Wednesday, March 02, 2011

What Really Happened to Casino and Poker Cheats in the Old "Mob Experience" Days?

Have you heard about the new "Mob Experience" tourist attraction at the Tropican Casino-Hotel in Las Vegas that's slated to open March 29th? If not, it's simply a Mafia gig where you pay $40 and walk through a door into the history of the Mafia and various mobsters who thrived in Las Vegas since gambling became legal there in 1931. You are accompanied by the voice of the celebrity actor you choose upon entry (James Caan, Tony Sirico and others who have portrayed gangsters in movies and TV) who guides you through the tour. You visit Mafia hangouts, sit-downs, Prohibition-era saloons, police stations and, of course, casinos, meeting infamous mobsters like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. Along the way you stumble onto a casino catwalk (the old-days' pre-video-camera surveillance system where ex-cheats hired by casinos peer through one-way mirrors at cheats in action on the tables) and witness a cheat getting caught switching cards on a blackjack table, who is then dragged away by a bunch of big goons carrying Louisville Slugger baseball bats and beaten up behind a door behind a silhouette image.

So, what really happened to those unlucky casino and poker cheats caught cheating in these old Vegas mobster days? Were they really beaten and sometimes taken out to the desert and "hit" (killed)? You bet, although the beatings were far more frequent than actual killings over cheating incidents. The mobsters running the casinos back then were more interested in teaching would-be cheats a lesson in deterrence by having them see the faces of their peers bandaged up and their legs broken.

All this rough stuff against cheats ended in the late '70s, luckily for me about the time I got started in the casino-cheating business. Although in the beginning of my casino-cheat career I was threatened with physical harm in casino backrooms (one security guy at the old Desert Inn telling me he was going to take me up to the roof and push me out onto the Strip), no one ever actually laid a glove on me.