The Wheel of Fortune – AKA The Big Six

September 19, 2011 § 6 Comments

I had been whacking out—cheating blackjack players—at a club in North Vegas. It wasn’t so bad in North Las Vegas then.  Now it’s a rough spot to go to or live and work.  The owner of this joint and I had a falling out about money.  I charged $100 per day cash, got a paycheck like the regular dealers were paid (so I would be legal on the books), plus a percentage of what I won.

This was the normal deal for a mechanic.  The owner was being greedy.  He was a player and would take the winnings from his small casino and gamble it away in other casinos.  He told me he could no longer pay me the $100 per day because the casino wasn’t doing well.  I knew better so I quit.

After a short vacation, I dropped by a casino at which I had worked before as a 21 mechanic.  I spoke with the owner and he told me he had been pressured into letting a union form.  The pressure came from some local bad guys and he originally thought it would be OK to have a dealers’ union.  But the union people were stealing way too much and he couldn’t fire dealers without proof.  He knew what percentages the games were supposed to hold and they weren’t holding them.  It was like they had taken over his casino.  He told me that he was planning on taking out all of the gaming tables except for the Wheels of Fortune – AKA The Big Six – thus putting the union dealers out of a job.  He was a smart man and had an MBA way back then.  The Big Six dealers had been there for years so they had seniority in the union they had been forced into joining.

Bye-bye bad-guys union.

While working in this casino before, I had wondered why the Big Six dealers had stayed Big Six dealers and had not moved on to learning the other games.  The owner told me the reason: The Big Six dealers who had been with him for years received ten percent of the drop—the cash money that they put into the drop box.  I hadn’t known this and discovered there were actually Big Six “mechanics.”  Those guys could actually aim the wheel and make it stop on the number they wanted—or in a section they wanted—usually one with mainly ones and twos.

I told the owner that I didn’t have the skill to aim the wheel.  He said, “You’ll learn, and don’t steal more than a $100 a day from me,” and smiled.  He was a really good guy and he knew I’d leave plenty for him and I had no scruples about cheating the players.  Of course I knew he got into the drop boxes to take a bunch of cash before the accountants got to them and counted the money in the count room.

The Big Six, if spun on the square, should hold about 25 percent.  The owner wanted more like 95 percent so he could take enough cash so it appeared to hold 25 percent.  This is why he allowed the Big Six dealers to take money.  He knew by the percentages we were holding how much we were taking.  As I said, he was a smart man. Nice, too.

The Big Six is divided into a number of equal segments separated by brass spokes. Each segment is associated with numbers.  The winning number is indicated by a flexible piece of rubber, which is mounted on a non-flexible surface.  This flexible piece of rubber rubs against the spokes as the wheel spins and is what slows down the wheel until it stops.

It took me a couple of months to learn the controlled spins.  One of the Big Six dealers—a pinball machine junkie—taught me the spins.  I had had coffee many times with him when I had worked there before and he knew what I did, but we hadn’t openly talked about it.

I had wondered before why this Big Six dealer had never wanted to move over to the pit and learn the other games.  I figured he had to be stealing, too, on top of the ten percent.  He worked a different shift than I ended up working so I never knew for sure if he was stealing.

The permanent Big Six dealer taught me the various spins.  There are a few basic spins to use when learning to aim the wheel: the one-spin, one-and-a-half, two-spin, and the two-and-a-half.

It took me a month or so to get these spins down.  Another trick was to slowly back into the wheel with my right arm behind my back.  I’d look up to a small mirror, which was mounted above and behind the players, and use the triceps muscle in my arm to slow down the wheel if I thought it was going to go past where I aimed it.  Then after I had made the correction I would stand away from the wheel so the players could watch it stop on its own.

The different spins are based on the following:  While the players were making their bets, and I’d be giving them hype just like in a carnival on the boardwalk, I was playing with the wheel moving it to where I wanted it to eventually stop.  This was how the spins worked.  A one-spin would bring the wheel back right to where I had started.  So would a two-and-a-half and a one-and-a-half.  You can’t rely on only the one-spin too much because players say, “Come on, spin that thing.”

It really was serious stuff that took concentration.  It reminded me of a baseball player getting up to bat.  I’d position my feet just right—we all used the same stance—put my right hand on the wheel between where the spokes stuck out, my left hand on the leather lip of the table, rise up on my toes and go for the spin I was going to use.  I’d make the spin and as soon as I let the wheel go, I could tell if I hadn’t spun it hard enough.  If I hadn’t, I’d give it another little additional spin, by tapping the spokes on the wheel a little more until I felt okay about it.  You get so you can listen to the wheel and watch it to know where it’s going to stop.

Me and this other guy had an act.  We worked it around to where we shared one Big Six wheel near the front door where all the foot traffic was.  I’d yell at people who looked like flat suckers and get them to come over.  The other guy did the same.  By coincidence his name was Eddie.  All we lacked was a hook like they used in the days of vaudeville.

I’d tell the prospective sucker how much fun this game was and how it was very easy to play.  The only reason anybody would play the Big Six was because they didn’t understand the other table games.  Besides, all we had were the Big Six wheels.  “Look at all those ones on the wheel,” I would tell them.  “They are almost all dollars.  Bet a dollar on the one and I bet you’ll win a dollar.” Naturally I’d hit a one.  Then it was, “Try the two.  Bet your winnings on the two. Go ahead.” They would do it.  I’d hit a two.

“See how easy this is?” I’d say.

The value of the bills displayed on the table top, under glass, corresponded with the payoff the player would receive if she/he won a bet. They would place their chips on the bill amount of their choice.  They had to do this before the dealer spun the wheel.  They could not bet late because they would be dirty, no-good cheaters trying to gauge where the wheel would stop.  Some people!

