Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Las Vegas Riviera Hotel-Casino set for Implosion--Sad Day for Me.

Sad to see you go
After a long and colorful history, mostly painted by its various Mafia affiliations and ownership, the Riviera (called "the Riv" by its loyal patrons over the years and the inspiration of the Scorcese film "Casino"), will meet its final fate with the big wrecking ball today. Implosions are always treated with fanfare in Las Vegas, almost like a mini-July 4th, but for me it will be a sad day on a personal note.


Because my personal journey through casinos and cheating them all began at the Riv when I was not even legally old enough to gamble. Those of you who read my memoir "American Roulette" might recall my story.

In the summer of 1976, I drove my convertible Mustang out to Vegas and parked it at the Riv. I took the twenty grand I had in the trunk along with my overnight bag and checked in. Then I ensconced myself at the baccarat table and ran that twenty grand into a hundred!

The Riv comped me into a luscious suite, threw all the champagne and ladies at me I wanted, and made my life a temporary paradise.

A VERY temporary paradise.

On the night of my twenty-first birthday, the first day that I was legally permitted to gamble, I lost it all. The hundred grand I had burning holes in my pockets turned into one single $1 chip, which I tossed to the cocktail waitress as I stumbled out of the baccarat pit in a shocked daze.

I had no one to call and nowhere to go except my suite at the Riv. But when I put the key into the door lock, I realized I was pinned out. Back in those days you used actual keys and not computerized plastic cards to get into hotel rooms. Thye'd actually hammered a pin into the lock so I couldn't get in.

It hadn't taken the Riv long to realize that I was a deadbeat.

I ended up sleeping with the winos under an overpass in 115 degree heat. I finally got a job dealing baccarat at the Four Queens downtown and the rest is history.

One final note: I did get the Riv back for their harsh treatment of me. After joining up with Hall of Fame casino cheat Joe Classon and his gang, I had the pleasure of performing various pastposting cheat moves at the Riv.

My favorite memory of attacking the Riv was of an old, grumpy pit boss whom we obviously called "Grumpy." Each time I did the classic "ten-oh-five" blackjack move and the dealer informed Grumpy that he didn't see the purple $500 chips we'd switched in, Grumpy would throw his writing pad on the table in disgust and grunt, "What the hell's the matter with ya? Can't you see there are two $500 chips under there?"

Then he would yell at the dealer to pay me correctly.

This went on for a decade and Grumpy paid me the pastposted thousand bucks at least twenty times!