Friday, June 19, 2009

Book Review: Steve Fisher, No House Limit (1958)

There was one thing about No House Limit that bugged me and bugged me and bugged me such that it really interfered with my ability to enjoy the novel: the portrayal of the gambler Bello and his craps expertise. On the one hand, No House Limit presents itself as an insider's look at Vegas and crapshooting: most of the chapters begin with short tutorials about Vegas and/or craps, and in an afterward he wrote for this Hard Case Crime reprint, one of Steve Fisher's sons mentions the research that his father did for this book. But the portrayal of Bello playing craps is all wrong. Bello, we are told, is a legendary craps player with a betting system so mathematically complicated that onlookers are helpless to understand what he is doing. But this is nonsense. Saying that someone is a great craps player is like saying that someone is a great slot-machine player. In both games, the house always wins over the long haul. That's the point of casino games! So Bello has developed a complicated system of placing bets . . . that all favor the house! Fisher should have done more with the loaded dice angle (which does figure to some degree in Bello's success), and he should have left the idiocy alone. Grade: C

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