THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist

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THIEF! character, Vince Eli

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Slick's Las Vegas Then & Now: 14th in Series

Las Vegas Hold’em

It’s called Texas Hold’em, but it should be called Las Vegas Hold’em. If it wasn’t for Benny Binion and his eight friends, the world might never have known about the game. In the 1960s and ‘70s, seven card stud was the bread-and-butter game in Las Vegas poker rooms.

In 1972, Benny Binion brought eight of his card playing friends, a virtual who’s who of poker players, to Binion’s Horseshoe to play poker. The game of choice was Texas Hold’em. The friendly poker tournament evolved into the World Series of Poker, making the game internationally famous. It was a huge marketing success and anyone could enter if they coughed up the small $10,000 entry fee.

Here’s the whole story. For several years, the Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas, a “sawdust joint,” was the only casino in Las Vegas to offer the game. At that time, the Golden Nugget's poker room did not receive many rich drop-in clients because of its location and rustic decor. As a result, professional players sought a more prominent location. In 1969, the Las Vegas professionals were invited to play Texas Hold 'em at the now-demolished Dunes Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. This prominent location, and the relative inexperience of poker players with Texas Hold’em, resulted in the small group of pros making out like bandits.

After a disappointing attempt to establish a "Gambling Fraternity Convention", Tom Moore added the first ever poker tournament to the Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention held in 1969. This tournament featured several games including Texas Hold 'em. In 1970, Benny and Jack Binion acquired the rights to the Gambling Fraternity Convention, a moderately successful tournament. Binion renamed it the World Series of Poker, and moved it to Binion's Horseshoe Casino (pictured above around 1950) in downtown Las Vegas. After its first year, a journalist, Tom Thackrey, suggested that the main event of this tournament should be no-limit Texas Hold’em. The Binions agreed and ever since no-limit Texas Hold’em has been played as the main event. Interest in the Main Event continued to grow steadily over the next two decades.

Before hold’em hit Vegas, every poker room spread seven card stud—for a very good reason. Many casinos hired poker dealers based on how much money they could steal from the pot. Insiders called it a “snatch” game.

Some poker rooms such as Circus Circus were leased by anyone who could come up with the dough. As the gaming commission became stronger and responsibility for the poker rooms fell on the casinos, the game finally turned honest. Now leasing poker rooms was disallowed plus a 10% rake was deemed all the casino could extract from players for the privilege of playing. That was a far cry from the roughly 50% stolen from players previously.

During the first eight years of the World Series, it was always one of Binion’s friends who won: 1972 Amarillo Slim, 1973 Puggy Pearson, 1974 Johnny Moss, 1975 Sailor Roberts, 1976 Doyle Brunson, 1977 Doyle again and 1978 Bobby Baldwin. With the prize money and number of entrees growing, by 2003 there were 800 entrants.

It wasn’t long before hold’em replaced seven card stud in all poker rooms. It took a lot longer for the new game to catch in other states. Now it isn’t unusual for a player to ask a floorman, “How do you play seven card stud?” Unlike golf, a pro can be beaten by a savvy amateur. Popularity of poker surged after year 2000 due to exposure on TV, the Internet and word of mouth. Now if someone doesn’t know about Las Vegas or poker, they’ve probably been living under a rock.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Battle of the Las Vegas Mob Museums

Okay...We know about the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, aka The Mob Museum due to debut in Spring 2011. The forces spearheading the museum are the City of Las Vegas and the not-for-profit group 300 Stewart Avenue Corp. It's to be housed in a historic former federal court house and U.S. post office. (Pictured above.) To read more, check out these two sites: and

But that's not all. Antoinette Giancana, daughter of slain Outfit kingpin, Sam Giancana, plans to open her own mob exhibit in Sin City. It would would occupy a strip location still to be decided. Fully financed, Giancana is partnering with Jay Bloom and Charlie Sandefur.

There's one big difference in the two projects. Technically, the Giancana project will not be a permanent museum, but rather an exhibit with a definite end date. Perhaps the best comparison is stated here:

Whether it's a battle of mob factions or a complementary arrangement where both sides stand to benefit remains to be seen. I'm betting on the latter.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Slick's Las Vegas Then & Now: 13th in Series

The University of Las Vegas

Back in the early 1970s, I lived on Maryland and Elizabeth across from UNLV. Every Sunday at noon, the siren on top of the UNLV building would whine. I told my daughter Katherine it was a test in case of an attack or emergency. She asked me, “What would happen if we were attacked on Sunday at noon? I answered, “Then for sure the siren would go off.”

