Casino Stories with Michael Shackleford and Jay Shapiro

Heather: Hello and welcome to Vegas Aces. I am your host Heather Ferris and today we have casino stories with Jay and Mike. Thanks guys for being here. I really appreciate it.

Mike, would you like to promote your channel and tell people where they can find you?

Mike: My YouTube channel about gambling is called The Odds Must Be Crazy. I also founded the website Wizard Of Odds.

Heather: Awesome! Jay do you have any social media you want to promote?

Jay: Nope.

Heather: Okay sounds good. This is becoming one of my favorites. I love talking about casino stories with people in the industry. We can talk about anything however the rules are if the casino is still running no names of the casino and no names of people. So do you guys have any stories about people winning, people losing, bodily fluids, crazy people? There is so much to talk about in the casino.

Jay: I have a couple of them.

Heather: Okay.

Jay: We had this one guy. He bought in for about $10,000 on a blackjack game. He started betting $500 to $1000. He got himself on a real big run. He had it going and going and could not lose. He was up to about $265,000. He said you know what, when I get to $300,000 I am going to stop. He never got to $300,000. He started losing and losing and losing. He went down completely to 0. Bought in for another $10,000 and lost that and left. The next day when I saw him he goes, “Boy that was fun wasn’t that?”

Heather: OMG! Wow! That is incredible. Do you see a lot of people do that? Where they win a lot or lose a lot?

Jay: Some people just want to lose. They just want to be in action and they don’t care if they win. They don’t care. They say it wasn’t my money anyway.

Heather: That was a really interesting story. Thank you so much for telling us that. Do you guys have any other stories similar to that? How about you Mike, do you have any stories?

Mike: This is the very first time I was ever in a casino. I was probably around 11 or 12. I am the oldest of three boys. I grew up in the LA area and we did a lot of camping. Usually we would go to Northern California, Oregon, or Washington. But this particular trip we went somewhere in Utah I think. On the way there we drove through Las Vegas. I had never been to Las Vegas before. But gambling is just in my blood. I begged my father to stop just so I could go into a casino. He said nope, nope we are not wasting time. When he had something to do he did it his way. The whole time on this camping trip I begged to stop in Las Vegas on the way home.

I finally wore him down. He agreed we would stop in a casino – I am not allowed to say the name, but it is known infamously for its buffet. Keep in mind this was in the mid 70’s. So it was my fathers plan to stop in this family friendly casino that had a well known buffet. So we parked really far away, of course knowing my father. We see all of these people, especially all these kids walking around with stuffed animals. My middle brother would just say “I just got to get one of these stuffed animals.” Even though he had tons of them at home he had to win one. But he had no – I don’t remember all the details but I think he had $10 with him. That was a lot at this time for a kid his age.

So we go to the buffet. The whole time at the buffet he is begging my parents, “Please let me play the arcade games to win a teddy bear.” The whole time I was heckling him saying, “Your not going to win one, you are going to waste all your money because these games are just there to cheat your money.” His response was ,”No, you see all of these kids walking around with teddy bears that they won.” To that I said something like they probably spent $20 to win that teddy bear, which is way more than it is worth. It’s a sucker bet. He would not listen to logic. I just have to play, he was saying. Finally he wore down my father and he said ok you can have 15 minutes in this section of the casino that was just for kids that had a lot of arcade games and it still does. So during this 15 minutes I think I was with my father. I am begging him to see the casino. He said kids can’t just walk the casino. We tried to do it carefully so I can see stuff, being a kid. I think my mother was with my brother.

After the 15 minutes or whatever it was we reconvened wherever we were supposed to meet. My brother had tears in his eyes not holding a teddy bear. I was so mean. I feel badly about this to this day. But I heckled him. I said, “I told you so! You would waste all of your money and not win a damn thing.” There were just tears and tears and the whole way from Vegas to the LA area going 55 miles per hour. Given this was during the Carter administration and there was a federally mandated speed limit that my father respected. I just heckled him so badly. He just gave me the silent treatment. He would just not say anything. Now I feel awful about it.

Jay: Now you grew up and you did the Wizard of Odds website. You do exactly the same thing. You are telling people that the games are rigged and you can’t beat them.

Mike: Right! Exactly. And I was right back then. I mean – well I didn't factor in the entertainment value. But I was still right. Considering the value of the teddy bear and your chances of winning, especially being a little kid, they are an awful bet.

Heather: Did he get back at you?

