Chapter 1

On the Edge

Gamblers are dreamers who
put their money on the line.
Ordinary dreamers are afraid to. --Bob Stupak

   I was daydreaming about towers - very tall towers - when the phone rang at my table in the coffee shop of Vegas World. This is where I conduct most of my business as casino owner. It keeps me in touch with people and I can eat at the same time. On the phone was David Sklansky, returning my call.
   "What do you need Bob?"
   "Oh, about a hundred million bucks."
   "David is a mathematician and a professional gambler. He's the Mr. Spock of Vegas World.
   "Well, I don't have it on me Bob."
   "Come down anyway and have a cup of soup."
   As the captain of Vegas World I spend a lot of time trying to keep the starship airborne and free of leaks. If it's not one thing it's another. The other night, our Elvis Presley imitator in the Galaxy Showroom came down with a sore throat and couldn't sing. Where was I going to find another Elvis at a short moment's notice? I had half a mind to send David Sklansky on stage. He can't sing a lick, or make wild circles with his hips. He's good with numbers though.
   We have discussions all the time. If I want to invent a new game, I rely on David to figure out what my house edge is on that game. "What's the house edge when you play the game of capitalism?" I once asked David to test him. "In capitalism, the house edge is the price of money, the price you pay when you want to buy money. In other words, interest rates."
   When David joined me at my table, I told him what was on my mind.
   "I'm bored.", I said.
   David nodded and ordered minestrone.
   When I get in these moods, I'm liable to do anything. Most often, I come up with my best ideas when I get bored. Being bored puts me in the mood for doing something exciting.
   "I want to do something big, you know?"
   David stroked his Vulcan beard. He was thinking.
   "Let's go play poker.", he suggested.
   "I'm taking about something very big - right here at Vegas World."
   Vegas World is the only casino in Las Vegas that's decorated to look like a Star Trek movie. On the outside, there are huge neon designs that look like the planets Saturn and Mars. Silver rocket ships surround the roof of the front entrance. On the outside wall of the hotel tower, there's a large mural of an astronaut floating in space and tethered to a space station that looks like a roulette wheel. Inside our Space lobby, there's a life-size replica of the Skylab space capsule dangling from the ceiling. Another astronaut in a space-travel suit hovers over head. At another point, you can look up at the rocket thrusters of the space shuttle Columbia. Somewhere else, also on the ceiling, there's a cluster of gold stars reaching out like the arms of the Milky Way. And over there, a formation of American flags protects a slot carousel. The dark ceiling is marked by hundreds of tiny lights, resembling the stars, and everything in this universe is reflected back at you in infinite images by floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The Vegas World motto is "The Sky's The Limit." The Vegas World logo - which you will find everywhere, whether on the driveway or the carpets - shows two dice against an outline of the earthy globe. The number of the dice is 11. A winner.
   This is what I have to work with and, since I'm the Captain Kirk of this starship, I'm the guy who has to keep the Enterprise moving forward. As with any other business, the casino business is like skating on thin ice. You have to maintain your speed or you'll crash through the ice. You have to keep moving.
   "An attraction perhaps.", David said.
   "An attraction? Like what? I already have authentic moon rocks on display in the lobby."
   My, how time passes. When I opened my first slot joint in Vegas years ago, I employed several chickens. The chickens played tic-tac-toe by pecking at a machine containing food. I got a lot of flak from the Humane Society and I closed the exhibit down after a few months, even though the exhibit was quite popular.
   "I don't know what kind of attraction.", David said.
   Another time in my casino career, I had slot machines that paid off with dollar bills floating down from the ceiling unto the customer.
   "Let's go.", I said on the spur of the moment.
   David and I got on a jet. After many stopovers and half a day's flying, we eventually reached Orly Airport in Paris. It was the middle of the night over there and neither one of us knew any French.
   "What are we looking for Bob?"
   "The Eiffel Tower"
   "I thought we were going to gamble?"
   "We are. We're going to take on the Eiffel Tower. Now, how do you say taxi in French?"
   The Eiffel Tower looked gorgeous at night, a graceful steel erection reaching up for the stars. Somehow I expected the Eiffel Tower to be open even at that late hour, the way my tower in Vegas would be open around the clock.
   The idea crystallized and filled me with overwhelming excitement.
   "Let's get out of here," I said. "I've seen enough of Paris"
   We checked into a hotel and the next morning, on the flight back, I explained to David how I was going to build a tower in front of Vegas World that would be taller than the Eiffel Tower - the 1,012-foot Stratosphere Tower. I had no idea yet how I was going to accomplish that tall order, but I was prepared to take the risk and gamble on my dream. I felt a zing in my heart just thinking about it. Everyone would come to my place to see all of Vegas all at once. I got such a rush just thinking about this project that I couldn't wait to start building.
   I wish to begin this gambling book and this gambler's story, then, with this timely lesson:
   In the game of life, the house edge is called Time. In whatever we do, Nature charges us for doing it in the currency of time. So we must take advantage of every moment.
   Every moment in life is so very precious.
   You only get a fling at life for awhile, then the house collects. We must get all our thrills and all our experiences while we have the opportunity. We have to go for it now! And only by taking advantage of time in this way can we get the best of it - win or lose.