In that same building twenty-five years later, Katherine (who had already practiced law in other states) passed the Nevada bar exam in order to practice in Las Vegas where she lives. As Sal Gogino, president of the state bar association, addressed the audience at Katherine’s graduation, I thought about the little girl who grew up across the street from UNLV. “…There are two kinds of lawyers,” he said, reciting an old attorney’s joke. “Those who know the law and those who know the judge.” Hearing that, I laughed to myself thinking how Katherine would do everything strictly by the book, unlike her old man.

Today, UNLV has come a long way from the high school dressing rooms that once served as classrooms. Thanks to the dedication of faculty, staff, students, generous donors, and Las Vegas residents over the past half century, the university has much to celebrate:

· At its 44th commencement in May 2007, the university had a record number of graduates, over 2,700.

· The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching placed UNLV in the prestigious category of Research Universities with High Research Activity.

· Students compete in 20 intramural sports and 16 sports at the NCAA Division I intercollegiate level.

· The 350-acre campus includes branches specializing in biotechnology, dental medicines, and research and technology. In addition, UNLV recently established its first international campus in Singapore.

· The UNLV International Gaming Institute offers degrees in gaming and hospitality management.

My granddaughter also graduated UNLV in May 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She’s now a third grade teacher at Robert E. Lake Elementary. And look at me…a guy who was kicked out of third grade.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Crime & Corruption in Las Vegas

The following story was posted on the UK website Casino Online. Steve Miller is a respected journalist whose column appears in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

(Pictured at right: Rick Rizzolo with his arm around California sheriff, Carona.)

Steve Miller Interview: Crime and Corruption in Present day Las Vegas

John L. Smith, a columnist at the Las Vegas Review Journal, once described Rick Rizzolo, the former owner of Las Vegas strip club the Crazy Horse Too, as an “affable wiseguy, high-rolling gambler, and former soft touch for politicians.” The one-time strip club owner has been described as a friend of Las Vegas’ current mayor, Oscar Goodman, as well as other authorities in Sin City. Steve Miller, a prolific journalist and well known figure in Las Vegas began investigating Rizzolo in 1999, when the strip club owner managed to obtain approval for the expansion for his business, even when he’d already implemented the changes and opened to the public. Casino Online spoke to the journalist about crime, corruption and celebrity status in Sin City.

Miller first began investigating Rizzolo when the trip club owner opened a new, extended bar “without a building permit; addition parking spaces; traffic plan; or certificate of occupancy from the fire department.” To still be legally allowed to open any sort of public entertainment venue without any of these requirements would usually be impossible and Miller became interested about just how Rizzolo had obtained the permission of officials such as former Las Vegas Councilman Michael McDonald. For the past eleven years, Miller has documented the exploits of Rizzolo and his council cohorts (McDonald wasn’t re-elected in 2003 and it has since been discovered he was receiving kickbacks of $5,000 a month fro Rizzolo) and has collected his finding on, Rizzolo attempted to sue Miller for libel, but undaunted, Miller knew that the truth would prevail. However, as he told us, Rizzolo hasn’t left him alone: Over the past few years, the journalist has “received several written death threats and shared them with the police and FBI.”

Miller soon found that Rizzolo’s influence and danger to Las Vegas citizens extended far beyond his ability to wine and dine councilmen though. In October 2001, Kirk Henry had his neck broken by a bouncer at Rizzolo’s strip club, over an $80 bar tab. Henry, who has been paralysed since the attack, sued Rizzolo for attempted murder. Rizzolo denied that Henry had suffered a beating from one of his employees, suggesting in a letter to the Las Vegas Tribune that Henry merely “tripped.” Five years later, the Las Vegas Attorney’s Office revoked Rizzolo’s liquor license and, as part of a plea deal, Rizzolo and his employees “admitted to tax fraud, conspiracy to participate in racketeering and seeking to extort payment from club patrons.” The Las Vegas City Council also issued Rizzolo with a $2.192 million fine and, as part of his plea agreement, Rizzolo vowed to pay the Henrys $10 in compensation. In 2007, Rizzolo was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, but since being released, the Henrys have received just $1 million from Rizzolo’s insurance company (not from Rizzolo personally) and are still waiting on the remaining millions owed to them. When asked why Rizzolo has managed to avoid paying the couple what he owes them (some would argue he owes them a lot, lot more) Miller suggested that he has “long believed Rizzolo has bought protection over the years and that Mr. Henry’s case is being stalled by those subservient to Rizzolo until Henry either dies or settles for pennies on the dollar.”

