Come on, Bob Stupak. Give us a sign. From up above or down below, tell us how you placed your life's final bet.
Because as surely as this community will miss your insanely colorful character, those of us who knew you also know that you couldn't have resisted making a play on your life's final day.
That day came Friday at Desert Springs Hospital after a long battle with leukemia. He was 67 and turned in his body with some very high miles on it. Bob embodied the Vegas adage, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing."
And overdo it he did.
The son of Pittsburgh gambling boss Chester Stupak, Bob was born with a huckster's heart and was a tireless self-promoter. He rarely let silly things like rules and regulations get in the way of a good pitch, whether he was running a backroom dice game as a teenager, selling coupon books in Australia as a young man, hustling "VIP Vacation" customers at Vegas World, or seeing his dream project the Las Vegas Stratosphere Tower become a reality just prior to his business bankruptcy.
Bob was an audacious dreamer who never ran out of plans to boost himself or his casino. He worked more angles than a geometry book. With his ninth-grade education, he had a head for numbers a college professor would have envied.
"I never had a steady job," he once told me. "All the jobs I had were self-inflicted."
"He was the last of the mavericks," Huntington Press publisher Anthony Curtis said Friday.
Curtis published my 1997 book, "No Limit: The Rise and Fall of Bob Stupak and Las Vegas' Stratosphere Tower."
"He called himself the Polish Maverick, and indeed that's what he was. He didn't put on any airs. He kind of tightroped it a little bit. He was kind of an anti-corporate guy, a casino boss who did it by his guile and answered to himself."
Occasionally, Stupak also was compelled to answer to the authorities. His "VIP Vacation" program was extremely successful and made the gaudy Vegas World, which squatted in a terrible location on Las Vegas Boulevard, a big moneymaker. It also generated complaints to the Gaming Control Board from several attorneys general, a particularly humorless lot if you ask me.
They should have smiled a little and felt almost honored to be involved in a Stupak hustle. Over the years, we all were hustled by Bob. Frankly, I came to appreciate it.
In his youth, Bob dreamed of being a teen idol. His problem was simple. He couldn't sing. But that didn't stop him from playing clubs and cutting a Christmas record called "Jake the Flake."
Stupak was a gutsy, kamikaze-style poker player who won a World Series of Poker bracelet, but he made far bigger headlines when he went head to head against a super computer -- and won.
Stupak would gamble on anything, but news of his $1 million bet in Super Bowl XXIII circled the globe. And if, confidentially, it was a publicity stunt, well that was just Bob being Bob.
There was the time Bob hired the Native American fellow to jump off the top of Vegas World onto a cushion for $1 million -- and charged the guy a $990,000 landing fee.
There were Bob's forays into politics -- always with bets on the side. He nearly won the mayor's job and helped bankroll a couple of his kids' campaigns. One Election Night, after celebrating early and then losing, he slapped one reporter and tried to kiss another on camera.
Bob was the kind of guy who would bet you he could do between "two and 300 push-ups," and after reeling off three say, "I win. Three is between two and 300."
When I insisted on writing an unauthorized biography of Stupak during construction of the Stratosphere, Bob offered me $10,000 to go away. I wasn't offended. A bribe? He was just being Stupakian.
With numbers guru David Sklansky checking his math, Stupak developed angles on dice and blackjack he called "crapless craps" and "double exposure 21." The games drew raves from customers, who were having too much fun to fully appreciate they were getting worse odds.
"He understood the gambler's instinct as well or better than anybody," Curtis says, placing Stupak's casino savvy high in the great green-felt pantheon.
Even the VIP Vacation program, which Curtis called "the Swiss cheese of all casino deals," gave short-pockets customers value if they played their cards right and read the fine print.
Not many people would call him a handsome guy, but Bob was never short on bravado. Singing legend Phyllis McGuire admired that about him. She called him her "Peck's Bad Boy." He once sent her enough roses on Valentine's Day to cover a parade float.
That, too, was pure Bob.
"When I think of Bob Stupak, what pops to my mind is that he was the best ever at making something out of nothing," Curtis said. "It didn't matter. He'd take any idea and figure out a way to promote it."
Stupak's friend of 35 years, Mike Flores, says, "It's the end of an era." Even Bob seemed to appreciate that one night a few years ago as we sipped whiskey at Fellini's.
"The days of characters are gone," he said. "There's no more Jay Sarnos around. There are no more me's around. It's over."
But who will be able to drive past the Stratosphere and not smile at the idea that an angle-shooting big dreamer with a ninth-grade education made that amazing tower become a reality?
I'd say you won your bet, Bob.
John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.