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Big Slick
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Big Slick

4.7 4
by Eric Luper

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All in all, sixteen-year-old Andrew Lang has been dealt a pretty good hand in life. Sure, he has to spend his afternoons slaving away in the hellhole that is his dad's dry-cleaning business, but even that's not so bad with Jasmine, the seriously hot Goth-chick senior, working right beside him. So what if she's got a boyfriend? Plus, Andrew's got an ace up his


All in all, sixteen-year-old Andrew Lang has been dealt a pretty good hand in life. Sure, he has to spend his afternoons slaving away in the hellhole that is his dad's dry-cleaning business, but even that's not so bad with Jasmine, the seriously hot Goth-chick senior, working right beside him. So what if she's got a boyfriend? Plus, Andrew's got an ace up his sleeve - he's good at poker. Very good. Unfortunately, all it takes is one bad beat at Shushie's illegal poker club to turn Andrew's bankroll from huge to nonexistent. And Andrew's pretty sure that sooner or later his dad's going to notice that $600 he "borrowed" from the register. Andrew thinks he may know how to get the money back, but it's a little bit crazy, and a little bit dangerous . . .

In this breakneck-paced novel about gambling and growing up, the stakes are high, and Andrew must ask himself: What does going all in really mean?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Luper's authentic first-person narrative captures teen frustrations, feelings of confinement, and the mottled world of poker . . . Powerful."Kirkus Reviews

“BIG SLICK is an action-filled tale involving hot girls, hot cars, very dangerous people, serious desperation, and some serioulsy bad choices. I'm betting that BIG SLICK is going to be both extremely popular and a great new title for reluctant readers.” —Richie’s Picks

“If you like poker and being at the edge of your seat, you will love this [book]!” —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

"Not too much poker to be totally Latin, but enough to keep things interesting. Big Slick is a fun rollercoaster bound to dash you away!"

A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

"[Readers] willing to pony up a couple of hours' reading time should be pleased with the payoff."—Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books

School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up
Andrew Lang plays a mean game of Texas Hold 'Em, but a bad run of cards leaves the 16-year-old card shark wondering how he can replace the missing money in the cash register before his dad discovers the discrepancy. Cut off from the table, he resorts to stealing from his friend Scott, who catches him in the act. Scott offers his support, and together with Jasmine, Andrew's coworker and longtime crush, the trio plans a road trip to the local casino to win big. Poker's rise in the national consciousness will have generated some buzz among readers, and for those who are still unfamiliar with the game, Luper explains the slang throughout. Though Andrew has all the signs of a gambling addiction, from stealing money to lying, his behavior feels forced and half-hearted. Though unquestionably suspenseful (readers can sense the anticipation as the cards are flipped), the ease with which the teen enters both illegal tournaments and legitimate facilities requires significant suspension of disbelief. Further, the ending, which has him running a home-based poker tournament for teens, is highly questionable. The remote parent figures are trite and predictable, and the overly sentimental moral message hardly fits with Andrew's take-no-prisoner approach. Unless readers are clamoring for poker tales, libraries don't need to ante up for this one.
—Chris ShoemakerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Poker prodigy Andrew Lang steals $600 from the family dry-cleaning business to play in an underground tournament and scrambles to replace the cash before his dad finds out. Luper's authentic first-person narrative captures teen frustrations, feelings of confinement and the mottled world of poker. Gambling segments provide powerful momentum, upping the ante and racing the reader's pulse like an amphetamine. Poker permeates the book, just as it consumes the mind of a gambler. Coy chapter headings assume the names of real poker hands, and card suits appear next to each page number. Andrew's fascination with statistics, stakes and strategies pull the reader into the game's fold. Poker's darker forces appear in equally blemished, overlapping adult and teen worlds that feature ugly strains of violence, addiction and personal compromise. Teens will appreciate Andrew's need for risk-taking and secretive escape, as well as Luper's refusal to offer seamless, happy endings. A sweet crush, a cute little brother and a flashy casino road trip keep the novel from disappearing entirely into poker's shadows. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.94(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Big Slick


(two aces)

Pocket aces. Shushie dealt me two aces: a club and a diamond. It's the best starting hand possible. Not often do cards like that come along—once in 221 hands to be exact. In five hours of playing, it's my first pocket aces and probably my only one for the whole tournament.

I stare at my cards and try to be ice. Every fiber in me wants to smile, to jump up and down, to point my fingers in the air and wiggle my knees back and forth like a showboating wide receiver after a touchdown. But poker isn't about grandstanding; it's about patience, it's about cool. And it's about money—lots of it.

Am I looking at my cards too long? I let them snap down to the table and gaze at the faded felt. I think about the Novocain from the last time my mom took me to the dentist, and let my face go numb.

Jimmy Burke, the local vet, and Sam Barr, our mailman, fold. Mandy Zimmer, the tired-looking waitress from the diner, knocks a hunk of ash from her cigarette. A finger of smoke rises from the ashtray and collects in the hazy blanket above the motionless ceiling fan. Mandy's fingernails are ragged and gnawed away. She calls the two-thousand-dollar bet.

I slide two black chips in front of me. "Call."

