In Memory of Joe Pane

Shortly after 9 a.m. on April 5, I received a phone call from a friend letting me know Joe Pane had passed away the previous night. For those of us who knew Joe, we all felt the same sadness, bewilderment, frustration, and an overall feeling of “What?” It was a very tough day for all of us.

Joe was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and he started his career there long ago as a police officer for the New York City Police Department. He later went on to become a personal officer for a New York Supreme Court Justice. After a line-of-duty injury, Joe owned and operated a successful athletic-shoe store in Brooklyn.

When the New York weather got too much for him, Joe moved west to Las Vegas, where he embraced his love for all things casino-related, particularly advantage blackjack. Here, Joe’s talents were quickly recognized by other advantage players and he was promptly asked to join a top-tier group. Together, they took the casinos for vast sums of money, while being comped rooms, food, and show tickets.

In his down time, Joe loved to play poker and he ran a local poker league. He also cashed in many World Series of Poker events over the years. He hustled the local poker and casino scene, capitalizing on every promotion he could find. He won consistently. Some called him lucky, but those successes were merely a biproduct of hard work and dedication to his craft.

In 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights had its inaugural NHL season. As a life-long hockey fan, Joe began covering the Knights for the Las Vegas Advisor that year. Compiling his stories, he later wrote the book Vegas Golden Knights, which chronicled the team’s historic first season when they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

When his book was published, I asked Joe what his mother, who had recently passed away, would have said if someone told her when he was a kid that her son would one day be a published author. Without hesitation, he replied, “She would have called you a f$#*ing liar right to your face.”

For almost three years, Joe and I attacked the Las Vegas casinos, devising new ways to gain bigger advantages over the house. Not only was he an outstanding gambler, he was also one of the greatest friends you could ever ask for. Supportive, loyal, fearless, and protective almost to a fault. It’s very hard for me to refer to him in the past tense, because he was always so present.

Once, while playing at Mandalay Bay, Joe had a $5,000 chip that the cage refused to cash. The cage supervisor called the casino manager, who also refused to cash the chip. Joe pulled out his cell phone. When asked what he was doing, he said, “I’m calling the Gaming Control Board.” The casino manager immediately cashed the chip.

There were so many occasions like that. As much as a part of me likes to think that only I experienced these Joe Pane stories, I know that’s not true. Joe was an incredible person who approached everyday interactions with skill, compassion, and thoroughness. He made everyone’s day better.

For over 30 years, he was one of the brightest stars in the advantage-gaming universe. And while some of the brightest celestial bodies are actually extinct now, their energy long since turned dark, their light miraculously continues to shine on us from long in the past and far far away. Similarly, the fond memories of our departed friend create a glow so bright, it warms our hearts and makes our eyes glisten, and we think, “Joe Pane, what a guy.”

Joseph Ralph Pane 1951-2023


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