How Peter Falcone Conned Me Out of $37,000 (Part 2)
Writer’s Note: This is a continuation of PART 1, which can be read here.
There’s no suspense here. You know how this is going to end. Badly.
Before continuing with the next chapter in the Peter Falcone caper, let me introduce yet another dubious character to the story. The plot is about to thicken.
Meet Louis Jones — a pudgy piece of puke from Houston.
Louis Jones is an ex-floorman. He mostly worked the southern poker tournament circuit, primarily in Mississippi (Tunica, Biloxi, Gulfport). Over the years, Louis Jones and I worked several major poker events together. About eight years ago, we discovered a mutual interest in sports betting and — as you might guess — a special “friendship” began. About a year later, Louis Jones ended up stiffing me for $20,000.
Although they both fucked me over royally, Louis Jones and Peter Falcone are completely different animals. Louis Jones is a lying deadbeat. Peter Falcone is a psychopathic con man.
Basically, Louis Jones skipped out on $20,000 worth of sports wagers with me (no, I didn’t book his gambling action — which would have been illegal). One thing about owing money. I don’t mind someone owing me money, just so long as the borrower acknowledges the debt on occasion, and then makes some effort to pay it over time. I’ve had people who owed money pay me $50 a week. At least an effort was made. How can you argue with someone who’s making a genuine effort? That’s everything to me. In fact, if I see someone who doesn’t have any money making an earnest effort to pay off a gambling debt, in a strange sense that shows even more character.
But while a character, Louis Jones has no character. He fucked me in the ass with a telephone pole. He lied to me over and over again, and then was never man enough to simply approach me and say, “I fucked up, Nolan. I’m really sorry.” Louis Jones never said those words to me. I’m told that he eventually wormed his way back to Houston, and was last reported working as a used car salesman — a most fitting job for the cocksucker.
The world is a big place. But the gambling world is a small place. Word gets around. News travels. Everyone’s dirty laundry eventually gets hung out to dry.
Peter Falcone and I were dining at Delmonico, which is the uber-fancy steakhouse at The Venetian. Out of nowhere, I brought up Louis Jones as an illustration of why I was mistrustful (but not mistrustful enough, in retrospect!) of partnering up with people in sports betting.
Falcone always loved to play up the Italian thing with me. Those who know me will understand this soft spot. I have no illusions about the underworld, and largely think of “wiseguys” as two-bit punks. There’s nothing cool or romantic about them. Most of them are shit, and I’m sorry to say I’ve known a few (their names won’t be used here, for obvious reasons — I don’t want my car exploding next time I stick the key into the ignition).
That said, Falcone often insinuated that he “knew people.” He used to joke that he’d never sit with his back to the front door in a restaurant, which is an old Sicilian code of self-preservation. In Falcone’s case, it really was common practice. Anytime I was around Falcone, he was constantly fidgeting, gazing around the room as if he was fearful of something. He always seemed to have one eye on the front door, and more specifically the people who were entering.
At first, I thought he was just quirky. Sort of like a facial tic. We’ve all got idiosyncrasies. But once all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and finally became more clear, I later concluded Falcone really was fearful. He was indeed on the lookout For victims he’d previously ripped off. For people who could potentially expose him as a fraud. For new potential marks. For anyone in the restaurant who might bolster his credibility. As I said, the gambling world is a small place.
As we sat and discussed the proposition of me handling the New York jeweler’s high-stakes betting action, I told him story of Louis Jones fucking me over a year earlier, which explained my reluctance to trust people.
Upon hearing the details of the Louis Jones matter, Falcone feigned moral outrage. As an actor, John Calzone’s got nothing on this guy.
“That’s such fucking bullshit!” Falcone said. “I can’t believe a friend would ever do something like that to another friend.”
I know. Irony of all ironies. Crocodile tears.
Falcone was fascinated by the story I told. He pontificated about so-called honor codes, insisting that “where (he) comes from, no one would get dare away with that and still be alive!”
Falcone wanted to hear more details about deadbeat Louis Jones.
Again, it’s important to remind readers that at this stage there was nothing at all fishy about Falcone. Everything he had done and said up to this point was entirely credible. Not only that, but Falcone dressed well. He always had plenty of cash. Yet he never drank. He didn’t do drugs. And perhaps most laudable of all, he always spoke glowingly of his girlfriend Betsy. He never once gazed at other women nor engaged in any kind of chauvinistic banter.
I finally confided in Falcone that I had fresh intelligence on Louis Jones. I even knew where he worked. My dinner companion became quite excited.