Shushie Spiegel, owner of the illegal poker club beneath the pool hall and the closest thing I have to a poker mentor, looks at me over his glasses with one of those "you sure you want to do this?" expressions. Then he glances at his stack. "Raise." He puts eight thousand down, two to call plus six more. Cheech Lombardi, the manager at the bakery, and some new guy who calls himself Sparks both fold. So, it's just Mandy, Shush, and me with fifteen grand in the pot.

It's not really fifteen grand. The chips are just points. You could call them clams or shekels or credits; it doesn't matter. It costs five hundred dollars to get in the tournament, and each player starts out with twenty thousand in chips. With a forty-player cap, the poker room takes in twenty grand cash, half of which goes to the winner.

Mandy calls and tosses in six thousand. Her stack is starting to look short.

The action is to me, and I'm tempted to raise Shush right back, to go over the top, but then he'd know I was holding good cards and he might fold. I want to bleed him slowly.

"Call," I say.

I don't usually play No-Limit Hold 'Em. It's too volatile. Anyone can bet their whole stack at any time, which means you have to have the cojones to stand behind your cards each and every hand. You can lose it all at once. But this tournament was too hard to pass up. The winner takes home ten thousand dollars cash, enough to get the money back in the register at my father's dry-cleaning business and still have a whole heap left for myself.

Shushie burns a card off the top of the deck and turns thenext three—ace of hearts, two of hearts, and two of clubs. I flopped a full house, three aces and a pair of twos. My heart pounds in my throat, and I fight to keep my breathing slow and even. With a full boat, I have the best possible hand at the table unless someone's holding both the other twos. But any player with a brain between his ears would've folded a low pair before the flop. Four twos or a straight flush could beat me, but both are major long shots.

Mandy peeks at her cards again, and I know she's holding two hearts. It's one of her tells. She does it every time she's four to a flush. She's looking to see if the hearts she's holding are high enough to stay in. Mandy drags on her cigarette so hard it crackles like a campfire. She taps the table, signifying a check. She wants to see cards cheap in the hope her fifth heart will come along. If it does, she'll go all in. But she's already dead in the water.

Shushie, on the other hand, is less readable. His eyes don't quite point in the same direction, and his brambly, graying beard covers most of his face. He's slippery, too. He never plays a hand the same way twice. Shushie stares at me over his horn-rims. The burst capillaries on his bulbous nose make an intricate spiderweb that even the most talented team of spiders would have trouble spinning. "You gonna play or just sit there?" he says.

I glance at the others who've already folded. I scan the dozens of spectators. I love the feeling of all these people hanging on me. Me, Andrew Lang, high school junior. I only have my learner's permit, but here I am at the poker club making them all nervous. I inhale deeply. Breathing in the smoky air makes me feel older, more confident.

"I bet twenty thousand," I say. I push four white chips forward.

"Interesting," Shushie says. He leans back in his chair. It protests under his weight. "I'll raise another twenty." He tosses eight white chips in front of him.

Twenty thousand? Why did he raise twenty thousand? It's a small raise for the stack he's sitting on. It's certainly not enough to scare me off after my own twenty-thousand-dollar bet. A trap—it has to be a trap. Shushie taught me all about limping in, feigning weakness, and then following it up with a big bet to catch your opponent off guard. But I'm the heavy favorite in this hand.

"Too rich for my blood," Mandy says. She tosses her cards in. Even though her hand is promising, right now she's got nothing.

It's just me and Shush now, and the action is to me.

When I was new to poker, I would've freaked out at spending five hundred bucks on a single tournament. I would have said to myself, Jeez, think of all the cool stuff I could buy with that money: a bunch of PlayStation games, a kick-ass snowboard and boots, a hundred Supersize Extra Value Meals at McDonald's. I would've turned down the game without a second thought and spent the night hanging out with Scott. Now, a year later, I don't even flinch. I've lost twice that in one shot. I've also made more than five times that in the same amount of time. The one thought that runs through my head now is: If I don't put it out there, I'll never win.

"Play already," Shushie grumbles. "Stop sitting there like a lump of crap."

He's trying to intimidate me. That might've worked a few months ago, but I've learned a lot since then. The minimum bets are going up in a few minutes, though, so the faster I play the cheaper I can play for. When the blinds go up, the scales tip toward the players with the largest stacks. I pick at a crusty glob on the felt for a few seconds just to get under his skin.

"Call," I say and match his bet.

Shushie burns another card and turns up a king of hearts—one step closer to a straight flush. My face gets a little hot, but the odds of him holding two good hole cards and hitting the last one on the river are about one in fifteen thousand.

I glance at my stack. I'm sitting on about two hundred thousand in chips, around a quarter of the total for the tournament. If I were playing limit poker like I usually do, I'd be stoked. I'd walk away right now and consider early retirement. But the dollar amount on the chips means nothing. In tournament play, everyone has to keep going until one player has it all.

Shushie has close to twice what I have. I can't bump him out no matter what, but I could wound him. I might cripple the best player at the table. I can be chip leader and gain control of the action. With the betting limits going up soon, that would be huge. I could pick off the other players one by one.

