On May 29, 1989, Stanley Fujitake, a regular at the California Hotel and Casino located at downtown Las Vegas, became a legendary name after he sat at a craps table, dropped $5 on the pass line, and picked up the dice. Nobody, not even him, had any idea that what happens next will influence the creation of a club acknowledging awesomely-blessed craps players, as Fujitake managed to roll for 3 hours and 6 minutes (a total of 118 rolls) before finally "crapping out." With Fujitake and almost all of the other people maxing out their bets during his epic streak, the casino lost over $1 million during that time.
Founded in 1975, the California Hotel and Casino (the Cal as the regulars call it) is found at the intersection of North Main Street and East Ogden Avenue.
The casino is a favorite place for Hawaiian residents. Founder Sam Boyd made sure the ambience at the Cal gives off a relaxing atmosphere and attracted many players from the islands. In the early days, Hawaii did not have casino gambling, and so Boyd offered cheap vacation packages and included island cuisine to their menu especially for the islanders, which still up to this day they offer at the Cal. At the early days, deals on chartered flights from Hawaii could get as low as $9.90!
Now, the Cal's online website carries a tagline "Aloha Spoken Here" and dealers even don Hawaiian-print attire. The casino has become a natural spot for most island gamblers that the University of Hawaii Press in 2008 published the book California Hotel and Casino: Hawaii's Home Away From Home. The humble downtown casino became a favorite spot for the islander regulars and thus had been made a venue as well for weddings and other special occasions.
Craps is a favorite table game for a lot of players since it is easy to play and the turnout is more favorable for them, with just a small house advantage. However, no one can ever really explain how someone can avoid ‘crapping out' again and again.
The basic rule is simple to remember: Roll to establish a point number - other than 2, 3 or 12 (this means it should be 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) and then try to roll that number again before rolling a seven (crapping out). Between that timeframe, there are several bets that can be made on individual numbers, and as long as the shooter does not end the roll, bettors covering their preferred numbers can win money each time their number comes up. Sure is not easy to roll a lot before crapping out. A shooter needs to roll at least 25 times in order to qualify for the Golden Arm tournament. Most never make it close to that.
At craps, the probability of throwing a seven is 16.67%, six and eight has a 13.89% chance, while two and twelve have the lowest odds at 2.78% chance each. Despite these mathematical probabilities, the ‘magic' is what sells this game. This mystery keeps players coming back to the edge of the felt, both cheering loudly and praying silently that maybe, just maybe, on that next roll of the dice, the rules of math don't apply.
Professor of statistics at MIT Arnold Barnett said that the lure of "hot hand" or "hot dice" in reality actually has no foundation at all. The cold, hard facts of math do not lie. He said, "Luck is defined by the world in different ways. Probability just uses numbers to make clear what events are rare and not so rare."
According to Barnett, each roll is an individual, independent entity and therefore not connected to the last roll. There are still a lot more combinations of seven on the dice than any other number, thereby giving it the biggest odds of coming up soon at any given time. He said that odds are the way luck is measured.
This clearly explains why remarkable shooters are held in high respect and awe. The Cal has gone all out to make sure that when such a shooter graces their casino, they will be commemorated on a wall full of plaques meant for every Golden Arm. They also put up a shrine honoring Fujitake on the casino floor which features a cast of his hand.
The Fujitake Roll
Oahu native Stanley Fujitake, on the wee hours of May 29, 1989, defied all odds on the craps table. A regular and also a regular dice player at the Cal, he dropped $5 on the pass line and started rolling the dice. What happened next became a legend in the history of craps in Las Vegas.
Fujitake rolled for a total of 3 hours and 6 minutes, making 118 rolls, before hitting the dreaded seven and crapping out. A throng of other players flocked on his table throughout the night to take part in his mystical roll, witnessing roll after roll of the red dice bouncing along the green felt and hitting point number after point number.
At a table next to Fujitake's that night was Guido Metzger, who worked as a craps dealer that time. Now the director of casino operations for Boyd Gaming's Las Vegas downtown properties, Metzger recalls the incident as something he had never seen before at a casino - dealers struggled to keep up with the wins of the players as more and more players wanted to join in on the action, "They had trouble keeping up with the chip payouts that night. My table was empty. But there were at least 30 to 40 people trying to place bets at his table. They couldn't get fills to the table fast enough and had to start issuing scrip (casino credit) because not enough people were going to the cage and cashing in their chips."
That momentous night, Fujitake's 118 rolls have made 18 pass line winners as well. After starting with the table minimum, the sharpshooter Fujitake increased his bet to the table max of $1,000 when he finally passed the dice. On his previous trip to the Cal, friends said he rolled the dice for 1 hour 45 minutes. Casino employees were astonished.
John Repetti was the casino manager that night and there was a solid rule at the Cal management that if the losses started to rise significantly for the casino, he should be awakened at home. He said, "The first call came and he'd been shooting for an hour, and we were losing a couple hundred thousand dollars at the time. I said if he continued, to call me at every $100,000 loss interval. Well, the calls kept coming every 15 minutes. Another $100,000. And another $100,000. After the fourth call and fifth call, I decided I'd better get some clothes on and get downtown."
When he arrived at the scene, Repetti saw the chips were stacked so thick on the numbers that they were no longer visible. The table was extremely full and it is hard to watch since many onlookers also flocked to admire the impressive streak. The casino ran out of $1,000 chips and struggled to keep up with the payouts. On that night, the Cal lost over $1 million on the table.
After Fujitake's achievement, Repetti said to a local newspaper in July 1989, "Half an hour is average, over an hour is amazing, but more than three hours is totally astounding."
Birth of the Golden Arm Club
While it is for sure the casino lost a lot that night, instead of feeling bad about losing money, Boyd instead looked on to the bright side and turned the legend of Stanley Fujitake into a clever marketing opportunity, and a prestigious award, for outstanding craps players.
Fujitake was given the nickname "The Golden Arm" and the Cal casino has created and hosted the Golden Arm Club.
To become a member of the Golden Arm Club, just roll without getting a seven for an hour. Over 300 players are proud members of the club. Roll for 90 minutes or acquire Golden Arm status more than once and your name will be placed on a more exclusive Platinum Wall situated on the casino's mezzanine level. Fujitake became a platinum member too after reaching the one-hour mark an astounding four times!
A bronze cast of Fujitake's hand holding the winning dice from that memorable night can be seen inside a glass trophy case within the Cal. Just beside that trophy case, a display of small golden plaques show the names of all players who have rolled for 1 hour or more who have become members of the club, which averages about one player per month.
Fujitake and his Wife
The remarkable craps king died at the age of 77 in 2000 after battling a long illness. On a news interview, his widow Satsuko told them her side about that amazing night.
Satsuko, who introduced the game to her husband, said, "It was a miracle, because it's impossible to hold the dice. It doesn't happen all the time, maybe it's only once in a lifetime deal."
According to Satsuko, he brought home around $30,000 on that fateful night, and that the Cal paid out around $750,000 in winnings to the players who took part in her husband's divine streak and bet on the pass line and other bets at the table.
Boyd Gaming vice president of corporate communications David Strow said, "That was one of the ironic things about his roll - the other players at the table ended up winning a lot more money than Stanley did!"
The Fujitake couple visits the Cal in Vegas once a month when Stanley was still alive. Now that he's gone, the Cal made sure his legacy won't be forgotten as they host the annual Golden Arm Craps Tournament in his honor.
Even with her husband gone, she still visits Las Vegas every other month. Satsuko said, "As my husband of 54 years, in my heart, he is still the champ to me and will be forever."