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DUMMY UP AND DEAL by H. Lee Barnes


Inside the Culture of Casino Dealing

by H. Lee Barnes

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2002
ISBN: 0-87417-506-2

Same-old, same-old casino stories from an ex-dealer delivered in the same-old, same-old package of random unconnected anecdotes spanning many decades.

Very early on, Barnes (Gunning for Ho: Vietnam Stories, not reviewed) tells us that many dealers think of their job as factory work and warns against “sociological surveys or movies that romanticize casinos.” But he romanticizes them himself, to wit: “One of the most beautiful sights to watch in a casino is the graceful pitching of the cards and hand movements of a pick-and-pay blackjack dealer.” Forget about anything resembling character or narrative in his text. Page-long stories jump from 1977 to 1995 to 1983 without explanation and without significant differences in tone or feel. They are lumped together in chapters with titles like “Breaking In,” “You’re Fired, Have a Nice Day,” and “Coping.” The best of these is “Mattress Politics,” which warns of rampant sexual harassment in the casino business, though the author’s ambivalence can be sensed in such statements as “consensual relations and love affairs in casinos far outnumber instances of sexual harassment,” and in the fact that he feels it necessary to mention that one female dealer who filed a harassment suit was a former prostitute. The stories themselves range from tame to ridiculous: a novice dealer is sent on a goose chase for a phantom “wheel crank”; a female floor boss says it’s her turn to do the sexual harassing; people of Middle Eastern descent prove to be better “past-posters” because they learned to cheat in Europe; “busty” women appear at craps tables for no other reason than to allow the author to employ the word “busty.” Barnes takes many cheap shots at today’s famous casino owners, who will probably be forgotten in a generation. His tone throughout is glittery and intoxicated: fitting for his subject, but not at all suitable to the serious treatment of casino subculture he claims to be writing.

A bad bet.