The Park Tahoe Casino in 1978

Park Tahoe 1978 Post Card above is copyright RTSI

The Park Tahoe, 1978, what an awesome location for a casino. The Park was around for a couple years before becoming Caesar’s Tahoe when management found they had no ability to run the property profitably. When I arrive, I didn’t care about the casino names or what they stood for. I was 19 and ready to play some poker.

I had arrived after a 200-mile drive, eventually passing Harrah’s on Highway 50 at the state line. When I drove on past Barney’s I saw that the Park Tahoe was the last casino in the area, so I pulled back behind the casino and parked my car.

I had been playing poker on a regular basis with my high school buddies and at the Pacheco Inn down the street from where I was supposed to be spending my first year of college at DVC, but not today. Today I was at the lake. I was free, poker was not.

I came in the back of the casino and had to walk a long way past several shops before I got to the casino. It was huge. There were dozens of huge chandeliers and it was brighter inside than out. The carpeting was red and brown, but the slot machines sported belly-glass with a brown and yellow logo of the Park Tahoe. Lots of bronze and chrome.

There was a long line of tellers that I learned was the main cage, and in front of that were several groups of tables with plush ropes around them. The Pit. Not for me. I saw a sign that said POKER and walked across the casino floor. There were several cocktail servers in mini-mini skirts. I may have stared. They all seemed to look the same: 25 years old with long hair and big, ah, smiles.

I looked at the bar and the servers and made a left where there was a small polished-brass railing and headed up a ramp. When I got to a restaurant I figured I went the wrong way.

I headed back down the ramp and stopped by the bar. The cocktail servers were all still there. In fact, they had multiplied. They were everywhere, a whole gaggle of them. There may have been some slot machines around too.

It took me several minutes but I found the poker room.  It was ten feet away from where I had started. I milled-around, trying to figure out what was going on. At the Pacheco Inn, the tables were small oblongs and everybody sat on stools, up high. These tables were huge, with plush, deep-green felt. I didn’t recognize the games at first, nobody was playing low ball.

When I got up the courage I walked into the room and approached a guy behind a little podium. He said they had Hold’em and 7-stud. I didn’t know what the hell Hold’em was, so I said I wanted to play stud. He said, “Take the seat next to the dealer on table three, over there,” so off I went.

The first thing I did was sit in one of the very nice, high-backed chairs. They were on rollers, and I pulled myself under the table and smashed my knee into a very sharp metal box. What the hell was that doing under the table? I was in pain!

In Pacheco, the dealer took the “rake” out of each pot and put it in her tray. Sometimes dealers took a lot, sometimes they didn’t. I’m sure it was all fair and legal. At the Park Tahoe, they took up to $2 from any pot. Holy crap that seemed like a lot of money.

It was just a $1-3 stud game with a 10-cent ante, but that $2 going into the sharp, knee-mangling box under the table really bugged me. I thought of the poker games my buddies and I played for nickel-dime-quarter stakes with no rake and rarely anybody losing more than $5, but those days were fading away.

Now I was playing with the big boys, or at least I thought I was. And the big-boys knocked me down, beat me, and took all my candy. Fast. Damn Bullies. I was going to keep one of the cool $5 chips because I had never seen a chip with a coin in the middle, but now I didn’t have any left. I just had two of the gray $1 chips with a gold hot-stamp in the middle and a rim with cards and dice mashed into it. So I left.

At the table I had been staring over the gold railing that circled the room and looking down a set of stairs to a little lobby and the street below – so I headed out that way and hit the street. Well, actually I hit an alley and then Barney’s casino. But I already knew from a conversation at the poker table that I should be going to Harrah’s where the poker games were “really good.” So off I went.

Did things improve? A little. I started playing blackjack like a fool but survived. Poker got better for me over the next few days and life was good again. So were the lake views, the cocktail servers, and all the chips I collected.

Thanks for reading – Al W Moe

 

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