Just out of prison after ten years, professional poker player Jimmy Spain visits his wealthy former cell mate and listens to an offer he can't refuse. The rich man wants the ex-con to mentor his only child in the game of poker. In return, he'll set Jimmy up and pay all of his buy-ins on the poker tour. This deal looks like easy money, especially after Jimmy meets the kid-a cocky and abrasive young girl named Kat who has some good, yet raw, poker skills. Soon Jimmy and Kat enter a World Poker Tour tournament at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Things are coming up aces...until a player is found brutally slain with a Picasso flop-three picture cards-on his body.
When suspicion points to Kat as the killer, it's up to Jimmy to find the real culprit-while fighting to remain in the tournament. As one ghastly murder after another knocks out other players, this hard-bitten veteran of the felt knows that in this cutthroat world of card sharks, someone could eliminate him-or Kat-for good. On the clock, with the blinds escalating, and down to his last hand, Jimmy fears he may be drawing dead...
Featuring the appearances of such poker luminaries as Mike Sexton, Doyle Brunson, and James Woods, and cowritten by a true impresario of the game, THE PICASSO FLOP mixes money, mystery, and the adrenaline-pumping excitement of Texas hold'em poker action, Vegas-style. Shuffle up and read.
Van Patten, a host of TV's World Poker Tour, has teamed with veteran mystery writer Randisi to create what may be the first novel billed as a "Texas Hold'em Mystery" with so-so results. The action takes place during a major poker tournament at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and Jimmy Spain-recently released from prison-is there both to play and to coach 22-year-old Kat Landrigan, the talented daughter of a man Spain did time with (part of a pointlessly complex backstory). But the tournament is interrupted by two murders, and, for reasons that strain credulity, Spain is asked to look into the matter. The title refers to the three playing cards discovered with each body: a jack, a queen and a king, which, when dealt together, are sometimes described as a "Picasso flop" in hold'em. Spain is an engaging, likable character, and some of the poker scenes are done with flair and knowledge, but the loose plot doesn't do justice to the fine concept. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 20, 2007
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Excerpt from The Picasso Flop by Robert J. Randisi
In a city planted smack-dab in the middle of a desert, "waste" is unacceptable. Some say the Bellagio's dancing fountain is a waste of water--certainly the most valuable commodity in a desert community.
Gamblers believe that tourists who come to Vegas to see Hoover Dam or Wayne Newton or casinos more theme park than anything else, and who don't gamble are a total waste.
Those same coupon-clutching, gimmick-drink-carrying tourists think people who gamble are wasting their money.
Jimmy Spain, however, knows the true meaning of the word "waste": ten years spent behind bars, barbed-wire-covered walls crawling with guards . . . now that's waste. . . .
Tonight the poker room at the Bellagio is at its flashiest and most boisterous. It's the eve of a major poker event, the World Poker Tour's Five Diamond World Classic. Anyone and everyone who's anything in poker is in this large, bright room. There's at least thirty tables spread out and being played to full capacity. The clattering of chips, huge piles of cash out on the tables are staggering.
Adjacent to this circus-type arena is the tournament section. This section is dark and empty, much like a stadium the night before a World Series or Super Bowl game. But within a matter of hours the room will be filled with the sound of chips on chips, voices over voices, rising and falling. Players and railbirds--onlookers who watch the games with rapt attention, who regard the players with the awe usually reserved for movie stars--add to the commotion.
But for now the action is reserved for a special area in the middle of the poker room.
This roped-off, three-walled centerpiece is the high-stakes area known as Bobby's Room. The glamorous room consists of six or seven large photos of poker greats eyeballing the table from above. Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Jennifer Harman, Gus Hansen, Dallas Jack Rafferty, among others. The luminaries of the fastest-growing game on the planet. This is where they all played. Named after Bobby Baldwin, also known as "the Owl," in his poker days, Bobby was an old-school poker legend who gave up the flick of the cards when Steve Wynn, owner of the Bellagio, took him on. He was so impressed with Bobby's shrewdness that he made him his right-hand man, chief operating director of the entire place. Bobby never looked back.
The game was going strong with some of the superstars playing for fortunes, but off to the side, a mere fifteen feet away, another game for high stakes was getting some attention.
Yes, there was a pecking order at tables in the Bellagio poker room. They stacked the bigger games around Bobby's Room, kept the riffraff playing for five- and ten-dollar limits from getting too close. But now the looky lous were paying more attention to one particular table. The reason was it was shorthanded, very talky, and cash was flying around with reckless abandon.
Five of the six players were professionals, some of the most colorful and fanatical on the circuit. The other was a movie star. That got people's attention.
Side games--also called money games--are nontournament games played for cash. Players compete for different reasons. Some play to stay sharp or to get into shape; others play to whittle away the time between tournament games. And still others make more money in these games than they make at tournaments. There are players who thrive during tournament play but can't stand up to the pressure of a money game, and, by the same token, there are deadly money players who fold like a three-legged bar stool at tournaments.
The players at this table don't care what the format is. They play with the same skill no matter what the game or stakes. Tonight they're all playing for money and bragging rights in a no-limit game where thousands are won or lost.