Eventually I’d have them making all the bets on the table.  But there was only one 40 on the wheel.  The 40 was how the players would be suckered.  As I was giving them my rap I would mention several times what a bad bet the 40 was, that I hadn’t hit it in two months.  I kept reinforcing this.  The 40 was crucial in getting their money.

I showed them an almost foolproof way, I would say, to not lose their money.  I would get them to make certain bets and I’d hit them.  I’d let them get ahead, a little.  The player would be convinced that I didn’t care if they won.  It wasn’t my money they would win, it was this rotten casino’s money. Eventually I would get them betting bigger and they would be reaching into their wallet or purse.  I would be laughing and cajoling with them, get the cocktail waitress for them.

I’d get them to bet all over the layout until they had about $50 of their own money out there and then I’d hit the 40—the only bet they didn’t have covered.  I’d say, “Oh, the 40!  I haven’t hit that in two months.”  I’d say I was sorry but it would probably be another couple of months before the 40 hit again.

I’d encourage them to keep betting and many times they would.  When I could see they were getting tired of my act I would signal my partner, who was sitting just 15 feet away at the bar, to come in and take over.  He’d come in and I’d tell the players it was time for my break and good luck and tell my partner right in front of them to try and be lucky for them because they were real nice people and all that BS.  Then I’d go next door, have a drink, and flirt with the cocktail waitresses. My partner in this would continue my nice guy act and get them for more.

We weren’t dropping all the cash that people bought in with.  We made a deal that we wouldn’t put this thing on fire because if we took too much we might get fired.  The owner had told us how much we could take so we kept our part of the deal and kept it at $100 a day.

When people bought in with a $20 bill, I would give them their chips and fold the $20 into quarters.  Then I’d pull out the drop box paddle to drop the bill in the box and slam the paddle down real hard, simultaneously folding the bill up in my right hand and pulling my hand away real fast.  It was misdirection.  I would keep the bill in my right hand, hidden, and spin the wheel with the bill still in my hand.  Right after I spun the wheel I would move my right hand to my left underarm and put the bill there temporarily, all the while watching the players to see if they saw me take the paper money.  When the wheel would begin to slow down I would be saying—keeping their attention on the spinning wheel—“Is it going to hit the 20? Maybe the ten . . .” Then I would take the bill from under my arm and act like I was tucking in my shirt quickly and stick the bill in my tight slacks.  The bill would be inside my pants pressed against my stomach.

My partner, Eddie, and I would work a half hour on and a half hour off, unless we were working over some people.  Then we just stayed there as long as the people would ride us.

The two Eddies’ wheel put down, on average, about $2,000 on our shift.  At ten percent of the drop we ended up with $100 apiece and we stole another $100 and were paid top pay at the time, which was $27.50 a shift.  This was in the late ’60s and we were doing very well with our cash “bonus”.

The slot boss, who was a longtime trusted employee of the owner, would ask us how much he owed us, our percentage of the drop.  We kept track of the cash drop by arranging chips in one slot in the chip rack with the corresponding value of the cash that went down.  He’d go to the cage and get the money and slip it to us, surreptitiously sticking it in our back pockets.

One time on the Big Six I beat a dealer from the Golden Nugget out of a $1,000.  A dealer!  I was having a hard time believing it.  He got so pissed he turned the whole table over on its side.  Chips spilled all over the place. It was pretty funny.

Yes.  That is me in the photograph.  Click your mouse cursor on the picture and it will go to full size.

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§ 6 Responses to The Wheel of Fortune – AKA The Big Six

  • Rob says:

    Nice shot! Here are some other photos and memories of the same joint:

  • Lancer says:

    Big Ed you look just as slick in this picture as you did at CAP…is that a $20.00 I see sticking out of your left armpit?
    I’m really enjoying reading these great stories.
    Lance Hailstone – CAP ’59

    • Lance, thanks for your comment. I was just a little over the top in those days running wild.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying these true stories. Do me a favor and pass by blog link onto others, especially your class of 59.

  • You must have looked very closely. There is only one little spot where you can see the name of the club. Thanks for that info re the club.


  • Dan says:

    Hey Rob,

    How do you know so much about the Nevada Club? Or do you have info on all the casinos? Looks like you have a site full of gaming info. Check the Comments in Breaking In and Learning to Steal. I tell of my breaking in at the Nevada Club back in 1961. 50 years ago! I seem to remember the owner at that time was a guy named Van Santen. Not sure of that spelling. And I’ve got a ton of those postcard black-and-white photos. They always had a girl roaming the casino taking photos of the tourists, but she always managed to sneak a few of the dealers, both on and off duty. Off duty would be at the bar after your shift ended. We’d have a few beers or whatever and head off into the morning, either out to the Strip or home to bed in our apartment owned by the casino. It was all dealers and bartenders and cocktail waitresses. They took the rent out of our checks. That way (and this did happen occasionally) we could blow our take-home pay gambling and still have a place to live, and we always had pocket money because we got our tokes (tips) in cash at the end of each shift. What a way to live! But it was often a lot of fun and I look back on those days nostalgically. Viva Las Vegas!

  • Dan,

    Thanks for your comment. That particular camera girl took my picture when my “partner” was handing me cash. I wouldn’t have minded at all if she had just taken my picture any other time, but she did it at critical moment and I was thinking; “setup.”

    I asked her for the picture, she gave it to me and she said that was the only print. I had to be content with that.

    I knew another camera girl very well who worked on the Strip. I knew she had access to all the copies she wanted no matter what she told people.


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