Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
Touch of Luck
“Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation, while bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality.”
“When it comes to luck, you make your own.”
“Poker is a skill game pretending to be a chance game.”
Massage at the poker table began in 2004 at Caesar’s Las Vegas. Because prolonged sitting over time can weaken the structures that help support the spine and make them less tolerable to stress and force, thus increasing the risk of injury, many players who sat for hours across the multi-day tournaments began to complain of muscle fatigue, cramps, and headaches. The World Series of Poker alone features more than 400 therapists over their 54-day tournament, each of them soliciting their services to the players for the standard price of $2 per minute. Since 2004, the idea of massage at the poker table has spread to various other casinos around the country, and any casino that has a decent poker room (or even those that play off the books) often employ massage therapists to work out the kinks in their player’s necks, backs, hands, and arms. It’s a rather simple process: flag down a girl, flip your chair around, and tell her how long you want her to go for. The therapists know better than to comment on player’s hands or talk without being spoken to. They alter their usual style of work to fit in at the table, so there’s no undressing or lotions involved, and clients can continue to play hands while the therapists work. Though most of their work takes place in the poker room due to the long hours of play, therapists can also be hired for other games, or taken into the Diamond Lounge with the VIP clients.
Harrah’s New Orleans began offering the service in 2016 following the remodeling of their poker room. All of the girls are licensed therapists and many of them also see clients outside the casino.
• Louise Gustafon (Ally [Industry] •••)
Louise was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her mother was a show girl and her father was a poker dealer, so she grew up in and around casinos and glamour. She loved the glitz and glam and wanted it for herself; not to turn herself into something new, but to be able to transform others. At 18 she obtained her Cos license and quickly found her place in the salon world, but a few years later lost her license when her then-boyfriend’s undisclosed wife accused her of sleeping with her clients. She left Vegas behind and moved to LA, then to New Orleans when the company she worked for, Pangloss, opened a new location down there. It was in NOLA that she met Celia Flores, who, in 2016, found a loophole in the licensing laws and brought Louise on as a manager. She was pleased to see the back of Pangloss and has been splitting her time between Celia’s two businesses, Flawless and Touch of Luck, since.
• Monica White (Ally [Industry] ••)
Monica was sixteen when she had her first kid. Dumb enough to get knocked up but wise enough to know that she couldn’t take care of it on her own, she arranged for a nice couple to adopt the baby. Only as soon as her baby was born and she held it in her arms she changed her mind, sobbing over the tiny girl with her perfect little toes and fingers and red, wrinkly skin. ”I love her,” she wailed. The adoption fell through. Monica stuck around long enough to name her daughter Caitlyn, promptly dropped the child off at her mother’s house, and left the city. She moved from Pennsylvania to Louisiana at 18 and ended up in the French Quarter waiting tables at various locales for the next few years. She stuck around when she fell in love with the atmosphere and decided to go to massage school to obtain her license, assuming that the hours and the pay would be better than the shit she had to deal with in the restaurant biz. She graduated in 2010, went from waiting tables to tabling clients, and recently took a job at “A Touch of Luck” at Harrah’s. She prefers the lively vibe of the casino to the quiet halls of a massage parlor and makes a pretty decent living working just a few nights a week. Monica colors her hair various shades of blonde, uses colored contacts to make her eyes blue, and has an unlimited membership at a spray tan place to keep her skin dark. She’s sleeping with at least two players, a security guard, and probably the poker room manager. For all that, though, she’s professional while on the clock.
• Rita Whenton (Ally [Industry] •)
Rita’s got five kids. Hard to tell from looking at her because she looks good for her age. Really good for her age. She works a series of odd jobs outside of the casino, including jewelry sales, Martha Jay, and selling artisinal hand-made soaps. If it’s a multi-level marketing company she probably has a hand in it. She does well for herself, recruits new people to help, and then sits back and earns commission from them while she jumps over to the next big thing. It’s a pretty decent system and she enjoys the fruits of her ”hands-off labor.” She juggles a few boyfriends at a time, collects child support from both of her baby daddies, and is currently dating a new guy that works in HVAC. She thinks he’s real convenient around the house, and with a house as old as hers there are a lot of things that need fixin’. On paper her life might look like she doesn’t have much going for her, but in practice she’s about as happy as anyone else can be. She started working for Touch of Luck part time and prefers the day shift so she can keep her nights open to be with her families, but she’ll work the occasional weekend when there’s a big enough poker tournament. Rumor is that she caught the attention of a local NFL player who gives her tickets to the games for her and all her kids, but if that’s the truth Rita ain’t sayin’.