Critics have suggested that Rizzolo’s connections have meant that the former club owner has managed to steer clear of major punishment. When you consider that Mayor Oscar Goodman used to be employed as his legal representative, it could be suggested that Rizzolo’s influence is far-reaching. Miller alleges that Goodman still has link to Rizzolo, suggesting that “Goodman, through his son’s and business partner’s law firms, is still representing mob figures including Rizzolo.” It may seem odd that voters would elect a man who’s been heavily involved with mob figures such as Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and Frank Cullotta, as well as Rizzolo, but Miller believes Las Vegas residents just aren’t taking their politics seriously. Miller proposes that Vegas citizens “often vote for those with the highest name recognition like Goodman.” Miller, clearly jaded by the dirty politics of his city, suggests he has witnessed “time and again the stupidity of the average Las Vegas voter with who they continue to elect to public office, then treat the politician like a rock star afterwards, no matter how crooked the elected official may become.” It should be made clear that while Miller has his doubts about Goodman, the mayor has been credited with regenerating the city and has been described by Ed Koch, a journalist at The Las Vegas Sun, as a “stickler for parliamentary procedure.”

When asked about Mayor Oscar Goodman’s plans to open the “Mob Museum,” a forthcoming attraction in Las Vegas which will document “organized crime and Law enforcement as each confronted the other,” it’s obvious that Miller sees the exhibition as merely a vanity project for the mayor. The journalist proposes that he’s ashamed “of having to live in a town (Miller makes it clear that Las Vegas hasn’t matured enough to be called a city) that would take public funds to glamorize the former (and current) clients of a mob lawyer-turned-mayor. The Mob Museum will do nothing to attract new, clean, high tech industry to Las Vegas, and will serve to further embarrass local residents who have long tried to show a better face for our town.”

While those of us outside of Las Vegas may see the mob as part of the city’s dark past, for Miller and others campaigning to clean up corruption, it’s still a daily part of their lives. Perhaps what’s most disturbing is Miller’s admission that casinos in Las Vegas now “mainly serve as drug money laundries for the mob” and “condone the use of massage parlors and escort services because such enterprises discourage gamblers from leaving the tables for more than an hour or so.” While the term, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” may seem to most of us a reference to losses in a casino and perhaps over-indulgence when it comes to alcoholic refreshments, for Miller, the phrase hold much darker connotations.

Casino Online wishes to thank Steve Miller for participating the interview. For more details on Rick Rizzolo and Steve Miller, Please visit

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Are You Addicted to Gambling?

Next month Mob Speak interviews Martha Frankel, an award-winning celebrity journalist, who nearly lost job, friends and family when she became tangled in the web of online poker.

The idea of problem gambling got me thinking. I decided to do a bit of research about this complicated addiction that even has its own scientific term: ludomania.

I found answers at



What is compulsive gambling?

The explanation that seems most acceptable to Gamblers Anonymous members is that compulsive gambling is an illness, progressive in its nature, which can never be cured, but can be arrested.
Before coming to Gamblers Anonymous, many compulsive gamblers thought of themselves as morally weak, or at times just plain 'no good'. The Gamblers Anonymous concept is that compulsive gamblers are really very sick people who can recover if they will follow to the best of their ability a simple program that has proved successful for thousands of other men and women with a gambling or compulsive gambling problem.

What is the first thing a compulsive gambler ought to do in order to stop gambling?

The compulsive gambler needs to be willing to accept the fact that he or she is in the grip of a progressive illness and has a desire to get well. Our experience has shown that the Gamblers Anonymous program will always work for any person who has a desire to stop gambling. However, it will never work for the person who will not face squarely the facts about this illness.

How can you tell whether you are a compulsive gambler?

Only you can make that decision. Most people turn to Gamblers Anonymous when they become willing to admit that gambling has them licked. Also in Gamblers Anonymous, a compulsive gambler is described as a person whose gambling has caused growing and continuing problems in any department of his or her life.
Many Gamblers Anonymous members went through terrifying experiences before they were ready to accept help. Others were faced with a slow, subtle deterioration which finally brought them to the point of admitting defeat.

Can a compulsive gambler ever gamble normally again?

