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The Captain's First Mate Passes31 July 1999
I just came back from an exciting Vegas trip that saw me pull out a great blackjack victory in the last two days; a trip that also saw me have consistently good rolls at craps. I was feeling like I could take on the whole gambling world...and then I got the call from the Captain.
As many of my readers know, I have been fortunate to know and write about the Captain, the greatest craps player of all time. Indeed, I have written two books, Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos: How to Play Craps and Win! and The Captain's Craps Revolution! and one audio cassette, Sharpshooter Craps! that are devoted exclusively to his ideas, insights, theories and systems of play. I have also quoted him in most of my other books, whether those books were about blackjack, slots, video poker, roulette or gambling in general. If gambling were riflery, the Captain has a bead on the target, even though he tends to be exclusively a craps player.
That first book, Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos, was largely researched in 1989-90 and written in 1990. It came out to a wonderful reception in the Fall of 1991 and has been the top-selling gambling book ever since. While the identity of the Captain has remained a secret (at his request), many readers and some critics have attempted to discover who the man is. Some have speculated that the Captain is me. (I'm not.) Some others have speculated that the Captain is a fiction, a character that I created to sell books. (He's not.) Still others -- mostly readers who play in Atlantic City -- write to me care of my publishers saying that they played with the Captain, or think they met the Captain, or think that the guy who had the Captain's hat on was the Captain. Some of these people have actually played with the Captain, met the Captain, or saw the Captain. Since he is known as the Captain, anytime someone is called the Captain in a casino, it is within the realm of possibility that that person is indeed the Captain about whom I've written. In point of fact, I only saw him wear a hat that said "the Captain" once, when he was on a cruise.
Many readers have written to me asking me to arrange for them to get in touch with the Captain so that they can become a part of his crew of high rollers --known as The Captain's Crew. In fact, I think that the Crew that I wrote about in Beat the Craps appeals as much, if not more, to the general public than does the Captain. I guess everyone wants to be a part of something special and especially something special that is exciting. The time I have spent with the Crew has indeed been special and exciting for me.
Yet, in the intervening years since the researching, writing, and publication of Beat the Craps, The Captain's Crew has taken some unfortunate "seven-outs" from Dame Fortune. Three of the most prominent Crew members passed away in the mid 1990s (and for the first time I will reveal their actual names): Vic DiNicola, the blackjack player; Frank Torre, who was tentative, and that all-time great, Russ Barracca, known as "the breather." Several other Crew members have moved into retirement and are no longer making the Atlantic City scene (although you might see them sunning themselves in some warm clime).
And now, the Captain's first mate, an epic character, and a Crew member I have variously referred to as "Jimmy P." or "Jimmy G." in articles and books, has passed the dice. James Gallo, born October 15, 1929, died on July 11, 1999 and that is fitting in a way since he died on 7-11.
"I was with him near the end," the Captain told me. "He wasn't talking by that point and he really didn't want to see anybody but he let me come into his room. I placed some dice in his hand and a small figurine of a saint that has always brought me good luck. I wanted him to go onto his reward with the dice ready and good luck in his hands."
Jimmy was the only member of the Captain's Crew who played the way the Captain did. It took him 10 years to come around to the fact that using the 5-Count and playing the Supersystem and avoiding Crazy Crapper bets would give him an excellent shot at the casinos' money. And Jimmy played for big, big money. In fact, it was Jimmy who was identified with the Captain by one paranoid Atlantic City casino in a now famous inter-casino memo that warned of two individuals who had won "inordinate amounts of money" playing craps. And it is true, Jimmy and the Captain (and occasionally "the Arm") hammered one casino in particular for six months in the early 1990s until they were told that the casino was pulling back all their RFB -- in fact, they couldn't even get a comp for a sandwich!
With Jimmy's death, the Captain feels diminished. "He was a very close friend, a truly generous man who enjoyed every second he spent at a craps table. It hurts. He was such a wonderful human being."
It might seem silly to say the following but...Jimmy was one of the few individuals (The Captain is another) that I've written about who never asked me for a free copy of a book I'd written or for a free copy of or subscription to my magazine, Chance and Circumstance. He always insisted -- insisted -- on paying. "Frankie," he'd say, "you don't ask a car dealer for a free car. I want to pay." And he'd laugh and say: "Your book has made me immortal." I wish, Jimmy, I wish it really did make you immortal because I know how much the Captain misses you.