And if I win, I can get that money back into the register.

And I'll have a big bankroll, so I can play the higher stakes tables next week.

Stop thinking like that. This is the right bet to make. Therewon't be an opportunity like this for the rest of the night. My heart explodes over and over again at the base of my throat. This is the turning point of the tournament. I'm going to remember this hand for a long time.

I slide my entire stack to the center of the table.

"All in," I say.

Copyright © 2007 by Eric Luper All rights reserved

Meet the Author

ERIC LUPER is an avid poker player who, among other things, once managed a dry-cleaning store. He lives in Albany, New York. Big Slick is his first novel.

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Big Slick 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Big Slick has a lot of good realistic qualities. It has action, mysteries, and life like situations. The book genre is for young adults and has sequences of illegal drug and illegal gambling that is just not suitable for kids. The book is pretty good for Erik Luper's, the author, first young adult genre and his first book. The book would probably go by the theme of "If I don't put it out there I don't win", which is true for the story because it matches everything in the story. The main characters would have to be Andrew Lang, a poker addicted junior, Jasmine, the really hot gothic senior, and Scott, a nerd like over achiever. Andrew's life is all about, "high stakes and dirty laundry" which is basically true; he is more like the hero but not like a real hero but more like a realistic hero. Jasmine is the gothic chick with scrapbook full of problems, has an abusive relationship with a drug dealer named Jim, and works weekdays in a drycleaners with Andrew, she is also an important character but not as important as Andrew. Scott is a nerd-like teen who is in the same grade as Andrew and is his best friend; he is more like a blank character. They will all have an influence on his life where they make up to break up and do it over and over again. Where the story takes place, would probably be in a rural type area community. At the beginning of the story it starts off as a warm and sunny day outside, but inside the illegal gambling pool house it is dark smoky and mysterious. While the story goes on, as the situation gets worse I noticed that the narrator's mood changed the setting in the story, like it started to get colder and then it started to snow and have a snow storm. The problem in the story would be his gambling problem, in the beginning of the story he loses all his money, so he decided to steal $600 from his father's dry cleaning store and he has to get that money back before his dad goes psycho. The author, Eric Luper, used the walk-in-on-conversation style a lot. What the writer did like to do was to start the chapter with him automatically being somewhere important. The author started the book with the narrator already in a tight situation which I personally liked because it had me thinking, how on earth he got in this position in the beginning of the first chapter. The author also put the story in chronological order so I didn't get that much confused. The author wrote this book very well for my opinion. I thought that the story, characters, situation, and the way it was written were very brilliant. The author didn't disappoint me and I'm very picky about my books. The last book I read was romance and comedy, I wasn't all about the romance but the comedy was good, so this book was better. I recommend this book to people who like impossible realistic situations and comedy at the side. This book really influenced me to learn how to play with high stakes, and now I like do my laundry.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Andrew Lang may only be sixteen, but he's pretty sure he'd like to try making a living playing poker. It started with free games online and quickly became playing for real in the private games held in the town pool hall. Andrew's quick thinking ability combined with the professional advice from pool hall owner Shushie Spiegel have him winning pots any respectable player would envy.

Unfortunately, Andrew has hit a losing streak. To keep money in his pocket, he begins skimming money from the cash register in the family-owned dry cleaning business. Before he knows it, he owes $600, and his father is noticing something strange. When his dad begins talking inventory, Andrew realizes his days are numbered to be able to pay the money back without being caught.

With the help of his friend Scott, goth girl and fellow employee Jasmine, and a mint-condition 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454, Andrew hatches a plan to get back the money he owes his father and the dry cleaning business.

Can they possibly pass themselves off as eighteen, get into the Native American casino, and then sit at a poker table and win?

BIG SLICK is filled with colorful characters, poker action, humor, romance, and illegal deals that will keep you turning the pages. Teen readers - both guys and girls, poker fans or not - will be fighting over who gets this one first.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The curtain 'metaphorically speaking' opens on Andrew Lang, sixteen-year-old card sharp¿or at least a card sharp wannabe¿sitting at a poker game. Andrew is good at math and has been sucked into the illegal gambling operation of a Texas Hold `Em table. He feeds his habit by stealing from his father¿s dry cleaning business. Sure that he holds a winning hand, he bets it all. . .and gets stung. What follows is a series of ill-conceived plots--from an attempt to sell a bunch of crack found in a suit at his father¿s business to stealing a car--in order to win the money back. At the end of it all, our ¿hero¿ comes to the conclusion that a life of crime doesn¿t pay, gets the girl, and resuscitates his relationship with his best friend. It¿s hard to really identify how I feel about this book. It was a good enough read and the ending message was good, but there were a lot of pretty shady dealings along the way that would make a moralistic person wonder about the redeeming value versus the implicit message that all of the nefarious deeds were really kind of okay. As a movie, it would be rated PG-13 for a fairly explicit 'without really saying anything' sex scene between Andrew and Jasmine at the end with the occasional f-word thrown in to spice things up. Poker players will love it. Classes that focus on ethics and relationships might also find it useful. Otherwise, let the reader beware.