Hollywood Hot Spots 1949-1963

For Gamblers Anonymous,
Magic Carpet Riders tighten your seat belts for a tour of the underworld:
My work shift at Nick's Playhouse began at 8 am and ended at 12 noon. And after my dance studio classes at 10 pm, Janine and I were bar hoping between the Casa Alvarado and across 6th street to Nick's Playhouse. Within
a few weeks I began teaching classes in the loft which was built on the rear third of this barn like building. The loft really was a partial second
story with eleven wide stairs leading up to the center of the loft with
toilets to the left and my dance classroom on the right side of the stair
case. There's a reason why I remember the number of stairs which I will come to after I reveal one of the inside stories about professional gamblers that I hope will be an education for you innocents.
I already mentioned Paul Sweet, the 6'4" blond, amiable lose jointed
regular student at our dance studio. After his daily afternoon dance lesson
with Janine, he would hang around the studio and we'd play gin rummy when I wasn't teaching. Now within a few days he ran me up to $85.00 which he kept deferring payment on for some strange reason. Finally I insisted on paying up and had to quit playing because Janine who was exceptionally frugal would divorce me if she knew I lost all that money. Paul, put his big hand on his chest in a saintly posture and confessed that he had been cheating me all the time by dealing bottoms and seconds and then preceded to show me how he would rest the deck in his hands casually on the table tilted slightly and glance at the bottom card. And then showed me a few other ways of peeking at the first and second cards on top of the deck, so he always had three extra cards to chose from when he dealt his bottoms or second cards. He told me
that Bob Fenton who was also one of Janine's regular students, was the
master card cheater who was so well known that he was barred from the Reno and Las Vegas Casinos. Bob was so deft with his hands that he could stack a deck of cards as he collected the discards thrown into the center of the table while the game was in progress and then shuffle the deck in front of your eyes, and have you cut the deck and still keep the cards stacked in place so that he could deal out five hands and know who had the winning hand before the bidding began.
I was so intrigues by the technique of dealing seconds and bottoms that I had Paul teach me, which was a lesson that almost caused three of my regular students and myself to end up in jail.
I can tell this story with impunity because all the participants in
the fraud are dead, and the statue of limitations for cheating at cards is
long expired...I think.
At about 3 am in the mooring, I was awakened by the phone ringing. It
was Bob Fenton, the Master Card Cheat. He needed me to sit in on a card game to make up the necessary compliment of five players for an important scam. All I had to do was sit in my chair, and watch Bob's hand when it came my turn to bet. If his hand was in a fist, I was to drop out; if his hand was laid flat on the table, that was his signal for me to stay in and bet. Bob bankrolled the three shills $100.00 each before Clarence showed up. The only person who was to be cheated was Clarence who behind his back was called Mark Anthony. Clarence was around 35, well built with a pleasant personality who always carried his snow white kitten with him and a bottle of milk in a brown paper bag for his kitty. Clarence was an Engineer who never cashed his employment checks which he kept stuffed in his wallet, and he prided himself as being a great gambler.
A few weeks previous to the card game, Clarence and Bob were betting on throwing darts at a target board. Clarence won ten games straight with remarkable accuracy for a buck a game. Bob finally feigned anger and challenged Clarence to up the anti to $20.00 a game. Clarence agreed, but decided to go to the toilet first. While he was gone I advised Bob to back out of the game, "Bob, the guy is too good; he hit that center of the target like it's radio controlled." Bob gave one of his wry smiles, "Joe the guy is the best at dart throwing, but when the money gets too high, he falls apart." And sure enough, when the Mark ended up that day, Bob ended up with one of Clarence's $280 dollar employment checks endorsed was missing from his stuffed wallet..
Back at the Poker game at three in the morning in Nick's
Playhous back room which was directly under the loft. Besides Paul who I have already introduced, we had Jay Jay, a dice cheater who actually was an assistant to a Master dice cheater who was also one of our regular dance students. Jay Jay was a shill for Chuck, the master dice cheater; Jay Jay would be one of the players who would always bet against Chuck and position himself where the thrown dice ended their tumbling. Jay would deftly pick up the rolled dice with his fingers and throw back the loaded dice that he had squeezed in the psalm of the same hand and retaining the rolled dice in his fingers which disappeared while the loaded dice were being rattled in Chuck's Hand ready for the next throw. A year after the card game Jay Jay's hand slipped and four dice came rolling back to Chuck. The both of them did not look too good for the next few weeks while their bruises were healing.
The fifth player was Ray the Racer, who specialty on the dance floor was the New York Peabody, a very fast smooth running dance done to music at 200+ bpm. Rays specialty was Shop lifting.
So here I am, a good Catholic hard working slob getting ready to play
with one Mark and three professional crooks. The whole evening went
smoothly. Bob always made some one else win when he dealt, so that the Mark wouldn't get suspicious. The only near tragedy took place when I was dealing one time and decided to use my technique of dealing seconds just for the fun. I had no idea what that second card was but I thought I did it without anyone noticing. After Clarence unloaded three of his Employment checks endorsed which Bob always cashed for the Mark out Bob's own wallet, never touching the winning of the three shills and the Mark gathered up his white kitten and bagged bottle of milk and departed none the wiser, Bob and the rest of the crooks laughed at my awkward dealing of the seconds which fortunately, the Mark was the only one who didn't see my clumsy move. Bob collected all they money and paid everyone $100 bucks in cash and took us out to an early breakfast. And for some reason, those crooks never invited me to another card game, and gave me the nick name Careless and my fugal wife they called Cautious. So for the remainder of our relationship with those crooks we were called, 'Careless & Cautious'.
Next: 'The story of the staircase scam at Nck's Playhouse!
Black Sheep

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