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My trip to Vegas and The Strip

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A Rouvan opening night at the Dunes was always a perfect excuse for Stella and me to fly to Vegas. This time, however, we didn't make a show reservation. Arriving at the Dunes in plenty of time for the dinner show, we found to our dismay that the showroom was jammed, with a line waiting outside. Haughtily, knowing the power of the $25 green chip, we bucked the line and told the maitre d' we wanted our favorite table, the cozy small one just to the left of the stage. The man looked defeated and forlorn— he'd have to refuse the green chip this time—because two middle-aged ladies already were sitting there.

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If it had been my nine-to-five workaday money, or if I had suffered a bad run in the casino on the way in, I would never have dared do what I did. Drawing myself up to my full height of five-foot-eight, and well-juiced with a couple of stiff vodka-and-tonics on the flight in, I thrust a black $100 chip onto the maitre d's palm and dramatically pointed, "We-want-that-table!"

Suddenly the heavens opened and a chorus of angels blared their Golden Trumpets as Arnold Bruce Levy of Brooklyn, New York, played God at the Dunes. The maitre d' had a hurried conversation with the two women, and then escorted them to a table toward the rear of the showroom. Curiously, they were smiling as they left their table. We later found out that the maitre d' used his casino clout and was able to comp the ladies at their table way in the back.

It was, as usual, a spectacular Rouvan opening night, but later I realized what a rude and unsportsmanlike thing I did, which was, for anyone who knows me, totally uncharacteristic.

I ashamedly relate the above episode only to caution you not to ever commit as despicable an act as that. Do what I say, not what I did. Trust me, you'll never regret not doing it.

Sometimes the ham-handed approach doesn't work, anyway. A popular disc jockey in New York once announced over the radio a contest where one lucky listener would win a trip to Las Vegas and be a guest for the Frank Sinatra opening at the Sands. As I listened to his spiel, I decided then-and-there that my girl-friend-of-the-moment would also be a winner, courtesy of me. Arriving in Vegas, I discovered to my horror that the show was sold out. One black chip wouldn't get me anywhere, and definitely not to my "usual" ringside table. Fired up and desperate, I went over to the tables and won $400, which I took to the maitre d'. There were real tears in his eyes as he reluctantly pushed my hand away, explaining that Frank had reserved most of the room for 'The Boys."

Winning a bundle allows you to think like a winner. Three times in my life I missed the last express bus from Atlantic City to Manhattan, and each time I splurged and became The Last of the Big-Time Spenders, taking an Atlantic City taxicab all the way back to New York City, each time at the cost of two black chips. Once I actually did pay the cabby in Trump Plaza black chips.

I already had cashed in $10,000 in chips at the casino, the most you can convert to greenbacks in a twenty-four-hour period in a casino without the nuisance of filling out Internal Revenue Service forms. The remaining chips in my pocket I had planned to use on my next Atlantic City visit, so two of them became convenient cab fare for that night.

Sure, all through this book I've emphasized over and over again that, if you want to beat the dealer and come home with casino money, you shouldn't play big shot and show off for your girl friend. Once I went with my girl friend, a tabloid publisher friend and his wife, along with a mail-order letter-shop owner who had never been west of Hoboken, ALL on a flying weekend to Las Vegas. I postured, I pirouetted, I did wild things at the tables that I would never have done had I been alone.

I gave them a razzle-dazzle round-robin tour of both the Strip and the downtown casinos. I must admit that I felt like James Bond as I made daring bets, some of which, amazingly, paid off. It was just dumb luck that a $57 Keno bet won $605. My recollection is that I only played Keno there to show them all how the game was played. All in all, it was a fast-paced dazzling weekend which I'm sure my little flock will remember always. For me, it was an expensive guided tour, for I was a $3,800 loser. I never made that mistake again and I never will, but what the hell? I guess I got $3,800 worth of fun out of playing "Mr. Vegas" for a weekend.

If you gamble in Nevada and feel you are addicted, you should go to the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling.

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