A Tribute to Vegas Vic

The news arrived late. In September 2009, Vic passed away at age 83. With him, much of Las Vegas’ storied past was quietly buried. Even though it is months after the fact, I am no less saddened by the news of the passing of Vic Vickrey. Vic knew all of the in’s and out’s of Las Vegas, and enough to know the difference between what could be shared and what was to be kept under wraps.

I have read many books and articles and because my name is Victor and I am often called Vic I noticed the name Vic Vickrey in several stories. I even read a few quotes from Vic in books about Vegas. One day at the Riviera, I was playing some blackjack and betting a little north of $100 per hand when up walked an elderly gentleman. His name tag read: Vic Vickrey, Casino Host. I looked back up at the man’s face for a doubletake. By God! He is old enough to be the genuine article! I vaguely remembered reading that Vic was the high limit host at Riviera, and here he was walking up to me. I finally tracked down that same story in the Las Vegas Journal newspaper:

But Vic’s gregarious nature helped persuade Dean Martin to play the gracious high-roller host at the Riviera back when Torres was the owner of record and the entertainer had a small percentage of the place. In an effort to use Martin’s mystique to attract and keep big spenders, Torres installed a small bar next to the Riviera showroom called “Dino’s Den.”

Martin dropped in for drinks and took time out to pose for photographs with high rollers personally delivered by Vickrey. Martin was gracious, the players were thrilled, and Vegas Vic made it all look spontaneous, right down to the casino camera girl who just happened to be nearby.

By the time the brief photo encounter was over, Vic had won a player for life, and the high roller had a million-dollar story to take home.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to inform Sinatra, who dropped by the bar one night to party with Martin in his out-of-the-way watering hole. The Rat Pack kings shared cocktails and laughs in the intimate setting.

Suddenly, on cue at a prearranged time, Vic brought in the high roller, who approached Martin as instructed with the casino camera girl in hot pursuit.

When the camera flashed, Sinatra exploded.

“Why don’t you ask somebody before you take their picture?” Sinatra snarled. “What the hell’s the matter with you? What right do you have to take my picture without asking somebody.”

The photographer cringed.

Vegas Vic did his best not to smile.

Martin stepped in as cool as you might imagine.

“Calm down, Frank,” he said. “She wasn’t taking your picture. She was taking one of my new friend and I. You weren’t even supposed to be in it. Besides, my friend probably doesn’t even know who you are.”

With that, Francis Albert Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board, the man who always had something to say about everything, was speechless.

And Vegas Vic Vickrey, consummate casino host, was happy to play his part.

Yes, THAT Vegas Vic was walking up to my table to introduce himself. I knew I needed to bond with this guy. I looked up at Vic and said, “Where the Hell did you get a name like that?” He handed me my players’ card and repeated the phrase. That was how we met and bonded.

A few months later on a return visit to the Riviera, Vic walked up to the table and said, “Where the hell did you get a name like that?” We both laughed. The man actually remembered me and I am sure that is one of the traits that made him a great host for so many years. A few trips later I noticed I hadn’t seen Vic in a while and I asked about him and was told he was only working part time and when the casino had to cut down on staffing due to the recent economic downturn Vic went back to retirement.

On that second trip, Vic had been hanging out and talking quite a bit as I managed to get myself into the game about $4,000 and finally extricated myself from the hole and had about $5,000 in front of me when I called for a dinner break. I put the squeeze on Vic for a dinner comp for the steakhouse. Vic told me he wasn’t able to do the steak house because it was booked solid for the evening. I cried foul, “That’s bullshit. You can make it happen Vic. Get on the phone and make it happen.”

I knew he had a lot of juice and he could make it happen if he wanted to. Of course two minutes later it was arranged. I went to dinner and sat at my own private table off to the side near the bar and watched the wedding party that had reserved the entire place conduct their festivities. I felt a little out of place but I knew my host had taken care of me. I had Vic’s cell phone number in my phone and his card in my wallet. I was one of Vic’s players even if it was for only a year or two.

Vic is credited with being a co-founder of the World Series of Poker. Tom Moore and Vic Vickrey, in 1969, held the Texas Gambler’s Reunion in Reno. The following year the reunion was moved to Las Vegas and hosted by Benny Binion. The event was dubbed the World Series of Poker and the rest is history.

Vic Vickrey was not Steve Cyr, but he was a great host for a very long time. Vic was my host. I will never be a big enough player to be spoiled by the great hosts of today but I can honestly say that I had a host that was one of the best that ever lived. Vic, I know you were a good man and you lasted so long because you could be trusted by men from every walk of life. I wish we would have had more time for you to share a few more of your good stories.

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3 Responses to “A Tribute to Vegas Vic”

  1. Tracy Vickrey Says:

    Vic, just wannted to take a moment to say thank you for the kind words about “Vegas Vic”. I am his youngest son and truly appreciate reading about him from his friends. You really captured his outgoing personality and a day in the life of the business he so dearly loved. Best of Luck! Tracy Vickrey

    • victorshaw Says:

      Tracy,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me a note. I truly enjoyed the time I spent with your father. I admired him and the more I learned of him the more impressed I became. It was an honor to know him.

  2. Celeste Miller Says:

    Vic, I understand some time has passed, please forgive me. But my recent circumstances hopefully explain my story. You see, I was a Vickrey by marriage, and I am a development lead for our newest latest and greatest initiatives for WSOP. When this opportunity was presented to me, I took the opportunity knowing who and what Vic did. I will say in the coming years you will see innovation from WSOP like you have never imagined. And I dedicate my work to Vic. He was an enigmatic man, with endless energy, and smiles. I am better for having known him.

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