Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pascal’s Wager / Mark Jacobs

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Mystery

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

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“Mark Jacobs is a freelance writer, martial arts instructor, and semi-professional poker player who regularly plays for more money than he can afford to lose. His written work has appeared in publications such as Sports Illustrated, Men’s Health, and TimeOut New York. The author of the acclaimed instructional text, The Principles of Unarmed Combat, he currently serves as a monthly columnist for Black Belt Magazine. Pascal’s Wager is his first novel.”

For more, visit Jacobs’ blog.


“Pascal Silver is an action junkie down on his luck. One of the best poker players alive, a losing streak has forced him to take work as a private detective. But when the gorgeous daughter of murdered casino owner “Houston Phil” LaPierre turns to him for help, he finds himself in over his head dealing with the cops, the mob and the enigmatic but beautiful Allegra LaPierre.”


What do you call a hardboiled egg that’s slightly runny in the center? Mark Jacobs’ protagonist, Pascal Silver, is that kind of hardboiled detective. It’s his soft center that sets him apart from the stereotypical hardboiled gumshoe and makes me like him even more. An ex-PhD-candidate in philosophy (should I stretch the analogy and call him an egghead?), the professional poker player and part time private investigator is living in Las Vegas while he searches for the meaning of existence. He’s  going to crack wise in hopes of defusing a tense situation before turning to fists and guns and he’s not afraid to show a sensitive side with a woman. His poker playing skills translate well to his investigative work, both in his ability to read people’s actions to determine the veracity of their claims and a strange but effective habit of applying poker strategy away from the poker table.

The secondary characters seemed as if they were composites or loosely based on real life Vegas denizens. For example, anyone with passing familiarity with Las Vegas history who doesn’t see Benny Binion (former owner of the Horseshoe Casino) as the basis of the “Houston Phil” LaPierre character isn’t paying attention.

Fans of the hardboiled detective form should find Pascal’s Wager a satisfying read, even if they don’t know the difference between a semi-bluff and a semicolon. For poker players or people who recognize the origins of the book’s title, you should consider it a can’t miss. I’m hoping Jacobs has more Pascal Silver books slated for the future.


Some adult language and minor adult content.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars

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