The stranger who carried two suitcases into the Horseshoe Club late Wednesday afternoon was "distinguished only by his ordinariness," the owner of the Las Vegas casino said.
He was in his late 20s, wearing a sport shirt, slacks and boots. He had arrived at the gambling establishment in a nondescript automobile. The only thing notable about him was the suitcases. One was empty. The other contained $777,000 in cash, which the young man intended to bet on one roll at the craps table.
A few weeks earlier, he had telephoned Jack Binion, the owner of the Horseshoe Club, and inquired anonymously, "If I bring out a million dollars, can I bet it?
Casinos usually do not permit such mammoth wagers; they prefer instead to handle a large volume of bets so that the percentages will work inexorably in their favor. But the Horseshoe Club tries to accommodate the high rollers. "We're like a gambler's gambling house," Binion said. "We have no frills; we deal with sophisticated gamblers. We've let a guy bet $100,000 one time at '21.' We once had a payoff of $198,000 on one roll at craps. But never anything like this."
At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, an hour when the casino was relatively quiet, Binion got a call from the casher who reported, "There's a guy here with $777,000." The young stranger counted out the money, and the cashier gave him 1,554 $500 chips, which were loaded into carrying cases. A security guard helped him move them to the craps table, where a woman was holding the dice.
The stranger gestured toward his money.
"This all goes on the 'Don't pass' money.
"This all goes on the 'Don't pass' line," he said without emotion.
This was an even-money, 50-50 proposition. The young man was betting that the shooter would lose. If she roled a seven or 11 or her first throw, she would win immediately. If she rolled a two, three or 12 she would lose immediately. Other totals would establish her "point," and she would keep rolling the dice until she made this point or "crapped out" by throwing a seven.
As Binion watched, he regretted that the biggest bet he had been in his professional career was being accompanied by a so little drama. "You always think of the movies where a guy flicks the ashes of his cigar and says, 'I want to bet it all.' But this whole town's pretty jaded and there was no mystique. Nobody realized what the guy was doing -- not even the woman who was shooting the dice."
She rolled a six, making that total her point. Now the young man needed her to roll a seven before she rolled another six.
She shot the dice. Nine. She shot them again. Seven.
"Seven a loser," the stick man intoned. "Pay the 'Don't."'
Binion studied the face of a man who had doubled his $777,000 in a split second. "He was so calm I couldn't believe it," the casino owner said. "and when I talked to him he was as calm as you and me talking on the telephone."
The young man took his chips back to the cashier's cage and exchanged them for $1,554,000 in currency, which he stacked in the two suitcases. Then Binion escorted him to his car. Observing Las Vegas etiquette, he never asked the young man his name, for winners don't like anybody (especially the Internal Revenue Service) knowing who they are.
"You know," the stranger told him, "this damned inflation was just eroding this money. I figured I might as well double it or lose it." Having protected himself against the ravages of inflation, he drove off into the night.