The Lights in Vegas by Justin Kramasz

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Brig Detroit is a professional poker player who has fallen through the cracks of modern society. Living his day to day life one hotel at a time, he grinds his living on a leather chair, in comfortable obscurity.

After receiving news of his cousin's murder, Brig's best friend, Benny, convinces him to drive to New York to investigate the crime. When Benny goes missing, Brig must unravel a strange chain of events leading him to one of New York's most feared Mafioso's, the supposed bastard son of John Gotti. Brig is drawn into a cat-and-mouse game with local authorities and thugs alike. Using all of his resources, he must evade violent criminals and dirty cops while he searches for answers about his friend's disappearance.

Bloody and bruised, Brig finally lands on Gotti's doorstep. Gotti's price for information on Benny's disappearance puts Brig, and his entire bankroll, at risk when he decides to raise the money the only way he knows how.

Bullets and aces must fly before Brig can finally know peace and find closure.


This is how I paid for every traffic ticket I ever got. Sitting at a 10-20 no-limit hold ’em table in the Vegas Bellagio. Everywhere is this silent roar as a thousand inaudible conversations linger with the stale cigarette smoke: always just above our heads.

My best friend Benny; to my right, both of us veterans; a lot of people would call us hustlers, sharks. But what else would anyone want to be in a world of less superior fish. Yes, you…in the safari shorts. You’re not foolin’ anyone, you tourist. So sit down with your illusions that you’re gonna leave Vegas with a tripled bankroll. I will take your kid’s tuition all night.

And you, the pompous asshole jock-cop who goes through life with the “there is a way to beat anything” attitude. Wanna dip into your pension to keep playing? News flash buddy—you can’t beat poker. Squeezing cards, grinding teeth, thinking you can “make” a pair work against a straight. Come on.

Me, I make a living this way, and I’m not taking any prisoners; I will do whatever I have to do to keep you at this table, and in every hand.

I will make it personal.

My name is Brigham Detroit… My parents named me after some Mormon guru from the cowboys and Indians days… I go by Brig to keep this fact obscure.

For the next few hours, these people will be my main focus in life. Strangers will come and go, a few new people will sit down and then leave, but these four will be eternal. Me, Benny, the tourist, and the asshole jock.

This is my bread and butter; this is what pays my bills… Benny, he plays for an altogether different reason. He makes a living building people’s dream cars. He makes money, and he makes a lot. Whether you’re the guy who wants their “powder blue” 1967 Shelby mustang GT500 restored to stock status, or you just want a turbo and intercooler installed on your 2000 Nissan Skyline, Benny’s your man.

Benny isn’t here to make money, it is just amazing to him that a “grease monkey” like him can beat out lawyers and doctors and engineers, all of which went to college for a long time. His payment is gratification. You see, his family wanted him to be the first to go to college; he was all set up on the American Negro College Fund, but he fell in love with cars instead. Consequently, he has an inferiority complex. He gets off on making you Ivy-leaguing, Phi Beta Kappa-fraternizing assholes feel stupid for going to college. Benny has amazing luck; I will never bluff Benny, and I will not even stay in many hands with him unless I have a sure thing, which is rare. His only downfall is his love for the art of bluffing, which he is horrible at. I will never understand why he is so bad at it. Maybe some form of morality; see Benny was raised Catholic, and had always been taught never to tell a lie. When he gets to bluff in poker, it is like he is suddenly allowed to lie. And he makes it painfully obvious what is going on. Taste the freedom Benny; you can bluff me all you want.

So this “George of the jungle” looking, Guns Weekly subscribing, pile of fuming testosterone-jock sits down in the middle seat. Long generic blond mane of hair billowing gently in the synthetic breeze, warrior chin poking out at you echoing and reinforcing the nonchalant wink he always gives you when he smiles, he looks like some prick from the cover of a romance novel. His body language tells me he wants everyone to think he is a hero. And I guess that makes me the anti-hero. Me, I’m all the way to the left, away from public eye. And I already can’t stand this asshole breathing the same air as me. As I said, Benny is next to me. And the asshole bruiser, first thing out of this punk’s mouth when he sits down: “Hello, losers.”

I just look at him and all I can do is smile at his absurdity, his oozing machismo.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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