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Scott TobiasAdding to a recent spate of books on the new, corporatized, family-friendly Las Vegas, former Wall Street Journal reporter Andrés Martinez's 24/7 boasts an irresistible hook: Withdrawing his entire $50,000 publishing advance from the bank, Martinez spent a full month on the Strip, boldly sampling the high-stakes tables at every big-name casino in the city. Betting at a rate as high as $18,000 per hour on blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and war--yes, the inane kids' game in which the highest card wins--he offers the vicarious thrill of watching a normally sane, level-headed guy lead a double life as a freewheeling high roller. With a premise like this one in place, you'd expect either a cynic's jaded perspective on Sin City vulgarity or the swift descent of a newly addicted gambler, but Martinez proves a cheerful, open-minded tour guide.
Bookended by a stay at the Egyptian-themed Luxor (which features a pyramid atrium large enough to hold nine stacked 747s) and the opening weekend of the $1.6 billion Bellagio, 24/7 broadens its scope beyond the casinos to cover the fringes of America's fastest-growing major city. Martinez is particularly interested in long-time residents who witnessed Vegas' awkward transition from mob control to an insidiously glossy Disneyland at the mercy of Wall Street stockholders. For "Peggy," an old-time "classy dame" who spent the weekends of her youth on the arms of monied businessmen, and Dick Carson, a self-described family man who made his millions as a book, the lesson is always the same: In Vegas, everyone eventually loses. After a hot streak that brings his "nest egg" (a wry allusion to Albert Brooks' Lost In America) to dizzying heights, Martinez learns first-hand the compulsive, irrational panic that grips the suddenly unlucky. By the end, his tidy metaphor of the city as "a mirror... reflecting our basest urges" twists to amusing funhouse distortions.
— Onions.A.V. Club