My family moved to Atlantic City in 1978. My mom opened Resorts and retired there with 30 + years of service as a cocktail waitress. Looking back I’m not sure if it was the parties, the softball games and golf outings the employee picnics at Lake Lenape, or the general sense of “Family” at Resorts at the time. But I have always been intrigued by the lifestyle and lore of the gaming industry and I wanted to be a part of it. Plus the fact that I didn’t have to go to college was a “no-brainer” for me. So as I asked around. The most popular piece of advice, it seemed, was simply “If you want to make it in this business, learn how to Deal Craps.” “You’ll never go hungry” So that day had finally arrived. I passed my audition. I made it. I’m officially a Craps Dealer, my dream job. Unfortunately, Day One didn’t turn out as “Glamorous” as I was expecting. In fact. It was, what turned out to be. The most terrifying and stressful day of my entire career even to this point some 40 years later.
Memorial Day, 1986, Tropicana, Atlantic City. I arrived at The Trop at 9:00 pm to begin a journey that has somehow lasted my entire adult life. I was scheduled for a 10 pm start. I was extremely nervous yet excited at the same time. As the clock inched closer to 10 pm. My nerves were escalating with every tick. Now I’m sweating and have made several stops to the men’s room with some stomach “discomfort” Finally 10 pm on the dot. I walked into the pit and I was greeted by the Pit Boss who seemed confused and a bit mad. He said, “Who are you?” I smiled and said. “I’m Russell. I’m a craps dealer. The Pit Boss replied. “Well if it was up to me.” “You’d be Fired Right Now.” ”You’re 10 minutes late and your bow tie is not clipped. ” Go take a break and tap in on this game.” He pointed to a $50 table with 10 players on each side. I was going to mention that today was my first day… But I figured I was already in enough trouble. So I head back to the men’s room. At this point, I’m severely questioning my “Career Choice.” I spend the next 20 minutes trying to convince myself that I can handle this. But as I’m about to find out 18 weeks of Craps School appeared to be a complete waste of time. So I head back to the craps pit on time with my bow tie clipped. “I got this”
Now back in the mid-’80, the craps pits were in their heyday. The Trop had 30 craps tables open and they were all packed. The joint was rocking. It took 20 minutes for my ears to adjust to the noise level. I tapped in on stick on the $50 game. Well, it didn’t take long for the Crew, Box, and Floor to realize I was a “break-in”, A boxman’s worst nightmare. Coupled with the Memorial Day crowd, didn’t help at all. The trouble started immediately when I was ambushed by what seemed like 20 prop bets from every angle. I struggled to get the dice out through a maze of cheques. I wasn’t sure if it was my nerves or the 4 gallons of coffee I just sucked down in the last hour. I accidentally sent out the dice on a 7. I took out the base dealers working stacks. My first call was inaudible. I didn’t even recognize my voice. Luckily my stomach was empty at this point or this quite easily could have been an even more memorable, Memorial Day.
Well, I made it through 20 minutes on the stick but I was then quickly removed from the table. As it turns out it would be a while before I was scheduled for a $50 game or get even close to one for a long while. I was sent to a $15 game and spent the next 7 hours listening to the Boxman for just about every roll. ”Down behind” “Take the Field” “Grab the Come bet” He was annoyed and I don’t blame him. But the thing I would remember most about the first day of my dream job was the Boxman’s very last comment. Which was: “YOU’RE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT!”
Now I don’t remember his name but I can still see his face. At the time I did not argue. What could I say? Looking back I have used that line and night as a little extra motivation for the past 35+ years. Now if the Box didn’t lay down that challenge. I may have just quit and given up on my “Dream Job” on the spot. Trust me I wouldn’t be the first dealer to quit after their first shift in the Craps Pit. There’s a good chance I would have gone to college or something and completely forgot about the casino business and in particular this unforgettable night. But I didn’t. I decided to come back the next night, on time and ready to take my lumps and pay my dues. The next year was not easy. But I didn’t expect it to be. 35+ years later. I’m glad I stayed.
As it turned out. The advice I received from my Mom and the old Resorts crew, was “Spot-On”. Many of which now, are household names, leaders and I would add pioneers within the world of casino gaming. Who also made a similar decision to stay and take their lumps and pay their dues. Ten years or so later after I “broke- in” on that $50 crap game on Memorial Day. I was named the first, Director of Surveillance of the largest casino floor in Las Vegas at the time. Since my days at the Trop. I’ve worked in 9 states and 14 properties. Opening 8 properties along the way. But nothing compares to HOME. Now, this business isn’t for everyone. But to the folks particularly from my Resort’s family who have dedicated decades of their lives to this business. You’re the “Heart and Soul” and have inspired thousands of wanna-be crap dealers and current leaders of this thing we do.
I just want to say, “Thank you!”
“Nobody does it better than you.” “Nobody”
“Comin’ Out” ” ”Highs, Lows, Craps, and Yo’s!”
“Make a bet!” “Dice are Out”
“Watch your Hands!”