Las Vegas Sun

August 19, 2017

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Full of quirks, Bob Stupak refused to go out ‘calling’

Bob Stupak

Bob Stupak

Bob Stupak

Former Las Vegas casino owner Bob Stupak announces plans to build a $1.2 billion hotel-casino modeled after the ship Titanic in Las Vegas during a press conference on Thursday, April 8, 1999. The plans include a hotel-casino which resembles the Titanic and an attached Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

The Bob Stupak I’ll remember liked to talk about sports betting and gambling exploits.

He had a unique way of screening his conversations to avoid more tedious topics, however.

I often thought of Stupak as “Ten Sixty-seven” because he would answer one of his business lines with the last four digits of the phone number.

Not “hello,” or “good morning,” or “Bob Stupak speaking,” but just like that: “Ten Sixty-seven.”

Even though the raspy voice was unmistakably his, Stupak would say he wasn’t there but would offer to take a message.

I’d make it clear the subject at hand was football wagering, or that I was looking for his take on a gambling issue, rather than something nefarious.

Stupak would promise to pass the message along to Stupak.

Soon enough, my phone would ring and the same distinctive gravelly voice would be on the line.

“Yeah, this is Bob Stupak. What did you want?”

Loved that Bob.

Stupak, the legendary Las Vegas gambling figure famed for developing the Stratosphere, died Friday at Desert Springs Hospital at age 67.

At the 1989 World Series of Poker, Stupak won the $5,000 buy-in world championship no-limit deuce-to-7 event — perhaps the oldest of old-school poker games.

Late in his illustrious gambling career Stupak also became a folk hero among a new breed of poker enthusiasts, who knew him through his appearances on televised competitions such as GSN’s “High Stakes Poker.”

In a classic episode from the first season of “High Stakes,” announcers Gabe Kaplan and A.J. Benza had some fun with Stupak’s erratic behavior in the big no-limit Texas hold ’em game. Stupak took frequent breaks to walk around the room — perfectly legal in a cash game, but pushing the boundaries of poker etiquette — and opted to fold nearly every hand before the flop.

Benza: “Does Bob Stupak know there’s a poker game going on, Gabe?”

Kaplan: “Yes, he’s aware there’s a poker game going on. He doesn’t know he’s in it.”

Later in the game Stupak, though out of the hand, was chattering about ... well, we’re not quite sure.

“When we find out what Bob Stupak is talking about, we will post it,” Kaplan intones. “He’s probably talking about a high school dance he went to in Pittsburgh in 1953.”

In a World Poker Tour tournament in Los Angeles, Stupak was eliminated from the final table when his pocket 5s ran into Andy Bloch’s pocket jacks. When he was asked what happened, Stupak got right to the point.

“I had two 5s, put all my money in,” Stupak said. “Didn’t hold up. Somebody had two jacks. But go out blasting, never go out calling.”

Hall of fame redux

Michael “Roxy” Roxborough, whose name became synonymous with sports oddsmaking in the 1980s and 1990s, agreed with the names on our list of candidates for a proposed sports betting hall of fame (Las Vegas Sun, Sept. 9).

There was one obvious omission, however, as Roxborough sees it: longtime Nevada bookmaker Vic Salerno of the Leroy’s group of sports books. Salerno deserves consideration for his longevity and vision.

“He is responsible for two of the most significant changes in Nevada’s sports betting history,” Roxborough wrote in an e-mail. “First was the creation of the computerized book: accounting, ticket issuing and cashiering. Second was ability to create satellite books, thus expanding the operations at a rapid rate a la franchising.”

Roxborough would include Salerno in a group of seven charter members he calls the “automatics.” The others are Sen. Howard Cannon, Bob Martin, Charles McNeil, Mort Olshan, Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder and Billy Walters.

“I think a criterion should be to ‘have made a contribution to sports wagering that transcends the industry,’ ” Roxborough wrote.

“McNeil is interesting because he probably invented the point spread but Ed Curd, the legendary horse bookmaker from Lexington (Kentucky) really gave it credence. There isn’t much evidence to support McNeil’s popularizing of the spread as an undistinguished bookmaker, but he undoubtedly should be a charter member as the ‘father of the point spread.’ ”

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