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Las Vegas, December 14th, 2007
Tony "Tiny" Valento gazed across his desk and shook his chubby finger at the three men sitting in front of him. They were the best poker players in his organization and he had a mission for them.
"You guys have gotta go to work," he said, "Those big poker tournaments have been going on for years and I hear about millions of dollars changin' hands. I'm sitting here in Vegas, seein' all that and not gettin' any of the juice."
"I've decided to send six of our best dealers to Tunica to work those tournaments in January and one of you three guys are gonna get to the final table in most of the events."
"That's a pretty tall order, boss," said one of the men, with a concerned look on his face.
"Not really . . . these guys can shuffle and stack the deck with their eyes closed. They can set you up with a winning hand every third or fourth deal and nobody would be the wiser."
"I got in the money last year at Lake Tahoe," said another. "With some help with the right cards, I should be able to win the whole thing."
"I know," Tiny said, "all three of you are pretty good with the cards. So, here's how it works. I pave the way for you with my dealers giving you the right cards and you get ten percent of what you win."
"Only ten percent," protested one of the men.
"Duh . . . how much is ten percent of a million dollars?" Tiny asked as he glared at him.
The guy swallowed and said, "A hundred grand."
"You think you're worth more than that for two weeks work?"
He swallowed again and shook his head.
"Then get your ass out of here and go practice. My dealers will tell me if you screw up. I can guarantee you won't like it if that happens."
Julian Skowten rubbed his hands together as he joined three other men at the corner table in Binski's, a neighborhood bistro on Chicago's south side.
"Man, its cold out there," he said. "The windy city is living up to its name."
"Yeah, dis is da coldest December I can remember," said Larry "the mouth" Skelley. "What chou got up your sleeve to get us out on a day like dis?"
Julian's pock-marked face spread into a big grin as he snuffed out his cigarette.
"Well guys . . . you're gonna love this. I have figured out a way to beat the big cash prize poker tournaments."
"You gotta be kidding," said Martin Bower, setting his coffee cup down. "That's next to impossible."
"Okay, okay . . . no plan is foolproof, but I can stack the odds heavily in our favor."
He paused his discussion as the waitress stopped by the table and took their orders.
"That idea of pocketing chips and swapping them during the breaks worked pretty well until those guys got caught," said Martin. "Enforcement of that new penalty made it tough on pocketing chips."
"Yeah," said one of the guys. "I got kicked out of a minor tournament when one of the dealers saw me take chips off the table."
"Okay, okay . . . so they caught onto that scam but this one is nearly bullet proof. We're gonna need at least twelve guys to make it work," said Julian. "Eight more besides us four . . . and they have to be good players."
"What do you have in mind?" asked Martin.
"I'll explain the details when we get the group together for a light run-through. We need to think about who we can recruit to go to Tunica next month."
"Man . . . you're full of ideas," said Larry. "I got two buddies who awready plannin' to go. When you gonna have dat meetin'?"
"Let's plan to meet in the back room at the Leisure Palace over on 42nd street. I'll set it up with Jodie and we can meet at two o'clock next Wednesday."
"What do you think our take could be?" asked Martin.
"We could split over two million dollars thirteen ways," said Julian. "Not bad for a couple of weeks work."
"I thought you said twelve guys?"
"Yeah . . . that's in addition to our inside man."
All three looked at Julian wide-eyed.