Time...time is the damn enemy. It is our enemy in the casinos at negative-expectation games where the house edge can grind us down. And it is the enemy of life, where death burrows into the wings of our aging to pluck our feathers and stop us from soaring.
At one time, the Captain's Crew numbered some 23 strong. The number is now down to fewer than a dozen. The Captain himself is a hardy man in his mid-70s with a full head of wonderfully white hair. He's in good shape. He works out for two hours each day. He now plays approximately one day a week in Atlantic City. He still uses the Supersystem. He's still a winner.
Not unexpectedly, some of the casino bosses that were giving him the full RFB treatment pulled back once they discovered that the guy they knew as the Captain was the same guy I had written about as the Captain. Those casino bosses were foolish, of course, as the Captain took his Crew to friendlier places. As strange as it may seem (and I do still find this really, really strange) with Jimmy's passing, none of the Captain's Crew plays the way he does. They can't marshal up the discipline to even use the 5-Count, which is the single most important concept in the Captain's thinking. These Crew members are euphemistically called "action players" by the casinos that give them the full RFB treatment. Action players, loosely translated, means "they bet big, play dumb, and lose a hell of a lot of money." The Captain may be Lady Luck's charmer, but his Crew wasn't and isn't -- although they have a charm of a different type. They are all Damon Runyon characters of the first order and a decent lot of folks to boot.
About a year ago, I had dinner in Atlantic City with the Captain, and the Crew members known as "the Arm" because of her consistently good rolls, John the Analyzer, Connie, and two other Crew members who prefer total anonymity. My wife, the beautiful A.P. was also there. We were talking over old times. One particular occasion brought out the nostalgic impulse.
The Captain, the Crew and many Barnacles (that's what low rollers who were friends of various Crew members are called) had taken over an entire half of one of the gourmet restaurants at Trump Castle (now called Trump Marina). There was this long, long table with everyone (close to 40 people!) seated at it. The scene was out of one of the banquet halls in a King Arthur movie, although our people were far more mannerly than the Knights of yore. The very first person to give his order was a Barnacle who never played but simply got RFB because one of his friends, a Crew member, was a mega-roller who got RFB for six people on his play alone.
Well, this Barnacle proceeded to ask about every single item on the menu. The waiter was panicking as he had a huge table to handle (there were other waiters as well) but he couldn't get past the Barnacle from Hell. After a half-hour (I kid you not) of explaining item after item, how it was prepared, what spices, how much cheese, egg, whatever, the Barnacle said simply: "Come back to me later, I can't make up my mind!" The Captain made sure that waiter got an extra large tip that night.
That meal was the last meal that Vic, Frank, Russ and Jimmy were at together. It was a long, long table and those guys will be missed for a long, long time. God bless.
[The following is the description of Jimmy Gallo that I wrote in Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos: How to Play Craps and Win! I introduce the crew and then I write about Jimmy first. You will note how I have changed certain facts to protect his identity such as making Jimmy a veteran of WWII as opposed to Korea. It appears on page 122.]
As for the Crew, a greater bunch of men and women you'll never find inside a casino, or outside for that matter....
First, there's Jimmy P., a World War II veteran who compares playing craps with "being in the barracks!" A major player, who sometimes follows the Captain's advice -- "Captain, I swear I'll follow the 5-Count into battle this time!" -- but more often gets carried away and throws caution to the winds -- "Bet it up, it's Anzio all over again!" ("He wasn't at Anzio but during a craps game he thinks he was." -- The Captain.) He's the rooter of the table. He cheers. He talks to the dice. "They got little ears, I swear to God, Captain, they got little ears them dice!" When Jimmy P. is at a table, win or lose, you're in for a great time. A great bear of a man, Jimmy P. is the First Mate.
"Before I met the Captain," Jimmy P. relates, "I used to come to Atlantic City with my friends, and while they gambled, I would feed the pigeons on the boardwalk. Now, when I'm in Atlantic City the ocean could dry up and I'm not sure I'd notice. If it wasn't for the Captain, I would never have discovered craps. Now, if it wasn't because of him, I'd be losing my shirt.
"When I go crazy at a table I generally lose, but when I follow the Captain's Supersystem, I'm happy to find that I make a lot more withdrawals than deposits. The Captain does something else for us guys too. We think of ourselves almost as an assault force on Fort Knox. I don't know about the rest of the gamblers, but me and the Captain, we come to beat the casinos' heads in."
