I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

No Work and All Play - Book Review

No Work and All Play: Audacious Chronicles of a Casino Boss

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with gambling. I was reading any book I could find, mostly about backgammon and poker, but also general gambling books. There was a pit boss from Las Vegas named Mike Goodman who wrote a book in the 60s called How to Win, and another in the 70s called Your Best Bet. You can pick these up for a penny now if you like - Mike Goodman books. These books were filled with a lot of nonsense about how to gamble, and about gamblers who were "sharp" or "tough" because they knew to bet more when they got on a streak. But what I liked about the books were the stories form the pits in Las Vegas. Superstitious bosses, or players. People who did crazy things in the casinos. High rollers and dames. It just made Vegas sound like the coolest place in the world. Then in the 80s another pit boss, this one named Barney Vinson wrote a couple books called Las Vegas Behind the Tables 1 & 2. Again, the advice on how to play was mostly voodoo and nonsense, but he had some great stories about the characters you find in Las Vegas on both sides of the tables. Now you know what I was expecting when I picked up this book. Unfortunately the book should be titled Chronicles of a Hotel Boss and Corporate Suit.

Roger Wagner went to UNLV, and graduated in 1969. He started working at the Dunes as at the front desk of the hotel. He bounced back and forth between the Sands and the Dunes during the 70s, working his way up the corporate ladder, but always working on the hotel side of these organizations. I found this mildly interesting only because I have a soft spot in my heart for the Sands. I spent my honeymoon there, and spent a lot of time there counting cards when I first started playing blackjack. Anyway, we get a step by step of Roger working in Reno, and Laughlin, and then Atlantic City, (He worked for Trump which provided a few interesting stories) and ultimately COO of the Horseshoe casinos under Jack Binion.

Anyone who has ever had a job has had a supervisor, or boss who was a complete moron, and/or grossly incompetent. Not Roger. Everyone he worked for is a "role model" or a "mentor". The harshest thing he has to say is he doesn't care for Harrahs. His favorite quote, which he mentions several times in the book is, "The boss aint always right, but the boss is always the boss." You can see why he ended up at the top of the corporate ladder.

I will recommend the final section of this book to anyone who works in casino management. The difference in the way Jack Binion ran his casinos is something most casinos could learn from. When Caesar's was in negotiations to buy Horseshoe they asked how many Harvard MBAs Jack had in the organization. (Caesar's is apparently very high on Harvard MBAs.) Jack said there might be one or two, but he had 60 CPAs at Horseshoe Hammond alone. They asked why he would have so many accountants. He said, not accountants, Car Parking Attendants. You know, people who actually have value to the customers.

I have to relate one story from the book about Jack's father, Benny Binion. There are hundreds of stories about the late Benny Binion, but this is the only one in the book. Benny was running a craps game in a hotel room in Dallas. Benny had a lookout in the hallway, and the guy tells Benny that the game is pretty noisy, and people coming down the hallway might hear it and know what was going on. Benny sends the guy across the street to buy a radio so he can play music in the hall, and cover the sound of the game. The guy does, comes back, but the radio doesn't work. He takes it back across the street, and the guy has a sign, "No Returns." They argue, but the guy refuses to take the radio back. The guy goes back across the street, and tells Benny the store won't take the radio back. Benny grabs the radio, and heads back across the street. The store owner points at the sign, and tells him, "I told your flunky i have a policy, no returns." Benny winds up and throws the radio into the shelf of radios behind the counter. He then whips out his pistol and puts a bullet into 6 more radios, and yells at the owner, "And I also have a policy. Don't ever let anyone screw me. That's my policy. Period." He then grabbed a working radio, and stormed out.

Roger tells this story as, "The funniest story about Benny Binion." All I could think when I read it was, "Why was this sociopath allowed to roam the streets?" Sorry Roger, I guess we just have very different senses of humor.

No Work and All Play: Audacious Chronicles of a Casino Boss  I give it...

1 1/2  ACES

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