• Tina Lopez (Ally [Industry] •)
Tina had a hard life. A lot of people think they have a hard life, but Tina thinks that her life might be harder than most people’s, or maybe that’s just the excuse she uses to be as abrasive as she is. Her daddy was a repo man for Auto Recovery, which means he was part grifter, part hustler, part tracker, and part conman. He had a CDL so he could drive his tow truck and used to haul parts across the state for General Motors, which Tina had always thought was pretty cool. Sometimes he’d let her skip school if he was going out of state and take her with him so she could see the road, then have her home in time for dinner. Of course she had to sit on the floor if they passed a weigh station or if he ever pulled into the GM Plant, but overall Tina had a lot of fun with her dad on the road. It gave her an interest in cars that was ”a little unusual for a lady,” and by the time she was thirteen she was about as knowledgeable about diesel mechanics as most girls were about boys and makeup. She might not have wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps by driving them, but she sure as hell wanted to be a grease monkey and carry around a big wrench when she grew up. So it made sense to both of them that, when he became a repo man, he’d take her with him. Maybe they should have realized that no one is happy to see the repo man. Maybe they should have thought about the fact that people don’t like having their property seized no matter what they did to deserve it. All Tina knows is that she was fifteen years old, sitting in the front of her daddy’s tow truck, when she heard the BANG that ended her world. She watched her dad fall, dead before he hit the ground, his face blown off by the double-barrel shotgun the piece of shit that defaulted on his car loan wielded. She watched the man jump into said car and peel out of the driveway then down the street, tires running right through the blood and brains that had splattered all across the pavement. Tina hasn’t wanted to work on cars since. She decided to go into something a little less dangerous once she left high school and settled on spa work. After all, no one is ever unhappy to see their massage therapist. She still has idle fantasies about tracking down the man that murdered her daddy.
• Cassandra “Sandra” Burton (Ally [Industry] ••)
Cassandra—or Sandra, as she prefers to be called—was a stripper until she got fat. She blamed the birth control, the thyroid problems, the genetic predisposition to obesity. She blamed O’Tolleys and Cow Lord and Four Lads, serving sizes in America, an unhealthy obsession with being “stick thin.” She used to be a crusader for HAES and took to Mumblr to spout the same sort of “real women have curves” and ”Marilyn Monroe was a size 14” schtick that was all the rage a few years ago. She hated men, hated the media, hated herself. And then in 2013 she had Bariatric Surgery, lost 150 lbs in two years, and has managed to keep it off since. While she was in the process of losing the weight she decided to find something to do that didn’t involve flashing a crowd or grinding on a pole and went to school for Cosmetology. She enjoyed the hair and skincare lessons, but where she really shined was the bodywork. Years of being a stripper left her comfortable enough with other people’s bodies to read their moods and adjust her technique appropriately to give them what they really need rather than what they ask for. When Harrah’s announced that it was hiring girls for the poker room she knew that she’d be a good fit. Indeed, she’s one of the highest earners thanks to her ability to sell herself. She’s also a lesbian, which doesn’t stop her from flirting her way into bigger tips or offering ”extras” to clients that show an interest. She’s currently dating Amber Nichols, one of the dealers in the poker room who often suggests that players get a massage when Sandra is working. Amber seems to think that Sandra’s flirting is highly arousing, and the two often take their breaks together to let off some steam.
