunes timeline).
In many cases Wyman called the trump card and did exactly what he wanted and the Baccarat Pit. He placed Irwin Gordon as manager after serving time in federal prison after taking the rap for a giant bookmaking operation in Terre Haute. This operation was one of the biggest in the world.
Irwin controlled the Baccarat game as much as possible. He decided who worked in the Baccarat pit. He was untrusting of strangers and concerned that anyone could be an informer for the FBI. So George Duckworth, although friendly with Gordon, did not approve of everything Gordon did, but had his hands tied. An old friend of Wyman, Rich and Duckworth was hired as a casino host. They had all worked together at the Sands Hotel when Wyman had six points of ownership. The host became close with Duckworth and was able to get a dice dealer transferred over to the Baccarat pit without Gordon’s seal of approval. It is very possible that the justification Duckworth and the Host used for the transfer was that they needed a set of eyes in the game, however that is only a speculation.
Business was booming and the two games were constantly full for the long weekend. This writer was a floorman on the evening (swing) shift and we were jammed with action. All 12 seats were used and there were outside bettors on occasion.
In the mid-1970s currency was banned from being used to pay winning wagers and replaced with casino chips, called checks be the casinos. So instead of having $30,000 plus of cash on the table for an opening bankroll the casino replaced all the cash with casino chips laid in long tubes on the layout very similar to a Blackjack game.
This particular game we were really busy and I was off the chair standing very close to the long-end of the table observing and monitoring the action. There was a high roller sitting in seat number 8. This gambler, I will call Mr. L, had a cowboy hat and wore cowboy boots with diamond studs on the toe tips, and he made sure you saw the studs as he was very proud of them. When I met the player, something that I just call “fraud intuition” immediately was framed in my mental picture of him. He just was a little too friendly and I sensed a style of acting he was portraying. In other words, I just smelled something was not too kosher. JR the dealer knew the player from Craps so I just kept my eye on both of them. After a decision paying and taking the bets on the Bank side or Players side, I glanced at the chip tray and then started to get into the elevated chair and I routinely turned my head toward the table and noticed there was a group of about 40 or 40 black chips ($100 denomination) separated and pushed up by about an two inches from the remainder of the ones sitting in the tube. As I looked, the dealer very quietly and nonchalantly moved the separated chips back to the correct position so there was one just long stack of chips. I then could visually see and calculate how many were in the tube.
I then purposely turned my back to the game because I knew that the dealer was going to hand the chips off to someone on the game. I set a trap. As I positioned myself into the chair, I could see that the tube had missing chips. During this time the dealer calling the hands (stickman or caller) was making sure everyone had their bets down and the other dealers were making change and getting ready for the next decision. I noticed Mr. L stuffing something into his right hand coat pocket. The missing chips were nowhere to be seen on the table. The dealer and Mr. L were the culprits.
There was a full game and the action started to settle and Mr. L quietly got up and walked into the casino area. I pondered how I should handle this. Where the other dealers in with the play? Was the other boss in with the play? Should I try to see if any other players were in with the dealer? The dealer JR also just went on his break for 20 minutes. Irwin Gordon was not present that evening and George Duckworth was not available, and I did not want to tip-off any of the cheaters.
I did not have proof that would hold up other than my two eyes. I was also busy with the paperwork after the play and another good honest customer wanted a reservation so 20 minutes went by very quickly and the dealer JR came back into the pit and got ready to call the game. I was furious inside that this dealer tried the move at my observation station. I wanted to punch the jerk. I called him over and he looked like he was going to panic. I said, “Nice move, why did you do that in front of me?”
He sort of stammered and acted like I did not know what I was talking about. He went back on the game and I planned how I was going to reveal to George Duckworth what happened. I was off the following day and I knew the Junket would be gone and we would not have any action in the Baccarat. I figured that Duckworth would come up with a solution to the problem as soon as I had a private moment to see him. I came back to work the following day and found out the dealer, JR, had himself transferred from the Baccarat.
The Cheating Diamond Studded Booted Cowboy!
The Cowboy Cheat with the diamonds in his boots.