I was sitting at the bottom of a shabby roulette table inside the dingy Silver Spur at the intersection of Main and Fremont in downtown Las Vegas.
When it first hit me that I had probably discovered the best cheating move in the history of casino gambling, one that appeared absolutely flawless, with minimal risk-even when getting caught red-handed-I experienced a feeling of euphoria that would have been complete had it not been for the sliver of doubt that naturally crept into my brain. During two decades of cheating the world's legally operating casinos at their own games, using a variety of sleight of-hand moves, some rank, others good, still others really good, that so-called dream move had eluded me until that hot August night in 1995,
I was sitting at the bottom of a shabby roulette table inside the dingy Silver Spur at the intersection of Main and Fremont in downtown Las Vegas. Diagonally across the worn, coffee-stained layout sat my partner in crime, Pat, who'd been working the casinos with me for the past sixteen months. We were both casual in jeans and cotton shirts. Also at the table was the usual downtown assortment of multiracial degenerates, some wagering with two-dollar-gets-you- three-dollar paper coupons that dripped beer-or God knows what else-others with the remnants of their social security checks, which by the looks of what they were wearing could have certainly been put to better use. The occasional tourist dropping a bet on that table didn't even hang around for a second spin when it won. If it wasn't the bowling-alley smell or clanging slot-machine noise that chased them out, it was the horrific click-clack cocktail-waitress call emanating from the device being squeezed in one of the oily-looking pit boss's hands. I would have been chased out of there myself, had it not been true that the Silver Spur was probably the only casino left in Vegas where I wouldn't run into anyone I knew or, better yet, run into someone who knew me.
Pat and I often went downtown to test new cheating moves be¬fore going for the real money on the Las Vegas Strip. The trick here was to place a red five-dollar chip atop a green twenty-five-dollar chip on the roulette layout in such a way that the dealer would not see the bottom chip's greenness and therefore assume both chips were red. Knowing that dealers in the bust-out joints downtown were required to announce green chips on the layout, we'd know right away if the little Korean girl named Sun saw the one I was trying to hide underneath the red. We hoped she didn't, but as I delicately placed the two round chips in the first of the three 2-to- I column boxes at the bottom of the layout, carefully measuring the angle and distance that I let the top red chip protrude off the green, I had serious doubts about the whole damned scheme. I even thought about saying good night to Pat so that I could rush home to catch a rerun of Law & Order.
But Sun never called out, "Green action on the layout," and I was absolutely sure she'd looked at my bet-at least three times. Seeing it from the back, the green chip stuck out like a sore thumb.
Pat and I shot each other surprised looks. I furrowed my brows at him as if to say, "Maybe she actually didn't see it." But I was thinking she had to see it, that perhaps she was just too lazy to call it out to the supervising floorman, or she had indeed called it out but had one of those ultra-soft Oriental voices that didn't carry well amid the din in the casino. As an ex-casino dealer myself, I knew a lot of dealers didn't give a shit and wouldn't bother straining their voices to alert superiors about the presence of a lousy green chip.
Sun spun the ball and we waited. If the bet lost, we'd place it again; if it won, we'd have our answer. Would she correctly pay me twice the $30 in chips sitting in the betting box, or mistakenly pay $20-2 to I for the two red chips we hoped she thought were there?