As we turned north on Las Vegas Boulevard, and drove away from Circus Circus we passed the Sahara Hotel. I was with my buddy, Mel.
On the Drive
He’s the raconteur I like to call the “Vegas Ghost” because he has haunted virtually all of the major LV hotel-casinos as an executive over the past four decades. His knowledge of the business, and his stories from “inside the Pit” gives a juxtaposed perspective to my own profit-driven Precision-Shooting.
I asked Mel if he had eaten at the recently restored-to-original ‘60’s icon, House of Lords steakhouse at the Sahara. He replied that he hadn’t yet, but was planning to bring the fourth “Mrs. Vegas Ghost” for dinner there in the near future.
What the Rat-Pack Ate
I asked him what the Rat Pack (Frank, Dean, and Sammy, et al) would typically have for breakfast. He made a silent chuckle as he asked, “Well, it all depends how you define “breakfast”. You gotta remember that these guys weren’t really “morning people”. They’d only be up and about around 4 or 5 in the afternoon.”
“Dean Martins first few hours of the day were always fueled strictly on coffee, smokes and maybe four or five stiff drinks, oh and a couple of broads, but most of them weren’t in the “edible” category if you know what I mean. He hardly ever ate anything before a show, maybe just a smoked meat sandwich, or a meatball hoagie or something like that.”
“Frank Sinatra liked steak and eggs for breakfast, but that would be around 6:30 pm or fairly close to his first 8 o’clock show of the night. I’ll tell you, he could live on steak and eggs for three meals a day, and still be perfectly happy. His big meal of the day was late, late like four in the morning.”
“They were all like that most of the time. You have to remember that their circadian-clocks were reversed. So between shows they’d have a nice Italian meal, ya know, steak or seafood and pasta around 10:30, and of course there would be quite a lot of booze and they’d invite various girls to join them. By the time they’d go on for their midnight show, they all had a full-snoot of everything, so they’d be totally loose, but yet they were able to keep it all together and not fall into the orchestra-pit seating, or trip over the foot-lights, or anything like that.
Of course, they sometimes had to do a 4 am. show, but Frank hated those the worst. Wayne Newton, and Sammy and Liza would do them without complaint, and so would Tom Jones and all the top comics of the day, but I would say that for the last ten years of Franks career, he only did maybe a dozen or so 4-in-the-morning shows. Obviously, that was the old days.
Now you have guys and gals, like Celine Dion, doing one 8 o’clock show for four or five nights a week and getting $150-million dollar, multi-year contracts. Hell, most off-Strip lounges don’t even have a band on stage past 4 am. anymore, let alone a superstar. Vegas has become less hedonistic and more civilized, in a complete reversal from the old days, and the rest of society has become more hedonistic and less civilized. Go figure, huh!”
As he waxed poetic about the extinction of the Mob-run casino empires and the rise of corporate-run realms, I steered Mel back onto the “what-did-they-eat-for-breakfast” question.
“Sammy Davis would typically have scrambled eggs and a smoked salmon platter. Funny though, Sammy was a heavy smoker and he’d have one burning throughout his entire meal. Even Frank who was a heavy smoker, would joke with Sammy that the salmon was already smoked, and didn’t need any more added to it.”
Mel’s fond recollections had made the drive to our next target on the Mini-Tub Tour pass by quickly. We soon arrived at:
(Editors Note: The mini table at Wildfire as been moved to the Fiesta Henderson since this article was written)
As you can see in the photo, Wildfire is just up the street from the Texas Station Hotel-Casino in the northwest area of Las Vegas known as the Rancho Strip. On Rancho Drive you will find Wildfire, and Texas Station, as well as Sante Fe Station, Fiesta-Rancho, and a little further south, the Palace Station.
Each one of those gaming-houses are in the Station Casinos stable of ownership, however your Boarding Pass players-card isn’t valid at either the Wildfire or Fiesta-Rancho just yet. For an up-to-date list of where various Players Cards and Lines-of-Credit are interchangeable, you can take a look at my Casino Credit Update - Part III article.