No. The first bet to a problem gambler is like the first small drink to an alcoholic. Sooner or later he or she falls back into the same old destructive pattern.
Once a person has crossed the invisible line into irresponsible uncontrolled gambling he or she never seems to regain control. After abstaining a few months some of our members have tried some small bet experimentation, always with disastrous results. The old obsession inevitably returned.
Our Gamblers Anonymous experience seems to point to these alternatives:  to gamble, risking progressive deterioration or not to gamble, and develop a better way of life.

Why can't a compulsive gambler simply use will power to stop gambling?

We believe that most people, if they are honest, will recognize their lack of power to solve certain problems. When it comes to gambling, we have known many problem gamblers who could abstain for long stretches, but caught off guard and under the right set of circumstances, they started gambling without thought of the consequences. The defenses they relied upon, through will power alone, gave way before some trivial reason for placing a bet. We have found that will power and self-knowledge will not help in those mental blank spots, but adherence to spiritual principles seem to solve our problems. Most of us feel that a belief in a Power greater than ourselves is necessary in order for us to sustain a desire to refrain from gambling.

Do Gamblers Anonymous members go into gambling places to help former members who are still gambling?

No. Families and friends of these people have asked us to intercede but we have never been able to be of any real help. Actually, sometimes we felt we retarded a member's eventual recovery by giving them this unsolicited attention. It all goes back to the basic principle that a gambler ought to want help before he or she is approached by us.

I only go on gambling binges periodically. Do I need Gamblers Anonymous?

Yes. Compulsive gamblers who have joined Gamblers Anonymous tell us that, though their gambling binges were periodic, the intervals between were not periods of constructive thinking. Symptomatic of these periods were nervousness, irritability, frustration, indecision and a continued breakdown in personal relationships. These same people have often found the Gamblers Anonymous program the answer to the elimination of character defects and a guide to moral progress in their lives.
GAMBLING , for the compulsive gambler is defined as follows : Any betting or wagering, for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or 'skill' constitutes gambling.

If I join Gamblers Anonymous won't everyone know I am a compulsive gambler?

Most people made quite a name for themselves as full-fledged gamblers by the time they turned to Gamblers Anonymous. Their gambling was not usually a well kept secret. It would then be unusual if the good news of their abstinence from gambling did not cause comment. However, no disclosure of any affiliation with Gamblers Anonymous can rightfully be made by anyone but the member themselves. Even then, it should be done in such a way that will work no hardship on the Gamblers Anonymous fellowship.

If I stop gambling won't it make it difficult for me to keep some desirable business and social contacts?

We think not. Most of the world's work of any consequence is done without the benefit of monetary wagering. Many of our leaders in business, industry and professional life have attained great success without knowing one card from another or which way the horses run around the track. In the area of social relationships, the newcomer will soon find a keen appreciation of the many pleasant and stimulating activities available - far removed from anything that is remotely associated from gambling.

How does someone stop gambling through the Gamblers Anonymous program?

One does this through bringing about a progressive character change within oneself. This can be accomplished by having faith in -- and following -- the basic concepts of the Gamblers Anonymous Recovery Program.
There are no short cuts in gaining this faith and understanding. To recover from one of the most baffling, insidious, compulsive addictions will require diligent effort. HONESTY, OPENMINDEDNESS, AND WILLINGNESS are the key words in our recovery.

Can a person recover by himself/herself by reading Gamblers Anonymous literature or medical books on the problem of compulsive gambling?

Sometimes, but not usually. The Gamblers Anonymous program works best for the individual when it is recognized and accepted as a program involving other people. Working with other compulsive gamblers in a Gamblers Anonymous group the individual seems to find the necessary understanding and support. They are able to talk of their past experiences and present problems in an area where they are comfortable and accepted. Instead of feeling alone and misunderstood, they feel needed and accepted.

Does Gamblers Anonymous look upon compulsive gambling as a vice?


Is knowing why we gambled important?

Perhaps, however insofar as stopping gambling, many Gamblers Anonymous members have abstained from gambling without the knowledge of why they gambled.

What are some characteristics of a person who is a compulsive gambler?

  1. INABILITY AND UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT REALITY. Hence the escape into the dream world of gambling.
  2. EMOTIONAL INSECURITY. A compulsive gambler finds he or she is emotionally comfortable only when "in action". It is not uncommon to hear a Gamblers Anonymous member say: "The only place I really felt like I belonged was sitting at the poker table. There I felt secure and comfortable. No great demands were made upon me. I knew I was destroying myself, yet at the same time, I had a certain sense of security."
  3. IMMATURITY. A desire to have all the good things in life without any great effort on their part seems to be the common character pattern of problem gamblers. Many Gamblers Anonymous members accept the fact that they were unwilling to grow up. Subconsciously they felt they could avoid mature responsibility by wagering on the spin of a wheel or the turn of a card, and so the struggle to escape responsibility finally became a subconscious obsession.

