by Gene Trimble
A short ten hours ago, I stepped off a plane from Biloxi, Ms. It was my 1st visit to Biloxi and its new riverboat gaming. I must say, I was not impressed with the riverboats. The Grand at Biloxi was the only one that I considered, the employees to be friendly. I was disappointed in the number and types of poker machines, when compared to the vast amount of reel machines. I do know a lot of people that work in Biloxi, so it was still a good experience. My friends blamed me for the foul weather. It appears the weather arrived about an hour after I did.
Although the casinos were un-impressive, the reason for my visit to Biloxi was impressive. The Blast From The Past chip show held at the President Casino was a rousing success. It was geared to the illegal casinos that flourished along the coast from the 1920's through 1991. Organizer Bob Gabel did a great job of putting the show together. I consider illegal chips to be my favorites and I was not disappointed. I have never seen so many illegals in one place. I am sure there are many illegals at other shows including the national convention. At this show all dealers and traders had the illegals showcased. The theme of the show is not the only reason I went. The other reason was Bob promised at least one operator of the illegal casinos would be in attendance. I was not disappointed. In fact a 2nd operator showed up on Sunday. Besides the operators, Bob had Verta Lee the federal magistrate that issued the warrants to close the gambling along the coast. She is 81 years old and quite a lady.
Gene with Genny and Rip Poulos
History, stories, and chips, what more can you ask for? I bought, traded, begged, and connived 140 new illegal chips for my collection. I believe some of them will be new additions to the Gaming Table, thanks to Rip Poulos who spent all 3 days at the show, talking to the collectors. He spun so many stories, I could not write them all down. He reminded me of several operators of Newport, KY illegals, I have met in the past. I could overlay some of Rip's stories with Martin Miller's stories and you might not know which city the story came from. Martin operated the Merchant's Club in Newport. It must have been a grand era for the people that lived it. They were flashy, they knew everybody, and in their minds, they ran the city. Today their operations have become legal riverboats, and these gentlemen are left out of the action. I wonder if the riverboat operators will have grand tales to tell to my grandson 50 years from now. Maybe, but in my opinion they will never top the stories of the illegal casinos.
Rip Poulos is a very distinguished looking gentleman. He talks rather slow but exact. The best part is, he can talk a long time about his chosen profession. He has no apologies for his life. He choose to do it and he was good at it. Being good is how you stay in this type of business for over 30 years. The local cops in most cases are your allies. The Fed's and the good church going members of the community are usually your enemies. Rip says it was always hard to break in a new county sheriff. Rip managed gambling joints for over 30 years, without spending a single day in jail. He told me, "As far as I was concerned it was legal". It was out in the open for everyone to see. He did manage to get one federal indictment for intrastate transportation of gambling equipment. If you are running a crap game, you need dice. Christy Jones in Las Vegas was the supplier and balked at sending dice to Ms. Rip found out that drug stores could legally sell dice and had CJ ship them to the corner drug store where he would purchase them and document the sale. His records got him in hot water a few years later, when the Fed's got hold of them. They viewed the "Old Drug Store Trick" as a way a to skirt the law. Just a minor set back as Rip got probation.
Mickey McCool was the operator of the gambling in Gus Stevens Supper Club, Porterhouse Steakhouse, 406 Club, and the Magnolia Club from the 1930's until 1961. The 406 and Magnolia Club was the same property in different years. About 1960, Mickey started looking for someone to take over his enterprises. Of course he would retain a percentage of the profits from the bankroll. His choice for this very important assignment was Rip Polous. From what I have learned, Mickey made a good choice.
Dig back in your memory and you just might recall hearing of Gus Stevens Supper Club. On a fateful night in 1966, Jayne Mansfield appeared there. After the show Jayne and her husband were in a automobile wreck that cost Jayne her life. Rip recalls talking to Jayne on her way to the car. Nothing of importance, just small talk. It could have been her last small talk.
Rip watched crap games for 30 years. He witnessed many gamblers getting broke, losing their homes, and wives. He still looked forward to hitting the tables in Las Vegas and rolling the bones for himself, on a regular basis.
The scanned chips were used by Rip at Gus Stevens in 1965 & 66 also at the Porterhouse which burned down in 1965. The bulk of the RP chips were confiscated by the FBI. Rip had 23 red with 3 yellow, 40 black with 3 yellow, 30 yellow with 3 red, 30 purple with 3 yellow, and 40 gray with 3 yellow inserts.. As you can see, I had one of them autographed. I know of 7 other autographed ones.
More stories and more chip ID's from the Gulf Coast next month, when Rip Polous's story will continue. Also a little more on Verta Lee's role in the coast saga.
I welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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