“Tell me where he works!” Falcone insisted. “I’ll make one phone call and someone will pay him a visit.”
I certainly knew what that meant. But the last thing I needed was some “visit” to spin terribly out of control and then I’d end up being charged as an accomplice to murder. $20,000 is a lot of money. But I’m not interested in rolling the dice for $20,000 if the downside is life in Leavenworth. I told Falcone that I wasn’t interested.
Much of the remainder of our dinner consisted of Falcone reading me the riot act for letting Louis Jones get away with stiffing me. He assured me no physical harm would come to Louis Jones (tempting as that might have been to snap his fibula like a twig). But he also insisted that someone would indeed pay him a visit and I’d get my money one way or another.
How could I resist such a generous offer?
And so, the name of the used car lot where Louis Jones worked was told to a psychopath.
The 2006 World Series of Poker began.
Over the next six weeks, my existence consisted of the cocoon that was the Rio in Las Vegas. Arrival at work each day at noon. Departure long after the final tournament of the night concluded and the official news story was written — usually as late at 4 am or 5 am. That was a “normal” day — 14 or 15 hours with no days off for six straight weeks. The worst days were when I departed the Rio after the sun had risen the following morning, and I had to be back at work fresh for a new day some 4-5 hours later. I relay my work schedule not for any iron man nomination or sympathy because I do this with pride, but to emphasize how my metal judgement waned as the days passed. By week five of the series, I’m a fucking vegetable. An eggplant. It’s why I simply walk away rudely if any motherfucker dares to bore me with a bad beat story when I’m working.
Sorry, I digress.
I didn’t see Falcone for the next few weeks. He texted me that he’d returned to Malibu to be with Betsy. Meanwhile I was at the Rio doing what I do.
One afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was Falcone. He was back in town. He explained that we had to meet.
I managed to get away to meet my pal. But for me — this wasn’t a time of strength or clarity. Recent tournaments had run ridiculously long and I was operating with no sleep. It’s one thing to be tired. But try concentrating or (worse) WRITING when you’re completely drained. The blank white page feels like a fucking sandstorm. I’ve sat in front of computer monitors screaming, at times.
Timing is everything. I have absolutely no idea if Falcone planned it out this way, but he caught me not just when my guard was down. Hell, by this time in the WSOP, I didn’t have a guard.
Our discussion began as follows.
“I have some news about Louis Jones,” Falcone said.
“News? What news?”
“It’s all taken care of. Someone I know paid him a visit.”
Visions of poor Louis Jones buried in a cornfield somewhere with his prick cut off and stuffed into his mouth flashed into my mind.
“You’re going to get your money, Nolan. There are people that do this sort of thing. See, that’s their thing. They enjoy it,” Falcone said. “They found the guy and scared the shit out of him. He’s going to start sending you some money. But it’s going to take some more time to get it.”
Wow. What do you say after hearing that? I felt as if Falcone had just walked up and handed me a briefcase with $20,00o in cash inside.
“Well, what should I pay you or the people, Peter?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it. When I told these people about the guy, they were glad to do it.”
[See Footnote Below]
Remember my earlier analogy to fishing?
Well, if the hook was set earlier by Falcone’s seemingly impeccable credibility and personal charm, his handling of the Louis Jones affair put him into the clouds. And Falcone knew it.
He was about to start reeling in the big fish.
“I wasn’t able to get down much action during the last two weeks for my jeweler friend,” Falcone confided. “I think he’s going to cut me off. The trouble is — I can’t be here in Las Vegas all the time to put in his wagers. Are you sure you don’t want to handle it? I mean, the guy will pay you $1,000 a week, plus ten percent on his winning weeks. I don’t know how much easier it can get to make money.”
Falcone was right. I would be a fool to pass up this deal. Especially since I was already betting baseball every day myself. Whether I bet $500 a game on my own or $3,500 a game with his action added in, it’s the exact same work. Why not skim a free grand a week? Cream off the top. Maybe the New York jeweler might even get hot a few weeks and I can rake in a few extra thousand as a bonus.
I couldn’t lose.
FOOTNOTE 1: I later found out this entire story was bogus. Falcone never had any “connections.” No one ever paid Louis Jones a visit. The deadbeat is still out there somewhere, probably living in either Houston or Mississippi.
FOOTNOTE 2: I now realize it’s a violation of Nevada gaming laws to messenger wagers. But all bets were made at offshore sportsbooks.
COMING NEXT: The conclusion of “How Peter Falcone Conned Me Out of $37,000 (Part 3)”