Mike: We never got along as kids.

Heather: Did he put jello in your bed or anything?

Mike: To be honest he often stole my stuff. I am sure one of those instances was revenge.

Jay: Mike, I know which casino you are talking about.

Mike: Heather said I can’t say the name.

Jay: I know I won’t say the name. But I have a friend that was a casino manager there during that time and he said that they made more money on those arcade games than they made on the table games.

Heather: No way.

Jay: Every single day.

Mike: Wow! That’s amazing.

Jay: And that is the truth.

Mike: If you are still in contact with him –

Jay: I am.

Mike: – and he has a soft heart, maybe he could give you a teddy bear. You give it to me and I will give it to my brother. Maybe it will make him feel good. So that is my story.

Jay: I actually have one more story. When Mike mentioned his first time in a casino, my first time in the casino business. I decided to take some time off from what I was doing and go to Atlantic City to be a dealer. I went to the dealer school and I said I want to be a blackjack dealer. They said you have to take this math test. I said, “Well, Okay.” So I took the math test. They said, “You did really well on the math test, you should be a craps dealer.” I asked what is the difference? They said, “Well we can get $1200 from you for a craps class and only $800 for a blackjack class.” Go check out craps at one of the casinos. It’s a lot of fun. It will really help you get a job if you can deal craps.

So knowing nothing about the game, I went down to one of the casinos with a friend of mine. I had $80 in my pocket. WE went up to a craps table, I was watching for a little while. I then started betting a little bit. Whatever the guy next to me was betting I would bet. The guy went on an incredible roll and shot the dice for about an hour. I turned $80 into $2600. I was the smallest winner on the table and my friend who was standing behind me, not a player, just couldn’t believe it. I used that money to pay for craps school to get myself an apartment and everything else. That might sound like a good story but it is actually the worst thing that could possibly happen. When you go into a casino for the first time and win $2600 you think that it is easy. It is not! I paid that back many times in learning that lesson.

I have a son when he turns 21 I am going to take him to a casino and make sure he loses every single dollar in his pocket and cries like Mike's little brother so that he doesn’t think that it is that easy and can do it. That’s my story.

Heather: That is a fantastic story. OMG I love that. So I am curious to know after hearing your stories. Have you ever been in a casino and seen a naked woman? For example, I used to work down at Fremont street. That should explain everything right there. We would have women walk around topless with boobs hanging out. I am not even talking about with the pasties on. And they would walk around and everyone would be like okay. It’s just another Saturday night. Do you have any nudity stories?

Jay: Nothing that I want to tell.

Mike: Sadly no.

Heather: Okay. How about this one? Do you have any card counting stories? For example, here is my card counting story. We had this guy on my blackjack table. He was betting, betting, betting. Finally he says to me, you know I am card counting, do you think the casino will care? I look at him and I am like, “Sir, you have been on this table for two hours. You are down $2500 no please continue card counting. The casino wants you to. Please.” He was like, okay. And he sat there for a few more hours and lost more money. I was like, “Thank you Sir, hope you had fun.” That is just one example. Do you guys have any good stories?

Jay: Coming from the casino business we encourage wannabe card counters. That’s our favorite kind of person is somebody that thinks they are an advantage player and who is not.

I have a story. Again another casino that I worked at, there was this lady who was playing and she absolutely was counting cards. I was watching her. She made every possible correct bet deviation and every possible correct basic strategy deviation. I waited until the count got really really good and I walked over and said, “I’m sorry you can’t play any more.” She says, why did you let me play through all of the other decks?" I said because they were minus I didn’t care.

But I talked to her later and I said, “You know, I will give you a piece of advice – and for those of you out there who are card counters I will give you a piece of advice, taking all the positive deviations that’s where you make your money. But some of the negative deviations, there is not a whole lot of value in some of the plays that you make a minus six or minus seven, don’t make those plays. I told her if you hadn’t made some of those plays I wouldn’t have been on to you that quickly. And she said, “Well I am not from around here, I decided I was going to come in here and get every single dollar I can get out of you.” I said, “Fair enough, how much did you lose?” She said, “$9700” I said I would be happy to buy you dinner and no more blackjack.

Heather: That was really cool. But you handled it so well. You are such a good example of that. I love the way that you treat them. A lot of casino managers put heat on them and you really shouldn't. I love the way you handled that.

