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The Chip Board Archive 15

Nevada Club Tales II

I like to make it to Reno at least once a year. The town suits me just fine and it’s easy to find the hand-pitched single deck 21 games that I like. Stay at Fitzgerald’s when I’m there for a number of reasons. I’m a collector of things Nevada Club and hotel namesake Lincoln Fitzgerald. Most days rooms are free to me while sold out weekends are cheap, cheap, cheap. The rooms are nicer than what the Riv or the Trop gives us at convention time and I’m in love with most of the ladies dealing at Fitz’s Reno. I ain’t fussy either. Great view from the north side rooms looking out on Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus. The south side though always holds my attention when it comes to window gazing. You can look down on Virginia Street and it seems the longer I look, the more I see. These days Harrah’s squats over on the other side of Virginia St. William Fisk Harrah was a lot more interesting than the outfit that holds his name now. There is a plaza on the corner of the block now but Harrah’s Entertainment and Gaming has the rest of the block including the bank building at the corner. Keep looking and a much smaller Harrah’s Club comes shimmering out of the past. From my window up here the Frontier Club is next closest and then my favorite, the Nevada Club. Harold Smith is standing out in front of his “store” with an empty glass and that look in his eye. My side of the street had some clubs too. Before Lincoln built Fitzgerald’s he bought the Silver Dollar that had gaming on this spot. I’m sitting up here now looking down on Ernie Primm’s old place. You can see access doors at the rear of the alcoves that used to hold the giant showgirls on the Primadonna façade. Just slots and fast food there nowadays. Next door down is the Horseshoe with the Silver Spur just beyond. Reno historian Dwayne Kling used to have a piece of that joint. Kling came to town after a short pro baseball career and played ball for the Harold’s Club team while working there. But, here comes Harold Smith across Virginia Street now, heading for the Horseshoe craps table. Guess he’s got that “feeling” again. Going to buy a bunch more of those 10 grand markers and have himself a time.

I had the great good fortune to stop by Reno on my way home from the club show at Las Vegas in 2005. I met a lady dealing cards over at Siena that worked for Fitzgerald at the Nevada Club and related a bunch of interesting stories about it all that I subsequently wrote up and posted on the ChipBoard as “Nevada Club Tales”. I had a lot of fun putting it together and was pretty pleased with it. Made a second visit for 2006 to attend Jim Munding’s chip show in August and had a great time. Three different events occurred that added to my exploration of Lincoln Fitzgerald and the Nevada Club but I couldn’t figure how to put them into any sort of narrative that would match up with Nevada Club Tales. Just a bunch of fragments and factoids that I couldn’t really string together into a comprehensive article or anything. Wanted to share them for sure but it’s only some little stuff that fit into what I knew or had learned along the way about my favorite Reno club. Got to thinking recently however about “aha” moments I’ve had on The ChipBoard. Bet you’ve had them also and seen some as the years pass here. Some little inconsequential crumb happens along that just fits perfectly into whatever jigsaw puzzle we’re carrying around with us. Some little thing that connects a bunch of dots for us. Maybe someone somehow can find some value in my experiences or use it to flesh out the context of the objects we collect. I’ve always found my chips get more important to me the more I know about their little round life and times. Perhaps you’ll find something here.

Wayne Murphy posted a link a while ago from an “Old Timer” named Joe Dooley who recounted his time in Reno and the Nevada Club. I bookmarked it and the fellow has added to the thread since Wayne’s posting. Really great stuff and I imagine you could glean Mr. Dooley’s contact info from the site. It’s the real thing and backs up a whole bunch of stuff I learned on my last trip to Reno.

Walked into the Reno chip show and found the usual suspects, friends and trusted dealers (which is, well, all of ‘em!). Last on the browsing circuit was a new guy with mostly gaming ephemera and memorabilia. Very nice gentleman name of Mike Awbrey who sells in some of the antique venues around town. I was looking over his stuff and we were getting to know each other when I found he’d known Lincoln Fitzgerald. Well! I pulled up a chair. Turns out Mr. Awbrey had been an insurance agent and LF and Nevada Club was a client. He told how Fitzgerald had pulled into town with a car load of gaming chips and cash. There isn’t exactly a definitive account on how Lincoln came to be in Reno after being the bookkeeper guy for the Boys in Detroit. He undoubtedly took Hwy. 50 but not much more is known for sure. It’s probably archived in the Purple Gang minutes but access to those is probably one of those subscription or blood oath deals. For years Awbrey tried to get Fitzgerald to repair some broken terra cotta tile steps at the rear of the Club into the alley. (“Ah, the famous Back Alley.” Quoting Skinny Girl from Nevada Club Tales,) Sorry Mr. Insurance Man, but Lincoln was very very busy counting the days take and when there was all this money to gather little things will just have to take care of themselves. Awbrey took a visit to the alley after the Club was demolished and the steps remained unfixed to the end. Fitzgerald doted on his dogs. Scotties we learned from Joe Dooley. Mike told how LF and a bodyguard would take the beasts out for a walk around the casino area a couple of times a day. Just some little pieces of information that don’t seem like much but sure do add some color and enjoyment of my study of this man and his clubs. Bought some stuff from Mike and he wrote his contact information on the back of a Bingo comp from the defunct Holiday Hotel and Casino. grin

The Holiday is now the Siena. Played some BJ downstairs at the Sands and over at Fitzgerald’s and got something to eat somewhere and found myself walking into the Siena. Wanted to get some time on my player’s card and to test my luck at 21. Got lucky. Got Karen to deal to me! Just her and me again. Karen was our heroine in Nevada Club Tales. You were the lady that used to work at the Nevada Club weren’t you? I sez. She raised an eyebrow at this moonface sitting here at third base and I plunged on.