Wildfire opened in late 2001 at the former Ernie’s Casino, (the first casino ever built on Rancho Drive way back in 1958).
It’s only 20,000 square-feet in size, so you can’t expect any sort of mega-resort “oooh and awe” opulence factor. To put that size into perspective, there are only six table games in the entire casino, and one of them just happens to be a decent mini-sized craps table.
It’s got very easy access from the parking lot, and Mel pointed out that the electronic tote boards and leather chairs in Wildfires sportsbook came directly out of the dearly departed Desert Inn Resort-Casino (the future site of Steve Wynn’s new Le Reve Resort).
We approached the one-dealer mini-tub that comfortably accommodates eight players. I suppose you could squeeze in ten players, but in the questionable-hygiene shower-optional world of North Las Vegas, you definitely don’t want to be sandwiched between two “I-only-shower-when-I’m-in-jail-or-caught-in-a-rainstorm” kind of fellows. I suppose you can run into that sort of player anywhere, but in a small off-Strip gaming-house like Wildfire, the odds are definitely more in your favor.
The table only opens AFTER 4 pm on weekdays. On the weekend, it is sometimes available after 11 in the morning, but that isn’t always the case. If in doubt, give them a call ahead of time.
You’ll be treated to a low $2 bet-minimum, but they only offer 2x-Odds. In the grand scheme of things, 2x-Odds is NOT that bad. If things start to click during your shooting, you can always boost your line bet. Even during the middle of your shoot, you can “cap” your Pass-Line bet by adding to it, then adding the corresponding amount of money to your Odds to garner a higher payoff.
The mini-table is fairly bouncy, but the dice are still controllable. The lightest of throwing force is required to propel the dice to the far-end wall. High-trajectory throws DO NOT work unless you land them right at the base of the wall with a Dead Cat Bounce (see Mad Professor’s Shooting Bible Part IV for DCB particulars). Otherwise, expect substantial random sideways motion. A low-trajectory Low, Slow & Easy toss works best (see Mad Professor’s Shooting Bible Part III for L, S & E particulars).
Our Session…the 1st Half
When the table first opens it usually isn’t crowded, but as soon as two or three people start playing, it always brings out several more. I realize that a lot of people don’t want to start-up an empty table, but it makes me think that they are like shy, homely wallflowers at a junior high school dance. They wait, watching and hoping that someone else will start the action on the dance floor.
Mel was immediately recognized by the Pit Boss who was overseeing all of the table games. Mel remembered him as an astute dealer from back in the late ‘80’s and mid-90’s when Mel was the head-sheppard of the Hilton herd.
Several good hands punctuated the first half of our session. For the first time in a long time, Mel actually had a very long roll. While I didn’t keep count of his rolls, I can tell you that he hit the 6 and/or 8 at least seventeen times, and he hit the 5 and/or 9 at least twelve times. He also managed to complete three Pass-Line winners before bowing out after a long and valiant attempt to hit his fourth Point.
My own rolls weren’t quite so long, nor nearly as profitable, but I did make at least two Points every time the dice came around to me. The entire game was very relaxed, and the other five players were in a happy, yet not overly noisy mood.
When Mel and I had each completed our respective hands, he would recommence his conversation with his Pit Pal. While the conversation wasn’t altogether distracting, their occasional collective belly laughs would cause a number of distant heads to turn. While the dice were at the other end of the table, I went for a washroom break by saying, “Okay, I’m leaving before the two of you start braiding each others hair.”
Our Session…the 2nd Half
When I returned, Mel and his long lost friend were whooping it up more than the players. The dice remained moderately warm, but no one had any bets of real substance out on the layout. If I recall correctly, Mel was the “high-roller” at the table with a couple of $24, 6 and 8’s, and $25 bought Place-bet on the 10. The other players were still in the $22 Inside range of bets, with most of them posted on the Pass-Line with $2, and full 2x-Odds.
Mel’s shooting deteriorated substantially on his next turn, and I lost a fairly large Inside Numbers wager that got knocked off before I had a chance to collect even one measly payoff. I reminded myself not to be lulled into thinking that Mel’s shooting had unfailingly improved. I held off betting on him during the next two go-rounds, and I saved a pile of money by keeping it safely lodged in my chip-rail. In fact his shooting went from Zero to Hero and back again in less than one hour.