Also, a compulsive gambler seems to have a strong inner urge to be a 'big shot' and needs to have a feeling of being all powerful. The compulsive gambler is willing to do anything (often of an antisocial nature) to maintain the image he or she wants others to see.

Then too, there is a theory that compulsive gamblers subconsciously want to lose to punish themselves. There is much evidence to support this theory.

What is the dream world of the compulsive gambler?

This is another common characteristic of compulsive gamblers. A lot of time is spent creating images of the great and wonderful things they are going to do as soon as they make the big win. They often see themselves as quite philanthropic and charming people. They may dream of providing families and friends with new cars, mink coats, and other luxuries. Compulsive gamblers picture themselves leading a pleasant gracious life, made possible by the huge sums of money they will accrue from their 'system'. Servants, penthouses, nice clothes, charming friends, yachts, and world tours are a few of the wonderful things that are just around the corner after a big win is finally made.

Pathetically, however, there never seems to be a big enough winning to make even the smallest dream come true. When compulsive gamblers succeed, they gamble to dream still greater dreams. When failing, they gamble in reckless desperation and the depths of their misery are fathomless as their dream world comes crashing down. Sadly, they will struggle back, dream more dreams, and of course suffer more misery. No one can convince them that their great schemes will not someday come true. They believe they will, for without this dream world, life for them would not be tolerable.

Isn't compulsive gambling basically a financial problem?

No, compulsive gambling is an emotional problem. A person in the grip of this illness creates mountains of apparently insolvable problems. Of course, financial problems are created, but they also find themselves facing marital, employment, or legal problems. Compulsive gamblers find friends have been lost and relatives have rejected them. Of the many serious difficulties created, the financial problems seem the easiest to solve. When a compulsive gambler enters Gamblers Anonymous and quits gambling, income is usually increased and there is no longer the financial drain that was caused by gambling, and very shortly, the financial pressures begin to be relieved. Gamblers Anonymous members have found that the best road to financial recovery is through hard work and repayment of our debts. Bankruptcy, borrowing and/or lending of money (bailouts) in Gamblers Anonymous is detrimental to our recovery and should not take place.

The most difficult and time consuming problem with which they will be faced is that of bringing about a character change within themselves. Most Gamblers Anonymous members look upon this as their greatest challenge, which should be worked on immediately and continued throughout their lives.

Who can join Gamblers Anonymous?

Anyone who has a desire to stop gambling. There are no other rules or regulations concerning Gamblers Anonymous membership.

How much does it cost to join Gamblers Anonymous?

There are no assessments in connection with Gamblers Anonymous membership. The newcomer signs nothing and pledges nothing. However, we do have expenses relative to our group meeting and our Gamblers Anonymous service facilities. Since Gamblers Anonymous has traditionally been fully self supporting and declines outside contribution, these expenses are met through voluntary financial support by the members. Experience has shown that acceptance of these financial responsibilities is a vital part of our individual and group growth process.

Why are Gamblers Anonymous members anonymous?

Anonymity has great practical value in maintaining unity within our fellowship. Through its practice at the level of press, radio, films and television we have eliminated the possibility of fame and recognition being given to the individual member; hence, we have not been faced with any great internal struggles for power and prestige which would prove highly detrimental to our essential unity.

Anonymity also has great value in attracting new members who initially might feel there is a stigma attached to the problem. Therefore, we guarantee the newcomer as much anonymity as they choose.

More importantly, we are beginning to realize that anonymity has tremendous spiritual significance. It represents a powerful reminder that we need always place principles above personalities.

Our survival as individuals demands that we renounce personal gratification . . . so our Gamblers Anonymous movement not only advocates but tries to practice true humility and it is through greater humility that we will be able to live in peace and security for all the years to come.

Is Gamblers Anonymous a religious society?

No. Gamblers Anonymous is composed of people from many religious faiths along with agnostics and atheists. Since membership in Gamblers Anonymous requires no particular religious belief as a condition of membership, it cannot be described as a religious society. The Gamblers Anonymous recovery program is based on acceptance of certain spiritual values but the member is free to interpret these principles as he chooses.