“I was in here last August and we talked about that and I asked you a whole bunch of questions for almost an hour.”

“Gee, was that really a year ago?” Scoreboard! She remembered! I always find it amazing when attractive women remember or recognize me and there isn’t a restraining order or something involved.

We talked a little more about that and I told her that I had written up the whole thing for our club and folks really found it interesting.

“I couldn’t remember your name so I just called you what Fitzgerald called you when you went for a job. ‘What do you want Skinny?’”

“That works.” She says.

“Well, I see it still holds true.” That got me a black chip toke smile! vbg

Relief came and she said on leaving, “I’ll be here the rest of the evening.” Oh man.

Last chapter in this silly thing. Last visit to the Chip Show. Buy a bunch of chips and do a lot of yakking with the sellers, Richard Fellman and Dean and Jodi, Paul, Jim, Mike and Bud Meyers. Just as I wind up with Bud, he asks if I collect Zimba’s Casino. Nifty chips, I tell him, but I don’t know anything else about the place so I don’t have anything from there. As I turn to leave, he says “You’ve got one now.” and I feel a chip drop in my shirt pocket. Thanks Bud! and I’m out the door. Nice guy. Walk around checking out where the old places used to be, Bank Club, Palace Club, Golden Hotel, the gravel lot where New China stood, looking through the dark doors of the Old Reno Casino. Get something to eat, go to the room, play some cards here and there. Finally check my pocket and there’s that Zimba’s cheque from Bud. Very nice new condition large key dimer. What a nice guy!

Make my last stop at Fitzgerald’s $5 single deck table. I do know how to play blackjack. I like the concentration involved applying Basic Strat to every hand. I like third base. I get a good view of what’s going on at the table. I count the cards to make it more interesting and study the other players for the same reason. All the starving artists I’ve known in my life were keen observers of the human condition and its something I picked up from them. Get folks talking and learn a thing or two along the way…if I remember to shut up first! Great thing about Reno is so many of the dealers have worked at some of the bygone joints and you can get some good stuff from them. In addition to what I’ve found about Nevada Club, I’ve learned about The Holiday, Ormsby House, Onlsow Hotel, Eddie’s Fabulous ‘50’s and others. I don’t have a clue how folks perceive me but it seems as the last few years have gone by, more people just start up conversations at the table with me. Good vibes, gray hair, needy karma, who knows, but it’s a fun way to gain some Reno gaming knowledge.

Got a lady who I’ve not seen before dealing to me. Been playing for awhile. Count is about +2 with only one ace out so I’ve got $15 up and catch a 5 and a 6, dealer’s showing a bust and life is good. Flip the cards up and put out another 3 nickels. It’s a lock. She slides my one card under my bet and pulls herself some faces for a 24 or something.

“You’ve got a black queen under there! I peeked when I gave it to you!” She says. Well shoot, I did figure it was a ten card of some sort. She flips over my Siegfried of Clubs…TaDa!

“Wow!” I said laughing, “This is like playing in Reno in the old days! They used to know what cards you were gonna get before they were even dealt!”

She found that remark pretty interesting and I’ve got her on my side and we start talking about the old days. She's a Nevada Club alumni too! The other players are fading away and getting their cards on auto-pilot and we’re having a pretty good time. Like Joe Dooley and my new friend say, “everyone” started at the Nevada Club. We’re talking about this and that , she knows what a “cosmopolitan” club was and I remember the Zimba’s chip’s still in my pocket.

“How about this place?” and I show her the chip.

She takes it from my hand (!) and says no, she doesn’t know anything about the place. I’ll bet they were having major cow birth in Surveillance. She shows it to the pit critter and they’ve turned from the game and are looking this thing over. Nope, not us they say. Me neither. Finally went upstairs and looked the address up in TCR. Knew right where it was as soon as I saw the street. Dang, Zimba’s was about 100 feet from where we were sitting! Bust out the valet door, turn left and just across the alley. The shuttered Old Reno Casino was Zimba’s! Turns out a couple of Joe Blow’s opened the place, didn’t know what they were doing and went away and left some attractive chips behind. That’s all that is worth knowing about that place. Must be why there’s no Zimba’s Chapter in the Club. grin

Well, if you made it this far, hope you found something you might be able to use in this thing. Kept me busy for a bit. Hope I’ve showed how easy and fun it is to keep seeking knowledge and to pass it along to others. Makes these cute little dears we collect look better every time we fuss with ‘em.

Messages In This Thread

Nevada Club Tales II
Re: A GREAT writing!
awesome Mark
Excellent !!!!!
vbg Mark, Thanks, that was vbg
Quite the accomplished writer!! Great
I enjoyed reading this Mark! grin
grin Interesting reading...
Re:Thanks Mark! Great stuff...
Thank You
Hey Mark!...
Another Great Story
Re: Nevada Club Tales II
GREAT story. Reminds

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