My next couple of hands were profitable, but not strikingly so. I kept my Place-bet press action to a conservative level, even though I was hitting multiple repeaters on my Inside Place bets. The temptation to bet-it-up was always never far from my mind.
Each one of my 2nd half hands ended when I let my focus be distracted by some minor pay-disputes at the other end of the table. Normally this sort of thing doesn’t even bother me, and I didn’t think that I really let it bother me then either. However, in retrospect, each time that an argument broke out at the opposite end of the table, my very next throw was a cursed 7-Out.
I realized much later that I was getting tired from playing at too many tables, at too many casinos, over too many hours, and that a rest was definitely called for.
Proximity Guarantees Nothing
It is important to remember that the backwall of these mini-tables look so tantalizingly close, however, their proximity guarantees NOTHING.
The closeness demands a very low-energy toss with as little backspin so as to maintain on-axis travel. Then you have to deal with figuring the proper trajectory or the “arc of the throw”.
If you are used to using a “back-swing-then-forward-swing-and-toss” type of release, then mini-tubs present a whole new set of problems if you are standing in the straight-out position or even on the hook, for that matter.
You will find that your hand may hit the rear wall during your backswing. On larger tables this isn’t usually a problem, but once you get situated behind the smaller dimensions of a mini-table, you may feel like your shooting-movement is a lot more restricted. This may tend to cramp your shooting style, and therefore change the trajectory and backspin that you usually impart on the dice. Under those conditions, disappointing results aren’t usually too far behind.
The obvious solution to this problem is a from-the-table release. We take an in-depth look at both types of releases in my upcoming “MP’s Shooting Bible – Part V” article). If you aren’t completely comfortable with that method of release, then my other solution is another easy to learn winner:
The Egg-Toss Lob
If you’ve ever been to a family reunion, company picnic or other social setting where you get into an egg-toss contest, you know that the objective of the game is for two people to toss an uncooked egg to each other as they move farther and farther away from each other. The objective is to NOT break the egg. The last pair of contestants, who haven’t broken their egg, wins the contest. It obviously takes a very soft throw and a very soft catch to succeed at this.
So it is with my “Egg-Toss Lob” that I find especially effective for the short throwing-distances of mini-tables. I occasionally use it on shorter conventional tables as well. However, the longer the distance, the less effective the overall on-axis consistency will be with this toss.
The “Egg-Toss Lob” is a palm-down from-the-table toss that uses the gentlest of throws to get the dice to land ever-so-gently at the base of the far wall. It’s as if you are playing “catch’ with a small child. You keep the distance as short as possible, and the force as light as possible to ensure a low-risk of damage (to the imaginary egg/the real dice) and a high-risk of a successful catch (or in this case, a soft landing).
As always, you should be experimenting with and perfecting grips, tosses, and trajectories AT HOME.
The Greed Factor
How much money can you reasonably take from the Wildfire table?
If you’d like to settle in for a leisurely two-hour session, then $75 to $150 per hour isn’t an unreasonable take from this casino. You could make this move every day without drawing any type of heat. However, if your day-in and day-out win-rate was higher, your continued presence at the Wildfire table would likely bring some unwanted attention.
On the other hand, if you only make a twice a week visit, I would think that you could safely squeeze about $300 or $400 per session without raising any alarms. You have to remember that small places like Wildfire start to get nervous if they see multiple green chips in action on the craps layout. If you stay at or below their comfort level, you won’t likely run into any problems.
Mel said his goodbyes to both his Pit Pal and a few of his dollars that he had unfortunately left behind due to some undisciplined play near the end of our session. I didn’t tell Mel how much I had saved by not betting on him during his last two hands. Some things are better left unspoken.
Join the Vegas Ghost and I next time as we continue our Mini-Tub Tour of Las Vegas.
Good Luck & Good Skill at those Mini-Tables…and in Life
The Mad Professor