It was about 1970 and I was a Baccarat dealer at the Dunes Hotel. I will never forget this experience for many reasons. It was probably one of the most desirous jobs in a casino, about equal in earnings to being on a Dunes’ dice dealing crew. Prior to dealing Baccarat I dealt in the Blackjack pit. But from the scuttlebutt around town and listening to some of my friends who were associated with Baccarat, I became obsessed to learn the game. There were no schools that specialized in Baccarat that I was aware of so I would go to various casinos that had a Baccarat game and watch how the dealers dealt the game. The Sands Hotel was a really great place to go, but the bosses in charge of the game were really not very happy to have someone on the rail of the game observing the action. They really made you feel uncomfortable. But a friend of mine, Ray Medrano, got a hold of a used Baccarat layout and my father built a table for us to staple it on with the necessary padding so we could practice Baccarat in the garage.
I got a set of underground Baccarat lessons someone had typed and I thought I was home-free. We practiced and practiced till we were blue in the face but there was nothing like having real live table-game experience. So I thought about asking the Casino Manger, George Duckworth, if he would allow me to practice in the Dunes Baccarat on my own time without pay. I thought that the Dunes was one big happy family and this would be a simple matter then, but I look back on my thinking and I must have been ignorant not to realize that the entire world wanted a job in the Dunes Baccarat pit. What was I thinking? But if I had not taken the “ignorant blissful” action of asking permission to practice in the Baccarat, my life would have been entirely different.
As dealers, we were always conscious of the bosses and owners of the Dunes. They were really something special. The die that these unique individuals came from has long been discarded and I have never seen any other managers that could hold a candle to these remarkable gamblers. We observed them hanging out in the Crap pit, standing by the wooden pit podium discussing probably everything under the son. We knew when they were in a good mood and could guess when they were in a bad mood which would be no time to approach them for any request. One evening, I decided that I was capable enough to get on a Baccarat game and be able to call the hand and deal real paper currency. So I observed George Duckworth in a pretty good mood one evening and I decided this is the time to ask. I was shaking in my shoes, as I approached him. He had just finished talking to another associate and his back was turning away from me and I said, “Mr. Duckworth,” stuttering and stammering, “I have been practicing Baccarat and would like to ask permission to go over to the Baccarat pit on my on time and get some live dealing experience.”
I thought I would never get the sentence out of my mouth. I was almost frozen. He turned and said, “Ok, get yourself a couple of Tuxedos and you will start working in the Baccarat Thursday night. “
I said, “No, no I don’t really have the experience to deal the game……” He cut me off and said, “You will be starting Thursday night.” He then walked off. I was flabbergasted. In my head I repeated what I thought I just had heard. Oh my God. What had I gotten myself into?
Anyway it worked out and it was a great experience that has many stories. One of the least forgotten is the story about Ronnie Steinman, Cuco Jimenez and myself on the crew and a New York junket customer complained about being hustled by Ronnie. Hustling is a no-no unless it is done discretely and politely. Hustling is the act of prodding the customer into giving the dealers TOKES or TIPS. If it is done with good service rather than out and out asking for the money, it is acceptable, however when it puts the customer into a position of stress, or he is strong armed by a “deluxe” hustler, that is not allowed and grounds for termination.
The Baccarat table was full and the customers were all betting on the BANK side and winning. I was dealing on the left side and Ron Steinman was on my right, both of us dealing to six players with two outside players standing and making CALL bets. Ronnie was working on this Jewish man trying to get him to bet for the dealers. Ronnie would speak Yiddish to him saying something like this, “A bissel gelt for the Kindle-la”, meaning a little bet for the kids or dealers. He repeated this a few times and they player slammed his fist on the table, got up and went marching out toward the Dice pit where the Junket Master, Julie Weintraub was standing. I could see the story told by the customer as Big Julie Weintraub looked over his reading glasses towards us. I dropped my head and Ronnie remarked to me, “Oh shit, we are in big trouble now.”
Just as the customer was telling his story to Big Julie, who hated most of the dealers already from similar past complaints, the really big boss, Sid Wyman, and also one of the hotel owners, just walked up and heard the conversation. He yelled at the top of his lungs, “They did what?”. I remarked to Ronnie, “We are going to get fired over this one.”
We were still very busy dealing and sweat was pouring out of me. I look up and see the parade has started towards the Baccarat pit. Sid Wyman is fuming, Julie is fuming and the customer has a smirky look on his face. He is going to get some satisfaction. Wyman and company stand right in front of the Baccarat pit and start screaming at us.
“Who do you think you people are? You will never hustle anyone in the Dunes again. You will never work in the State of Nevada. Etc., etc., etc.” I was petrified. I looked up and Wyman caught my eye and said, “And you Geno, I told you before.” This incident jogged his memory about the time I got into hot water booking football parlay cards. He continued on the tirade for about five minutes, started to walk away and turned back and said, “And another thing. I warned all of you before. This is it.”
We thought this was it and knew we would be terminated. Our immediate floorman pit bosses would have nothing to do with us because they knew they were in trouble as well. When the shift ended we went to the time clock office and expected pink slips. There wasn’t one so we thought they didn’t have time to prepare the paperwork yet. So the next day I went to work expecting a termination slip. Nothing was given to me as I clocked in for the day. The floor men were like ice. They would not speak to us.
On my first break of the day I headed for the dealer’s lounge and the hallway passed the main elevator of the Dunes Hotel high rise. Just as I approach this intersection the elevator doors open and out walks Mr. Wyman. I had a bright reddish colored Baccarat blazer on and I looked like a target in a gun range. I could not avoid Mr. Wyman as he approached me. I put my head down but realized I must acknowledge him as he got closer. Before I could say anything, he loudly blurted out, “Morning son.”, and walked right past me. I never heard another word about the incident. And I learned my lesson.