[I've written a half dozen articles featuring Jimmy since the publication of the book. The following is the very last article I wrote about him. I wrote it several months ago for Midwest Gaming and Travel Magazine.]
Messing with the Shooter by Frank Scoblete
The Captain of craps, the world's greatest craps player and thinker, has surrounded himself with Runyonesque characters as a part of his Crew. One such is Jimmy P., a jovial, generous and flamboyant mega-high roller. Of all the Captain's Crew only Jimmy P. has been able to consistently play the Captain's methods -- methods such as the 5-Count which require great discipline, concentration and patience to employ. In fact, Jimmy has been at times a devastating presence in Atlantic City casinos utilizing these methods as witnessed by his winning upwards of a half million dollars in one eighteen-month stretch of playing two days a week with the Captain.
Jimmy's idea of a five-dollar bet needs a couple of zeroes added before the decimal point to understand what a hot streak of his can do to the casino treasury. Wins (and losses) in the thousands and tens-of-thousands of dollars are nothing unique to this man who has won and lost more money in a given week than many people make in a given year.
What is unique, however, is Jimmy's willingness to believe some of the more enduring superstitions or myths in the world of craps. I am not talking about such superstitions as never saying the word "seven" at a table for fear that the dice will hear you and come up with that dreaded number, or believing that a player throwing his money down when the dice are in flight will cause a seven to appear should the dice brush the bills, or believing that dangling your hands over the side where the dice can hit them will also bring on the seven, or believing that you must ask for the "same dice" when the dice go off the table in the belief that the "new dice" will cause the seven to appear as well.
No, Jimmy is the conspiracy theorist of the Captain's Crew who firmly believes that the casinos purposely try to disrupt a rhythmic roller's concentration in order to end potentially great rolls. "You don't think the casinos know how to screw up a good roll from a good shooter? I seen it a million times. How many times you see a shooter on a hot roll get jerked around by the pit? The pit guy says: 'Make sure you hit the back wall, sir,' if the shooter misses with one dice one time. They know that the shooter's got to put a little more force the next time and that can disrupt the guy's rhythm.
"In some casinos all of a sudden out of nowhere they'll tell a guy on a hot roll that he can't fix the dice before he throws them. He's been fixing the dice every roll for a half-hour but now he can't fix them no more! Then they push the dice over to him with the seven showing and at the last minute they flip one of them so it isn't the seven. Or they push the dice to him and as he's about to reach and take them, they drag the dice back for some phoney reason. All this is to upset the guy's rhythm, and his mind, and screw up his roll.
"Then on really hot rolls they decide they got to bring over the chip tray and replace the chips in the racks. They interrupt the game and all these chip trays are put on the table while the shooter is cooling his heels and maybe cooling off. Then they start to stack the chips but now they want the shooter to shoot anyway -- sometimes the shooter's got to shoot around the chip trays they have on the table. I seen that a hundred times over the years. They got plenty of chips. They don't need refills just at that moment. It's done to disrupt the shooter.
"Or, they come over and want to ask for your name or for your card just as you get set to roll the dice again or they ask if you want a comp -- right in the middle of your roll. They figure you get out of your rhythm that way when you have to divert your attention from shooting. Or they invite a new player to the table and purposely point to the spot next to the shooter so that the shooter has to move a little. I've seen these things done all the time. Or if the dice do go off the table and the shooter asks for the same dice, the boxman takes a month to examine the dice -- like he was performing brain surgery. Then he flips the dice down and the stickman sometimes tries to get new dice in or make it look like he's getting new dice in in order to have the shooter say: 'Hey, I want the same dice.' The more you screw around with a shooter during a great roll, the better chance you have to disrupt his rhythm and his concentration. I hate it when casinos screw around with the shooters."
Of course, I have experienced all the things that Jimmy P. has pointed out but I don't know if each and every one of them is designed to disrupt the shooter, be he a rhythmic roller or just hot. But plenty of players -- not just Jimmy P. -- think casinos do this. Frankly speaking, it would be a wise casino pit boss who tells his floorpeople, boxmen and dealers, to make sure they never "screw around" with the shooters on a hot roll. Messing with the shooter might win some money for the casino when he sevens out, but it might also lose some customers when they leave in a huff and take their business elsewhere.
"The First Mate"
Born October 15, 1929
Died July 11, 1999
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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