Ever since the introduction of legalized gambling there in 1931, Las Vegas has lived up to its reputation as “Sin City” by offering everything a casino enthusiast could want. So it’s no surprise to learn that many of the greatest achievements to ever grace the world of gambling have gone down right here in America’s casino capital.
In this “Remembering When” series, we’ll look back on a few of the most legendary records set by Las Vegas gamblers.
And to kick things off, look no further than Stanley Fujitake’s epic world record run at the craps table 31 years ago.
Tourist from Hawaii Takes the Town by Storm
The year was 1989 and Stanley Fujitake was enjoying one of his regular Las Vegas vacations alongside his wife.
The happy couple from Honolulu, Hawaii set up camp at the California Hotel & Casino – located in the Downtown district along Fremont Street – where Mr. Fujitake quickly found himself a spot at the craps table. Just before midnight, with a humble $5 bet placed on the Pass Line, Fujitake cradled the dice in his hands and let them fly.
As anybody familiar with the game of craps knows well, serving as the table shooter can take a gambler on any number of vastly different paths. You might roll a 2, 3, or 12 to produce an instant loss for Pass Line bettors by “crapping” out. Or, maybe you roll a 7 or 11 to send Pass Line players a quick even money winner on their wager.
More often than not, however, that initial roll – better known as the “come out roll” in craps lingo – lands on a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 to establish a new point number. From there, the shooter’s job is to roll the point number again before the dreaded 7 hits the green baize. That outcome – most commonly called “sevening” out in craps – causes Pass Line bettors to lose while ending the shooter’s session in a flash.
Sevening out is never fun for the shooter, but because 7 is the most likely number to appear on any given roll, it happens quite often. So often, in fact, that the average craps shooter manages only 8.5 rolls before passing the dice to another player.
On the other hand, when Lady Luck makes an appearance and smiles your way, the 7 seems to disappear from the dice altogether. Point numbers come in like clockwork to pay out Pass Line wagers, while non-point rolls can generate winners for players who prefer the exotic bets.
A hot shooter might last 30 minutes or so before sevening out, steadily accumulating chips and spreading the wealth with fellow craps fans all the while.
But on that fateful evening in the summer of 1989, Fujitake went three hours and six minutes without sevening out a single time. In doing so, the diminutive Hawaiian who called “The Cal” his home away from home established a new world record for longest consecutive craps roll ever.
Witnesses Still in Awe When Remembering Fujitake’s Record
John Repetti, who served as casino manager for the California at the time, later explained exactly how rare a roll like Fujitake’s really was in an interview with in-house publication News at the Cal:
“Half an hour is average, over an hour is amazing, but more than three hours is totally astounding.”
Fujitake’s wife Satsuko knew her beau had a knack for rolling the “bones,” as he routinely clocked extended shooting sessions of over an hour while playing at the California. But as she told Hawaii News Now, what Stanley Fujitake – who passed away in 2000 at the age of 77 – did that night in Las Vegas was much more than simply an “astounding” feat:
“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.”
When it was all said and done, Fujitake had rolled the dice 118 straight times without sevening out. Over that marathon 186-minute span, he managed to hit the point number for a Pass Line winner on 18 occasions – attracting the attention of fellow gamblers and casino staff alike.
With the table now packed and players pressing their Pass Line bets after every roll, Guido Metzger – a dealer who worked his way up to a management position at the California – watched an unforgettable scene play out. As he recounted to the casino industry newsletter Boyd’s Buzz, Metzger saw money changing hands at an almost unbelievable pace:
“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.”
Overall, the absurd run of Pass Line payouts even caused the California’s cashier cage to run out of casino chips. Speaking with News at the Cal, Repetti recalled the frantic early morning phone call that alerted him to the unprecedented situation Fujitake’s record-setting roll had created:
“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.”
He wasn’t the only winner, however, as fellow Pass Line bettors beat the California out of a cool $750,000 combined.
According to David Strow – who serves vice president of corporate communications for California casino parent company Boyd Gaming – the glaring discrepancy between Fujitake’s haul and that of his tablemates speaks to the different betting styles employed by craps regulars:
“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!”
Fujitake Leaves a Legacy as the Original “Golden Arm”
In the years to come, the California sought to capitalize on its newfound reputation as the home of the craps world record.
Fujitake gladly allowed his hands, still holding those sizzling hot dice, to be immortalized by a bronze bust titled “Longest Dice Roll in History: The Man with the Golden Arm.” The tribute to Fujitake’s roll can still be found at the California to this day, as the casino has warmly embraced Fujitake and his fellow “Golden Arms.”
Beginning in 1992, anybody who manages to roll the dice for an hour or more without sevening out is enshrined in the “Golden Arm Club.” This honor comes complete with a personalized plaque on the Wall of Fame commemorating the shooter’s name, the date of their Golden Arm roll, and exactly how long they survived without seeing a 7 show up.
Many of the more than 300 members of the Golden Arm Club converge on the California’s craps tables every year for a special tournament in Fujitake’s honor.
Before he passed away, Fujitake found his name added to the Golden Arm Club four more times, proving that his record-setting roll in 1989 was far from a fluke.
In an odd twist of fate, Fujitake’s record was eventually surpassed by a novice gambler in Atlantic City, New Jersey almost 20 years to the day later. You can catch up on Patricia Demauro and her 154-roll session lasting more than four hours here, but sufficed to say, beating Fujitake’s mark involved overcoming truly unfathomable odds of 1 in 1.56 trillion.
In her memorial published by Hawaii News Now shortly after his record fell, Fujitake’s wife Satsuko made it clear that she still considers Stanley to be the king of craps:
“As my husband of 54 years, in my heart, he is still the champ to me and will be forever.”
Every gambler envisions themselves enjoying the run of their lifetime at some point or another, but these dreams seldom come true when playing craps. After all, the odds of rolling a 7 stand at 16.67 percent, making it the most likely number to arrive when the dice reveal their result.
That cold, hard calculus helps to put Fujitake’s accomplishment in the proper perspective. In 28 years since the Golden Arm Club was founded, many shooters have eclipsed the magical one-hour plateau to secure their entrance – but none have ever come close to topping three hours like Fujitake did.