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Huntington Press' new book explores life of Las Vegas mobster

24 July 2007

Huntington Press in Las Vegas publishes some of the best gambling books around, from poker (Kill Phil: The Fast Track to Success in No Limit Hold'em Poker Tournaments by Blair Rodman and Lee Nelson) to video poker (Frugal Video Poker by Jean Scott and Viktor Nacht) to blackjack (Play to Win: A World Champion's Guide to Winning Blackjack Tournaments by Ken Einiger).

But there's more than gambling to Las Vegas, and Huntington Press, the company that grew out of Anthony Curtis' monthly Las Vegas Advisor, has shown an eagerness to explore it all. The company's first book was Cathy Scott's The Killing of Tupac Shakur, probing the 1996 drive-by shooting that killed the rap star near the Las Vegas Strip.

Once again, Huntington Press is off the gambling beat and onto the seamier side of Las Vegas with Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness, by Dennis N. Griffin and Frank Cullotta (291 pages, softcover, $19.95).

Cullotta was back in Chicago in late June as a state's witness in the "family secrets" trial of five reputed mob figures alleged to have been involved in long-unsolved murders. Included are the 1986 slayings of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and brother Michael Spilotro. The Spilotro case is one with which Cullotta is well acquainted. Cullotta was Spilotro's top lieutenant in Las Vegas, stealing, strong-arming and, yes, killing in service of the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas.

That ended when Cullotta discovered Spilotro had turned on him and planned to have him killed. Cullotta turned government witness and continues to live anonymously under the witness protection program.

In the book, Cullotta pulls no punches, neither about his own crimes nor those of his boss. Still, the way Tony Spilotro was killed bothered Cullotta. At the time the FBI knew only that the Spilotros had disappeared and suspected Tony had fled to avoid prosecution, Cullotta told FBI investigator Dennis Arnoldy he was certain they were dead. The book quotes Cullotta in the conversation:

"Tony's caused the Outfit a lot of problems and he'd stopped generating money. Michael is cocky and has caused problems, too. They aren't needed anymore. If you whack one, you gotta whack them both. I guarantee you they're both dead."

Publisher Curtis says it took about three minutes to decide to take the book when it was offered. The only hesitation: Huntington Press previously published Of Rats and Men, John L. Smith's biography of Oscar Goodman, once attorney for Tony Spilotro and other crime figures, and today mayor of Las Vegas. Goodman may not like "Cullotta," but for the rest of us, it's a powerful, fascinating read.

* * *

Back on the gambling track, the July issue of the Las Vegas Advisor says Huntington Press will be publishing a follow-up to Rodman's Kill Phil, which gave players a method for combating that one standout player at every table. The follow-up is to be called Kill Everyone. Just in a poker sense, of course.

Rodman himself is on a roll, having just won his first gold bracelet and a check for $707,898 as a champion at the World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas. He won Event No. 47, a $2,000 buy-in hold'em championship that attracted 2,038.

It was an event he almost didn't enter. He had been playing in Event No. 44, an Omaha Hi-Lo Split championship, the night before. It wasn't until he busted out in 24th place that Rodman's way was cleared for the event that would give him his first championship.

* * *

A little local interest at the World Series of Poker game from Ben Ponzio, ad sales manager at Chicago radio station B-96, WBBM-FM, sister station to WBBM-AM and WCKG-FM, where I do my Chicago radio show.

Ponzio, who earlier this year finished third in a World Series of Poker Circuit event at Caesars Indiana in Elizabeth, Ind., found himself at the final table in Event No. 25 at the Rio, a $2,000 buy-in Hold'em championship. Not only were the finals on Father's Day, it was Ponzio's first Father's Day, his daughter having been born last July.

A profitable Father's Day it was. Ponzio won the event, taking home $599,109, and a champion's bracelet he's barely taken off since. He didn't stick around for the final event, the big $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em championship that started July 7. Not quite enough vacation time to cover that and leave time for his family. That'll be in the cards for some other year.

One small sidelight: There's a Huntington Press connection in Ponzio's event, too. One of the other players at the final table was Ken Einiger. Einiger, who finished eighth, is a former world blackjack champion and author of Play to Win.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski