The first time Chuck Di Rocco and I met Bob Stupak he was moving into a one-room office down the hall from us on the second floor of what was then called the Tam Building at 1020 South Main Street. It was the mid-1970s and his company, Dine Out Las Vegas, produced coupon books that offered discounted meals at Las Vegas restaurants.
It didn’t take long for Chuck to wander over and strike up a conversation. We had only been in town a short time and new contacts were important, especially one who might be a potential advertiser in our fledgling newspaper known in those days as Sports Form.
Bob was a wheeler dealer and in a few short years he parlayed his coupon books into a full-fledged casino. Vegas World, with its quirky, off-beat space theme, opened in 1979.
During the Vegas World years Bob came up with a lot of promotions to bring business to his "Strip" casino, situated about a half mile north of the Sahara Hotel, and well beyond what was considered by almost everyone to be the end of the Strip. Among other things, he introduced gamblers to crapless craps and double exposure blackjack.
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During those fun and crazy VW years, Bob extended an offer to Chuck many times to come down and play some blackjack. You see, Chuck had become known around town as a player, and his game was 21. He had a line of credit at several casinos and spread his business around. Bob thought he deserved a shot at some of Chuck’s money.
Well, it was not as easy as it sounds. Bob and Chuck had developed a pseudo-friendship over the years. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other, because they did. They just didn’t trust each other. Even the simplest transaction between them became complicated as they tried to out think and out maneuver the other guy.
But eventually, they came to terms, and one night in the late 1980s Chuck headed down to Vegas World to test his luck at Bob’s tables.
Bob was excited. Although he had won and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in his life, and even bet $1 million on a Super Bowl game once, the prospect of winning some of Chuck’s money had him giddy.
It was touch and go for a while. Chuck was up a little, then down a bit. But, after about four or five hours of working the tables, the cards turned and Lady Luck smiled. Chuck hit a run and the chips piled up in front of him.
When the run ended, it was well after midnight, Chuck was tired and he knew better than to keep pushing. He picked up his chips and went to the cashier’s cage to pay his markers and cash out.
"I’ll have to call Mr. Stupak," said a nervous teller.
"That’s fine," Chuck replied, "just give me my money. I’m tired and I want to go home."
The teller made his phone call, completed his paperwork and then slowly counted out $50,000 in cash. Chuck was getting impatient, but he held his tongue. Finally, the teller finished and Chuck headed out to the valet stand.
As he was getting into his car and about to drive away, the passenger door opened and there was Bob in loungewear and slippers.
"Chuck, where are you going? Come on in and have something to eat," Bob proposed.
"I’m tired and I want to get some sleep, Bob. I’ll be back another night," Chuck replied.
Bob didn’t give up easily. He started walking alongside the car as Chuck gently eased forward. Eventually he had to let go and Chuck waived as he pulled away.
It didn’t turn out the way Bob wanted that night, and he wasn’t the most gracious loser. But, losing never stopped Bob Stupak. He kept coming back.
The gambling world has lost one of its last true characters and he will be missed.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Eileen Di Rocco