The city of Las Vegas is one that is world renown for sucking in the most hardened skeptic, sending them packing after a few days of vacation broke, alone, and with no memory of the previous several days. What is it about Vegas that attracts individuals who have made it their life goal to hustle and scam people out of the money they have worked so hard to earn? How does a person avoid falling victim to one of the many tourist traps that plague a place like Sin City?
To answer these questions it helps to have a guide. Preferably by an individual who knows the city, has been in the trenches themselves, and has survived long enough to earn some Vegas street cred, while not being jaded enough to hide their secrets from the outside world.
Enter Rick Lax. Law school graduate, magician, master of the art of deceit, and author of Fool Me Once: Hustlers, Hookers, Headliners, and How Not to Get Screwed in Vegas. The story goes that Rick himself narrowly avoided becoming a victim of a con when his ex-girlfriend was swindled in to working a job that did not exist, for a lawyer who turned out to be a drug dealer. Hoping to avoid such situations in the future, and eager to pick up as many tricks and tips along the way, Rick headed to Las Vegas. Where better to learn the art of deception then at the shrine of gambling in America’s most wicked city?
What is most refreshing about Lax’s book is that the reader can relate to him on a personal level. He does not come off as pretentious or uppity in his knowledge about Las Vegas, nor does he preach about life and his virtues, and he puts himself in positions that we have all found ourselves before. Who has not believed they could one up a street dealer betting on cards or disguised themselves as an old man in order to truly understand what it means to deceive? Okay, maybe Lax has gone a little above and beyond what we encounter in normal, everyday situations, but he does so in a way that makes the reader truly care about his quest.
In a genre that has been characterized by the often crude and over the top prose of Tucker Max, Lax’s narrative is refreshing in that it does not rely on shock value to entertain the reader. His story is based in truth and driven by his crusade to assist those who are wary of being conned to avoid and deal with such situations should they arise.
You find yourself rooting for Lax, and in a way, the naïve, trusting, and innocent character he embodies in everyone. He, like many who venture to Las Vegas for the first time, journey to the city wide-eyed and unaware of the potential danger of being deceived that lies in every square inch of its neon-washed streets.
Lax’s anecdotes provide for a thoroughly enjoyable good time as we follow him on his journey through every section of Vegas. From the seedy backroom bars off the strip, to the glitzy showrooms and clubs of Las Vegas Boulevard, Lax spares no details in his semi-autobiographical tale of dealing with the liar in all of us.
Fool Me Once is essential reading for those looking to have a good time in Vegas, without all the hassle of coming home broke, jobless, and without all of your limbs intact.