Books: Sucker Play

BIG DEAL

by Anthony Holden

Viking; 306 pages; $19.95

The author admits that he was not at his best -- "tired, a little drunk, jetlagged, and light-headed" is his recollection. A prudent man would have gone to bed, and the following morning he would have taken the next plane out of Las Vegas.

Dull stuff, prudence. Anthony Holden never hesitated: he wobbled out into the night. But as Holden, a British literary critic, reached the Golden Nugget's cardroom, he remembered the gambler's formula for chump detection: "If you can't spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, it's you."

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