• Erica “Anoushka Petrov” Wheeler (Ally [Industry] •)
Erica had a pill problem in high school. Well, she didn’t consider it a problem, but apparently the administration, her parents, her therapist, and all her friends considered it a problem, so she ended up spending her senior year in rehab. Rather than graduate as valedictorian and “get out of this shithole city,” Erica ended up with a GED. She might have recovered from the rehab stint if that had been the only trouble she’d gotten into, but apparently she was slinging pills, coke, and heroin to the kids at her school. Because she was a minor she faced minimal criminal charges (or maybe because her dad was loaded and paid the right people to look the other way), but she still lost her scholarship to Brown. Erica ended up attending Delgado Community College with the intent to transfer out after two years, but she ended up enjoying the bodywork she’d started doing and stuck around to take the state test and get her license. She only graduated a year ago and happened upon the job posting for Touch of Luck, then impressed the owner with the trial massage and spunky attitude when she’d interviewed. The owner knew a fellow liar when she saw one, and rather than kick the girl to the curb she welcomed her in with open arms and taught her a few tricks, even helped her get some fake papers with a new name so she could leave the “pill popping” alias behind. Erica has had a bit of work done on her face—injections, rhinoplasty, some filler—and now almost nobody she used to go to school with recognizes her. She uses a Russian accent as fake as her new name to give herself an exotic appeal and even downloaded a handful of apps to help her learn how to speak it for real. She’s a big hit in the high rollers section.
• Jessica Moran (Ally [Industry] •)
Of all the girls who work for Touch of Luck, Jessica is by far the best at what she does. She’s got long fingers that possess a strength belied by her slight frame and isn’t afraid to drop an elbow into someone’s traps to get out a knot right at the table. She likes to start off her services with a quick back crack before she moves onto what she calls the “real stuff,” and she’s been able to build a steady clientele at her studio outside the casino for people who want more than what she can offer on the poker floor. She’s never seen without a full face of glam, keeps her hair pixie-short, and often eschews the traditional uniform bottoms for leggings or yoga pants that show off her toned, shapely legs. Technically it’s against the rules, but none of the girls are catty enough to report her for it since she’s so pleasant to the rest of them. She’s got an ear for drama and a smile that charms most people she meets. Outside of work she’s an avid gamer, spends much of her time playing World of Shadow (she likes the Dark Ages games) or Sorcery: The Joining, and lives with two cats. She says she’d like to get out of the industry before she develops carpal tunnel or tendonitis but is happy to spend her evenings at the casino in the meantime, and the flexible hours fit her schedule just fine. Apparently she’s also an avid cosplayer and LARPer and makes her own costumes (”real costumes, none of those fake body-con suits”). What most people don’t know is that Jessica Moran was born Joseph Dougal. Joseph works day shift at a local gas station and loathes most of his co-workers and guests, and the feeling is mutual. Most of them think he’s just one bad day away from hanging himself in his closet.
• Mary Novack (Ally [Industry] ••)
Mary knew at a young age that she wanted to be in the medical field. Her dad played for the Saints and her mother was a former figure skater, and she recalls plenty of discussions around the dinner table about stretching, muscle fatigue, sprains, and strains. Her older brother, Billy, started playing football and wrestled and was just as talented as their old man, and her younger brother, Jason, had the speed and size of a pro basketball player before he ever hit high school. Mary liked sports growing up. She really did: she played basketball, softball, volleyball, tennis, and she was even on the swim team. But all of that paled in comparison to the draw she felt toward the medical industry. She was always on hand when her dad and brothers worked with the trainers who showed them how to stretch and let their muscles recover, and, when her school schedule allowed it, she even hit the road with her dad to watch his away games and get a first-hand look at sports medicine. After high school Mary applied for the Exercise Science program at Tulane, where she met Emily Rosure in one of her nutrition classes. Emily and Mary hit it off well enough that Emily took Mary under her wing and let the girl shadow her at Flawless, where she worked part-time as a massage therapist. Mary asked Emily a slew of questions about how it would translate into sports medicine and was pleased to find out that obtaining a license would only take 500 hours at a local school. She knocked it out in six months, passed her state board, and immediately started practicing. Celia was happy to hire Mary on Emily’s recommendation so that her spa could offer more medically-based body treatments, and once Mary was hired Flawless saw an increase in business from the sports world. Many of the local Saints players have made it their top choice for massage due to Mary’s work, and their wives love the extensions, cuts, and skincare services. After Mary finished her bachelor’s she decided to continue her education to achieve her doctorate so she could get more into physical therapy and combine the work that she loves so much. She took up Celia’s offer to work at Touch of Luck when the company began at Harrah’s, and while she enjoys the money she can make in fewer hours (even if her family’s wealth means she doesn’t really need it), she prefers the deeper work she can do at Flawless and has kept up her schedule there. She manages to balance both work and school with an easy efficiency.