She was spoiled, bratty, sultry, dripping in jewels, sculpted into her designer gown, and glaring at me from the other end of the craps table.
"Tip the dealer!" she yells at me for the fortieth time. "If we're going to win, everybody has to tip the dealer."
I hate it that she's so beautiful. Beautiful and obnoxious. I stare at her and shake my head slowly. I've already rolled a dozen times and I'm not going to break the pattern. As soon as I toss a tip to the dealer, I know I'll seven-out and the other ten players will blame me for giving in.
"You! The tall one! Tip the dealer!" She's screeching now, and way past drunk. "I've lost 1200 dollars tonight, but how much of that do you think the dealers get?"
The Pratt family of Dallas is going Ultra-Glam with their glitzy new Hollywood Casino in what used to be the redneck gambling market of Shreveport/Bossier City. I look at the stickman. He hunches his shoulders and grins out of the side of his mouth and pushes the dice back to me.
When you roll dice in Louisiana, you have to be superstitious. I don't care if you're a nuclear physicist who's dedicated his life to rationalism, as soon as you get close to a Louisiana dice table, you're going to be praying, stacking your chips in bizarre ways, repeating mantras, and switching the cubes around until you find the two that feel perfect in your palm. Already the boxman has chastised a guy in a burr haircut for throwing little "practice rolls" against the side of the table.
"If I can't do that I'm leaving," he says. The boxman is silent. Burr Haircut wins.
Until Miss Neiman-Marcus showed up, the table was all male and starting to become a well-oiled unit. The nattily-dressed black guy to my left is a good friend now, even though we haven't exchanged more than a dozen words. His style is to cock a straw hat on the back of his head and go through a whole Satchel Paige windup and delivery, twisting his body into a knot and then expanding outward as the dice sail in a soft high arc, bouncing exactly one time before they hit the rail. There are three of us at my end of the table who have been betting heavily on this guy every time he gets the dice, and he hasn't disappointed us. But now he's sweating and nervous and he curses at a man who's throwing down a late horn bet just as I roll. The dice hit the man's hand and come up double fours, and there's an anxious moment as we all look at the boxman.
"Eight the hard way!"
Thank God he's allowed the roll. The dealers are paying off, swiftly stacking the six-to-fives on the eight, but Satchel Paige is worried about the delicate nature of things. He turns to the late better and says "Get the bet down, man, get the bet down!"
"Tip the dealer! Everybody has to tip the dealer!"
Satchel Paige says to me, "Sooner or later you're gonna have to tip that damn dealer to shut her up."
But I'm determined to turn her wailing to my advantage, regarding it as an exotic bird-call that blesses the dice. She must have wandered over from Tony Bennett's late show at the Shreveport City Center across the street. It's a high-roller weekend at the Hollywood Casino, with Barry Switzer bobbing around in the lobby and no seats available at the hundred-dollar blackjack tables. This craps layout is only a $5 table, but the casino is offering a hundred times odds tonight, trying to compete for the local whales who would normally be at the Horseshoe across the Red River in Bossier City. The papers have been playing up the "Battle of the Jacks"—Jack Pratt, the owner of the Hollywood, and Jack Binion, owner of the Horseshoe—who are both offering to take any bet, no matter how large.
I haven't seen anyone actually bet 100 times odds yet—that would be $5000 on a $5 pass-line bet after the point—but the guys around me are routinely loading the table with a hundred bucks per roll, and so many chips are flying toward the prop bet boxes that it's just a jumble of color by the time the dice hit the felt. Louisiana is dice country. There hasn't been dice action like this since Vegas in the fifties. The cowboys from East Texas love the game, and so do the blacks from the Delta who grew up playing illegal back-alley craps. There's so much action that I should be tipping the dealers—they're working hard enough—but now it's become a battle of wills.
"Make him tip the dealer!" she yells at the tousled guys to my right. They keep their heads down and ignore her. She's failing to pick up her winnings and doubling down on every bet, but you can't tell whether she's an aggressive player or just doesn't notice when she wins.
I have three numbers working with four times odds on all three. I roll four more times before finally crapping out. I notice that on the last roll she forgets to order me to tip the dealer.
I count my chips. We've all taken quite a bit of Jack Pratt's money.
"See! You didn't tip the dealer! That's why we lost!"
I toss a tip to the dealer and head for the lounge, where Antonia Bennett, daughter of Tony, is doing a late show. But first I turn and look back at her. Everyone else is looking at her, too, to see how she'll react now that I've finally tipped the dealer.
But she missed the whole thing. She's whining to the waiter that someone stole her drink. I'm already ancient history.
HOLLYWOOD CASINO Riverfront, downtown Shreveport LA Theme: Art Deco Hollywood in the thirties
Total Investment: $260 million
Known For: World's largest chandelier in the lobby (seven tons, 41 feet long, 25 feet wide)
Marketing niche: Dallas high rollers, East Texas oilmen, upscale locals
Gambler's Intensity: High
Cocktail speed: Medium
Bosses: No-nonsense bouncer types
Surrounding area: Next door to Harrah's in the soon-to-be-revitalized downtown which, thanks to casino money, is being remodeled by the same architect who did Beale Street in Memphis.
The other three casinos in this riverboat market are across the river in blue-collar Bossier City.
Overall rating: 95
Joe Bob's bankroll: Up $260 after an hour of craps and an hour of blackjack: total to date: -$176