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A poker tale for the Ages

Sep 7, 2004 3:42 AM

West Texas oilman Jimmy Brock was on a tear, his stack of $500 chips growing taller by the hour at the Aladdin blackjack table.

Casino Manager Vic Vickrey got the call at home from one of the casino’s shift officials during the early hours of a Saturday morning more than 20 years ago.

"Figured you would want to be down here. Eddie’s gonna want some explaining, assuming things don’t change for Brock."

Eddie was Eddie Torres, the co-owner and chief of operations at the Aladdin. Vickrey was Torres’ casino manager.

Vickrey remembers, "My friend Jimmy was enjoying a fantastic streak of luck. At one point he yells, ”˜Lady Luck has finally cast her smile on me and I am gonna win every $500 chip this casino has.’ Jimmy kept winning and I began to wonder if he might do it . . .

"Jimmy Brock did not fit the Hollywood version of the 6-foot-6 Texan, but his cowboy attire most assuredly did. Jimmy always wore western clothing, including hand-crafted cowboy boots that cost $2,000 each. Each outfit was topped with a 10-gallon hat."

What Vickrey did once he arrived at the casino and made sure his players were happy was wander out of the way to a position where he could monitor the action. When Brock stood and headed toward the bathroom, Vickrey was not surprised. The man had been doing a lot of drinking.

"But when Jimmy returned to his blackjack table," Vickrey says, "and he was walking barefoot, I got more than a little curious."

Vickrey walked to the table and said, "Jimmy, what happened to those nice boots of yours?"

"I gave them to that shoeshine boy in the men’s room so he could shine ”˜em up, get ”˜em looking nice."

That bothered Vickrey who was almost positive that there was no shoeshine person on duty in the Aladdin’s men’s room that time of the morning. So, he went to take a look — no shoeshine boy.

Vickrey returned to the table to press the matter further with Brock who kept playing and said, "Well, I gave them to someone who looked like a shoeshine boy, and I also gave him a $500 chip."

Vickrey remembers, "The other players at the table, the dealer and I nearly all said in unison, "You did WHAT?"

The apparent loss of the boots and $500 did not bother Brock as much as it did nearly everyone else within earshot of his explanation about what had occurred.

"Don’t worry about it," Brock said. "C’mon. Don’t stop the game. Keep the cards moving."

Vickrey was both angry and concerned. Brock was a good customer. He was also a friend.

Vickrey began a search of the trash bins in and near the restroom. Perhaps the "thief" had celebrated his good fortune by dumping the boots and going somewhere to cash the chip. But the boots were nowhere to be found.

Other Strip casinos were warned to look for anyone trying to cash a "stolen" $500 chip. "You hold him and we’ll be right over," Vickrey said.

The game went on at Brock’s table. There was nothing for Vickrey to do except hang on and hope for a happy ending. He wasn’t optimistic.

Vickrey was standing near the front door a couple of hours later when a well-dressed young black man walked in and stood for a moment scanning the casino. Under the new arrival’s arm were what appeared to be nicely polished custom boots in a transparent plastic bag.

The "culprit" had returned to the scene of the crime.

Vickrey could scarcely believe it. He hurried over to the man. "Hold it right there. What are you dong with those boots and where did you get them?"

The man did not even break stride but sneered at Vickrey who was hurrying to keep pace, "Who the hell are you and what business is it of yours where I got these boots."

But explanations were quickly made and everyone went home happy. Appearing in the role of a "shoeshine boy" was an acting student from LA who had been washing his hands when this "drunken cowboy" tossed the boots and a $500 chip at him.

As it turned out, Brock didn’t win every $500 chip at the Aladdin that night. But he won enough to be able to continue trying.