Jay: I have backed off many a player. It is always like that. I have taken some card counters out to dinner. I said come on I will go eat dinner with you and sat and chatted with them for an hour trading stories and stuff. There are no hard feelings. It’s not my money in the tray. We offer a game and if you have the skill and where with all if you think you can beat the game, take your shot. If I think you are too good I will tell you not to play the game any more. Just like if I owned an all you can eat buffet and I charged $20 and you ate $40 of food every day. After a while I would say you know you are not a profitable customer, we don’t want your business any more. It’s not illegal. It’s not – there is nothing wrong with it. No buffet for you!

Heather: I really love the way you handle that. I love your perspective.

Jay: Thank you.

Heather: How about you Mike? Do you have any stories?

Mike: Well about card counting stories – first of all Jay I really respect how you handled that. I have been backed off from blackjack many times. I always appreciate when it is done politely as you did it. But lots of times it is not done politely. It is done very rudely. So –

Jay: There is never a need for that.

Mike: Yeah. The way I see it is a cat and mouse game. You know as long as there are no hard feelings.

Jay: Nope.

Mike: I just see it as a game. So okay. The first time I was card counting I had just read a book at home before I turned 21. So I finally turned 21 and I am ready to hit the tables. I know all the math and the strategies from Revere’s book Playing Blackjack as a Business. But I know absolutely nothing about cover. Or even that there should be cover. I think you can be as aggressive as you want. What do I know? Speaking about Binion’s, this was at Binion’s and no I did not – where were the naked women then?

Jay: It’s all Freemont street.

Heather: Yep.

Mike: It’s probably because this happened in the afternoon that there weren’t any. So I go in there and I am just blatantly obvious counting down their 3 to 2 single deck game. Great rules back then. I was aggressive with my debt increases and good counts. Just not covering it up at all. Not smoothing it over at all. Just totally aggressive. The supervisor is just sitting there staring me down. Just sitting there watching me. Now the stare down I am very familiar with, but back then I was like I don’t care if you are staring at me. I am going to keep playing until you kick me out. So finally after like three hours he – by the way I was betting really small, spreading like $5 to $25. Which at the time, 1986 that was a lot of money to me. But finally he just said, “Alright kid I have had enough, no more blackjack for you.”

Jay: It was a badge of honor to be thrown out of the Barbary Coast. People would go there and count because that place – it wasn’t so much as card counters that they didn’t like it was anybody winning a dollar. That was the biggest sweat joint around. My friend was very happy to be thrown out of there. They made a very bad decision because my friend is a card counter and he will play blackjack for a while. About Mike’s range $5 - $30 or $5 - $50. Then he would get bored and go play craps, and bet the horses, and bet sports, and bat bingo and give every dollar of it back and then some. So a lot of times when you have an advantage player sometimes it’s not that much of an advantage for them to play. Just a thought.

Heather: That’s awesome. Thank you so much. I love hearing from these guys. You two are so insightful and I love hearing what you guys have to say.

Jay: We are on opposite sides of the table. So it is interesting.

Heather: For the last question. We were talking about history, do you guys have a story from way back when that you can share that basically put a little insight to history? Possibly from the 80’s, 70’s however back you can go?

Jay: I do go back far. I started in the business in 1985. I used to sit around listening to the old guys telling stories. Now I am the old guy telling stories. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything. Can you give me an example?

Heather: For example, any stories that happened in a casino that might have been torn down. Or if you had any dealings with any mobsters, or if you had – maybe your view on the change in the last 30 years. We have gone through such a significant change from the old mob days to corporate?

Jay: Okay. I have a mob story. The casino I worked at in Atlantic City at the time was where the mob came to launder their money. On Friday night the Philadelphia mob would come, and Saturday night the New York mob would come in and they would never intermix. One night there was a guy who was playing craps, he was 90 years old back then. It’s probably safe to say his name, we will just whatever. He would come with a big stack of money. He would mumble under his breath, give me 300 on a 6, give me tri on a 9. He would get chips and then he would keep betting on the paper trying to wash his money. I didn’t really understand what that was. I asked him what do you do for a living? He says I am a button man. I said you sell buttons? He goes no I kill people? Do you have any other questions for me? I said, “No Sir!” That was it. I was done. I never ever asked somebody what they do for a living when I was at the casino.

Heather: Thank you so much. How about you Mike?

Mike: I have nothing to compare to that.

Heather: I think that is a great story and we should probably leave it at that. Thank you guys so much for being here and sharing your stories.

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