The Chicago Syndicate: Development of the Vegas Poker Mafia Family; Mid-1980's Golden Nugget

Magee 1866 Heritage Month

Friday, January 13, 2006

Development of the Vegas Poker Mafia Family; Mid-1980's Golden Nugget

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro

The below is from an email that someone sent me that seems to pick up in the middle of a story. I have requested some answers to some questions that I had for the reader who sent this to me, but I wanted to provide this to all my readers to see if anyone else had some information on this.

The "Honored Society" as the Mafia is commonly known among its members is structured much like a modern corporation in the sense that duties and responsibilities are disseminated downward through a "chain of command" that is organized in pyramid fashion.

1. Capo Crimini/Capo de tutti capi (super boss/boss of bosses)
2. Consigliere (trusted advisor or family counselor)
3. Capo Bastone (Underboss, second in command)
4. Contabile (financial advisor)
5. Caporegime or Capodecina (lieutenant, typically heads a faction of
ten or more soldiers comprising a "crew.")
6. Sgarrista (a foot soldier who carries out the day to day business of
the family. A "made" member of the Mafia)
7. Piciotto (lower-ranking soldiers; enforcers. Also known in the
streets as the "button man.")
8. Giovane D'Honore (Mafia associate, typically a non-Sicilian or
non-Italian member)

In the early 1980s the Vegas family of the Poker Mafia was in place. The "real Mafia" was losing its hold on the casinos. Soon after Tony Spilotro was killed Mike O'Connor and David Cutter were sent to the joint for extortion and blowing up a car. The "real" Mafia was out, but a new "Poker Mafia" took its place. All had been cheating for approximately 10 years when they went into the Golden Nugget. Thus the Vegas family line survived to take full control.

Other events contributed to the ascent of the Vegas family. In 1982 the Los Angeles Times came out with a front-page article that revealed cheating in California cardrooms. Gardena lost its hold on poker in California. The Vegas family was more than happy to fill the void. Steve Wynn had Jimmy Knight running the casino and after the Silverbird closed in 1981 hired Eric Drache in 1982 to run the Nugget cardroom. Then in 1984 Wynn renovated the Golden Nugget. [In 1984 Steve Wynn revamped the Golden Nugget casino with funding raised by Mike Miliken and Drexel Burnham Lambert, provided jobs for more than 5,000 employees. The 44 million Spa Tower's foyer resembled the Garden Room of the Frick museum.]

With Jimmy Knight as the casino manager, Eric Drache as was the cardroom manager, and Doug Dalton running the floor, the door was wide open. This group consisted of Mike O'Connor's right hand man Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson, Jimmy Shehady and a few others. They spilt up the games. It became very well organized and the Las Vegas group controlled everything.

Doyle and Chip were business with Jack Binion. Doyle had been one of Benny Binion's boys and Jack Binion had grown up with this racket. Doyle was like an older brother to him. The Golden Nugget was the same as the Horseshoe. Eric Drache had control of the Golden Nugget and with Jimmy Shehady as his take off man, millions were made. Archie Karas, Lou Olejack and more cheats than you can count were in the casino.

I can only speculate when Bobby Baldwin [President of the Golden Nugget] became apart of this. But he did become a major part of this "cheating conspiracy". With no one having a chance to win in the Hi-levels of poker in Vegas the cheats also took advantage of cheating the casinos in many different ways. Management connections through poker provided dice cheats to "shoot the shot" and "marker scams" to go on. John Martino was implicated in a marker scam. With a bribe to a NSGCB agent [$25,000] he was able to avoid going to jail. This is discussed in the tapes [The Cheating Tapes]. It is also documented as this went to court.

Eric Drache was put in charge of the WSOP. What a joke this was. Poker was now controlled by cheats. It was always controlled before, but it was not this well organized. Eric Drache was a compulsive sports better and soon was losing more at sports than he could steal or cheat. On the occasion that he was let go from the WSOP after running it for years, he had sold many seats for a discount for a quick monetary fix. He must of sold twenty to thirty WSOP $10,000 seats for $8,000 cash before the event. After losing the money he was in a bad situation. Jack Binion covered the loss and nothing was told to the public. However, Eric Drache was no longer running the WSOP. This is the reason that Eric Drache was no longer in charge of the WSOP.

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