A hardened ex-cop with great instincts, a sharp eye, and a short fuse, Tony Valentine still catches crooks, but a very special breed of them. He nabs hustlers who rob casinos, and finds the fatal flaw that allowed the place to get ripped off in the first place. Sometimes that means biting the hand that feeds him, but Valentine isn't paid to sugarcoat the cold, hard truth. Along flashy strips and in seedy dives, if there's a game to be fixed, Valentine knows how to spot the tricks, the scams, the sleight of hand.
Swain's third Tony Valentine novel (after Grift Sense and Funny Money) finds Tony at loose ends. A widower, retired from the Atlantic City police force and living in Florida, he has become bored with his work as a gambling casino consultant, disenchanted with the younger woman he has been dating, and disappointed in his son, who has opened a bar-and-betting parlor. It is Mabel, his next-door neighbor and the one stable influence in his life, who persuades him to accept an assignment to look into a blackjack scam at the Micanopy Indian reservation casino, located in the Everglades. However, before he can investigate, the dealer in question disappears, and Tony finds himself on the trail of a con-man/murderer as dangerous as any 'gator. The author is a gambling expert, considered one of the best card handlers in the world, and his knowledge of games and scams is evident in his novels. Detective and mystery enthusiasts who enjoy Elmore Leonard will certainly find Sucker Bet to their liking.-Thomas L. Kilpatrick, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 01, 2004
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Excerpt from Sucker Bet by James Swain
The Turn of a Card
The mark's name was Nigel Moon. Jack Lightfoot recognized Moon the moment he stepped into the Micanopy Indian reservation casino. Back in the eighties, Moon had played drums for an English rock band called One-Eyed Pig, his ransacking of hotel rooms as well-publicized as his manic solos. Unlike the other band members, who'd fried their brains on drugs and booze, Moon had opened a chain of popular hamburger joints that now stretched across two continents. As Moon crossed the casino, Jack eyed the delicious redhead on his arm. She was a plant, or what his partner Rico called a raggle. "The raggle will convince Moon to come to your casino, Rico had explained the day before, and try his luck at blackjack. She'll bring him to your table. The rest is up to you. She looked familiar. Jack frequented Fort Lauderdale's many adult clubs and often picked up free magazines filled with ads of local prostitutes. The raggle was a hooker named Candy Hart. Her ad said she was on call twenty-four hours a day, Visa and MasterCard accepted. "Good evening, Jack said as they sat down at his empty table. Moon reeked of beer. He was pushing fifty, unshaven, his gray hair pulled back in a pigtail like a matador's coleta. He removed a monster wad from his pocket and dropped it on the table. All hundreds. "Table limit is ten dollars, Jack informed him. Moon made a face. Candy touched Moon's arm." You can't bet more than ten dollars a hand, she said sweetly. "All of the table games have limits." Moon drew back in his chair. "Ten bloody dollars? What kind of toilet have you brought me to, my dear? I can get a game of dominos with a bunch of old Jews on Miami Beach with higher stakes than that." Candy dug her fingernails into Moon's arm. "You promised me, remember?" I did?--In the car. Moon smiled wickedly. Oh, yes. A moment of weakness, I suppose. Shhhh, she said, glancing Jack's way. Moon patted her hand reassuringly. A promise is a promise. Moon slid five hundred dollars Jack's way. Jack cut up his chips. During a stretch in prison, Jack heard One-Eyed Pig's music blasting through the cell block at all hours, and he knew many of the lyrics by heart. Jack slid the chips across the table. Moon put ten dollars into each of the seven betting circles on the felt. Jack played a two-deck game, handheld. He shuffled the cards and offered them to be cut. Count them, Moon said. "Excuse me?" Jack said. I want you to count the cards, Moon demanded. Jack brought the pit boss over, and Moon repeated himself again. Okay, the pit boss said. Jack started to count the cards onto the table. "Faceup, Moon barked. "Excuse me?" Jack said. "You heard me." Jack looked to the pit boss for help. Okay, the pit boss said. Jack turned the two decks faceup. Then he counted them on the table. "What are you doing?" Candy asked. Making sure they're all there, Moon said, watching intently. "I ran up against a dealer in Puerto Rico playing with a short deck and lost my bloody shirt." Jack finished counting. One hundred and four cards. Satisfied, Moon leaned back into his chair. "A short dick?" Candy said, giggling. Short deck. It's where the dealer purposely removes a number of high-valued cards. It gives the house an unbeatable edge. And you figured that out, she said. "Yes, my dear, I figured it out."