Hunting the Whale Hunter: Jon Allen Pursues a Dream

Posted: Monday, October 7th 2013 at 5:51 AM

Jon Allen pursued pre-med coursework in his freshman year. He did well in his classes, but his current roommate, a business management major, always seemed to be involved in projects that were much more appealing to him. He realized his passion when he changed his major and plunged into his finance and marketing coursework and extra-curricular efforts, such as volunteering to work at HRM’s Casino Nite.

A pivotal moment in his life occurred when he was in the University of Las Vegas bookstore and took Steve Cyr’s Whale Hunt in the Desert off the shelf. “I was rummaging through the pages and thought, ‘This really captivates my attention.’ So I started cold calling [Steve], emailing him, and we formed a relationship. It took a little over a year and it blossomed into, ‘Hey, would you want to come shadow me for the summer?’” Jon seized the opportunity for summer 2013.

Steve Cyr is an independent casino host for properties such as the Cosmopolitan, Norwegian Cruise Lines, the Golden Gate, and the Hard Rock. He is a broker between the casinos and the big gamblers, aka Whales, players who might gamble a quarter-million dollars up to a million dollars on each trip. Steve earns commission on these transactions.

The Shadowing Experience

Steve started Jon with Casino 101, teaching Jon the basics about hunting Whales and being a Casino Host. But the first person Jon witnessed who lost $10,000 in a flash shocked him. It captivated his attention, but scared him at the same time.

“I’m not sure if casinos are where I really want to go, which led to forming other relationships with some of Steve’s friends such as Brett Talla [who owns] strip malls, franchises, gyms, and a concierge company that does nightlife.”

Jon moved forward spending much of his time involved with the nightlife operation, VegasGoodBuys, a full-service concierge company that can plan your entire trip from hotel accommodations, dinners, entertainment, bottle service at a night club, etc. Jon serves as a host and handles all the details as the evening progresses and then forms relationships with the guests by following up on their stay in hopes they will return again.

Within the first week, he also met Jason Lilly of Tuff-N-Uff, the largest and longest-running amateur MMA fighting organization. Jon was involved in various roles putting on an event, from cold-calling potential sponsors, to ticket sales, to a last-second purchase of shoes for the ring girl when the sponsor’s shoes didn’t show up in time!

His internship is ongoing. He is still involved with VegasGoodBuys since much of what happens is by phone and e-mail, and he heads to Las Vegas for occasional weekend work.

The Bond with Steve Cyr

Jon is so grateful for his relationship with Steve. “We are like family now,” says Jon. Jon explains that Steve is a master at cold calling who worked his way up to his current niche. Jon explains, “There will probably never be another Steve Cyr. He has the most Whales. He is an independent that represents the most properties.”

“Something that shocked me about Steve is how humble he is. He lives in a 3-bedroom house, has an office, one car, and a golf cart. For somebody that is so successful, he doesn’t live in excess.”

“[Steve] doesn’t like [things] handed to him. He likes to work for it. Steve says, ‘ABC = Always be closing.’ That’s him on sales.”

Jon is working with Professor Gary Vallen to bring Steve Cyr, who already lectures at Cornell and NYU, as guest lecturer to his HRM Casino Management class. Steve is big on motivating students to work and likes to speak to seniors or juniors.

The Life Experience

The broad experience Jon is gaining is taking him in directions he is not sure about at this point, but he is excited to see where the path leads. Graduate school is in his future, but Steve is waiting for him in Vegas after graduation in spring 2014.

Jon is not wrapped up in the “who” and the lifestyle of the celebrities. Like Steve, Jon is highly motivated by the work of it all.

“To me, it’s a business. I want to make money on it; I want to grow it. So many people get caught up in it. They rage for a few days and they go home broke. I love the atmosphere. I love the vibe. It’s fun to be around, but it’s just not my personality. I want to wake up the next morning and work. I don’t work to live; I live to work.”

“The biggest thing I learned was never judge a book by its cover. You have to be nice to everybody. You don’t know who you’re introducing yourself to.”

Going above and beyond, even when his energy was drained, has paid off. “Success comes with that and to me, I don’t want to be famous; I just want respect, and I want to do something with my life.”

Jon is an old soul in a young body. His takeaways from his experiences thus far yield sage advice.

“If you want something, never be afraid to put yourself out there. Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I tell my friends who gripe, ‘I’m unhappy with this.’ I tell them, ‘Well, change it. Don’t sit there and don’t do nothing about it. Actually put the effort in and change.’”

Jon walked his talk as he set out to hunt the hunter of Whales in the desert. The year-long pursuit yielded invaluable connections and life-changing experiences. We hope to stay connected with Jon as his future unfolds.