Lessons learned from boardwalk life

Lessons learned from boardwalk life

February 20, 2019 3:00 AM


I grew up in Keansburg, N.J., which is a very small, summer boardwalk bungalow Jersey Shore town. 

Ever since I can remember, I worked on that boardwalk. My first job was slicing pizzas at my aunt and uncle‘s pizza stand when I was just nine or 10 years old. That stand is still there to this day, owned by my cousin Anthony. This is also where I first learned to interact with the public.

It is also where I first really learned to gamble.

Over the next decade, I worked my spring weekends and summer days on those boards. I went from pizza worker to working the wheels and games of chance. I had developed such a gift for gab, that by the time I was 16, each stand operator would try to lure me into working for them with a better deal.

I worked at a dart stand, where the main objective was to hit Libyan leader Mohamar Gaddafi with a bullseye on the dartboard.  I also worked a basketball stand, where you needed to shoot three baskets in a row for a prize. I worked on straight commission; and on a good Saturday, because of the deal I had, I could make about $300 for myself. 

There were at least two separate instances I can remember where I made over $800. a day. One was a day when the boardwalk did not have insurance for their rides yet on Easter Sunday, and therefore, people spent their money on the games of chance. The other was when we were giving out front-row Bon Jovi tickets as the top prize.

So here I was in the early 80’s making $500 or more a weekend as a young teen during the day. Late at night, when most of the boardwalk customers went home, a few of the wheels of chance (which were meant to win merchandise) became cash wheels.  Which means you were given odds on where the wheel would stop (similar to a roulette wheel) for real cash. The boardwalk keno hall was opened up for cash games and also card games like poker and Acey-Deucey were now offered at a spot on the boards.

What that means is, the operators of a few of these businesses turned their spots into a gambling operation. This was not big time by any means at all. It was just a blue-collar boardwalk town letting the locals blow off some steam after work. However, for me personally, it was the big time. There were countless times that I went home penniless.

All of this, coupled with pitching quarters at the back of a post office loading dock; flipping quarters in wood shop while in school; playing cards; or catching a bus to go over to Monmouth Park.

Now, most of my family on my mother’s side were from a strong-rooted Italian section (Arthur Avenue) of the Bronx that gambled on just about everything. Every weekend at our house the women played poker or Gin rummy while the men played pinochle. My dad, (a West Virginia country farm-raised Navy man) met my mom at 18, and eventually married into this New York fast-paced gambling lifestyle.

The bookies were a dime a dozen back then. I used to call in and bet with a secret code called “times” (each time was $5). So if you wanted $100 on the Yanks, you would say give me “the Yanks for 20 times.” There was a street code of loyalty; now it’s totally backwards and upside down. At that time, the bookies had to worry about the players paying them. Now with the way this business works, you have to worry about the bookie paying you.

That is why, in my opinion, the best option is to stick to the brick and mortar casinos and/or the legal betting apps in the states.  You post your money up and have the option of cashing in immediately after the game is over. 

It really even surprises me that I somehow managed to overcome such obstacles from that sleepy little boardwalk town and turn those experiences into a professional gambling career. One thing that I do know for sure -- I would never change any of those experiences, nor would I have wanted to grow up any other way. It is way too easy to grow up with family money or a trust fund. That’s boring.

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