For further information, E-mail

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Slick's Las Vegas Then & Now: 12th in Series

A Black & White Casino

The Moulin Rouge (Red Mill) hotel and casino, named after a famous Parisian nightclub that featured cancan dancers, was located in West Las Vegas. It opened on May 24, 1955, built at a cost of $3.5 million. It’s listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places as the first desegregated hotel and casino.

During the 1950s and 1960s Las Vegas was totally segregated. Even famous black entertainers were refused entry into the Strip’s hotels and casinos. Black actress, Dorothy Dandridge, defied the rules and dipped a toe in the hotel pool where she was performing. Within a short time the pool was drained.

Investors Will Max Schwartz, Louis Rubin and Alexander Bisno teamed up with black boxing great, Joe Louis, to build the history-making casino at 900 West Bonanza Road. The Moulin Rouge’s strategic location on the West side of Las Vegas, near where the black population was forced to live, made it a unique draw to liberals and those who just wanted great entertainment no matter what color the performer was. By the way, the unique Moulin Rouge sign was created by Betty Willis who also created the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.

Today it’s hard to believe that at one time Las Vegas wouldn’t allow blacks in establishments unless they were working. But black and whites alike became so fed up with the shabby treatment that the Moulin Rouge became an instant success, thereby ruffling the feathers of other casino owners.

A month after its opening, Life Magazine featured the Moulin Rouge on the front page. A veritable "A" list of performers regularly showed up to party until dawn. Great black singers and musicians such as Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Pearl Bailey, and Louis Armstrong would perform often. As I said, these artists were banned from staying or even gambling at the Strip hotels and casinos. In addition, white performers, including George Burns, Jack Benny, and Frank Sinatra, would routinely drop in after their shows to gamble and perform at the Moulin Rouge. Eventually management added a 2:30 a.m. "Third Show" to accommodate the crowds.

Unfortunately, the Moulin Rouge closed November 24, 1955. Its short life helped the Civil Rights movement in Las Vegas by making Sarann Knight-Preddy, onetime owner of the Moulin Rouge, the first black woman to hold a Nevada gaming license.

The list of white entertainers who fought for black rights in Las Vegas is stacked with important names. Frank Sinatra and Marlene Dietrich were two of many who refused to perform on the Strip unless black performers had the same privileges as whites. True to his word, Sinatra threatened to take The Rat Pack out of the Sands unless Carl Cohen allowed Sammy Davis, Jr. the same rights as whites. Sinatra got his way. Efforts such as these finally brought an end to segregation in Las Vegas.

There were plans to reopen the Moulin Rouge but after three fires in four years, in 2009 it shut its doors for good. All that remains is an empty lot and the Moulin Rouge sign designed by Betty Willis.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Slick's Las Vegas Then & Now: 11th in Series

Keno and Slots
It seems the Chinese invented the game Keno around 200 BC. Keno is said to have financed building the Great Wall of China.

Like slots, Keno is a no-brainer. You buy a ticket and trust your luck. Don’t expect great odds because the house has expenses.

All the Las Vegas people I know play the same three numbers every day. Some play because they only risk one dollar per day, others because they like to dunk their Keno ticket in their coffee. (Go figure!?) Some are trying to make out with the cute Keno runner. Then there were people like Red Foxx who used to play 1 to 3 seven card poker with the Keno runner who brought hundreds of dollars in Keno tickets to him.

Foxx never hit it big at Keno, but one man did. A Mr. Harris won $100,000 in new Jersey on a Keno game. But officials found out he used a computer program to win and made him give the money back.

While playing Keno with my Chinese girlfriend one day she asked me, “Where do they get the numbers?”

I said, “Over there…the guy with the ping pong balls.”

She thought I was saying he had VD.

In the old days, casinos were a lot quieter because a few slot machines were added just to entertain the wives while their husbands played the table games. Eventually, slots became more and more popular. Now slots are the biggest money-maker in a casino and take up most of the casino’s floor space. They even have VIP slots at $25 a pull or more. But gone are the days when you heard coins hitting the hollow slot trays on a payout. Most casinos have done away with coins altogether, which have been replaced by slips of paper redeemable at the cashier.

When I was shift manager working on the grave yard shift, I watched full buckets of coins taken out of those machines, when some lucky person hit, and replaced with empty buckets. Every night it was a repeat. A lot of things have changed since then, but the house’s percentage is the same today as it always was. I’ll put it this way…if a casino claims it pays out up to 98%, it can mean there’s only one machine paying that percentage. Good luck trying to find it.