USA Today bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith brings you his first full-length novel featuring the origin story of his most popular character, the superhero Poker Boy.
The year: 2004, the last year the World Series of Poker takes place at Binions Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas.
Poker Boy meets the love of his life and forms the team of superheroes and gods that will save the world many times over in the coming years.
But first, he and his new team must save all of gambling, and more than fifty lives, from the evil ghost slots. And not get killed in the process.
The Slots of Saturn introduces the captivating and clever Gambling Universe, where Lady Luck actually exists, the gods employ superheroes, and high-stakes humor often saves the day.
Dean Wesley Smith is one of Fiction River's series editors, and he also edits some of the volumes and writes for a number of them. I asked him for The Slots of Saturn, the origin story for his fan-favorite superhero Poker Boy, because no Escapist Bundle would be complete without a dose of humor and fun. Poker Boy delivers all that—and a whole lot more. – Allyson Longueira
"[The Poker Boy] series is unlike anything else out there. It's quirky and a lot of fun."– Amazing Stories
A Superhero Arrives
I LOVE CASINOS. Always have.
I mean I truly love them, like some people enjoy sitting beside a calm mountain lake. Walking into a casino, it feels like I have stepped on an ocean beach on a warm evening with no wind, combined with the at-home feel of sitting by a fire, under a nice reading light, with a warm drink and a good book.
I admit, casinos are loud, with both machine and people noises, and are designed by experts to take a person's money. Yet every time I step through the door into a casino, either in Vegas, Atlantic City, or in timbuck-six North Dakota, I know I am home, that I am safe, that I am in control of my surroundings.
As Poker Boy, when I am in a casino, I also have my superpowers. I have to be honest that I love that feeling as well.
My superpowers, which are needed by definition to be a superhero, are varied. I have still not explored them all. Sometimes even I am surprised at what I can do.
As I stepped through the side door of Binion's Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, I walked right into the center of at least forty poker tables. I knew I had once again found my own little slice of heaven. I could feel the power flowing through me. My muscles, tense and tight from the long cab ride, relaxed as if rubbed by a Swedish hot-rub expert.
And trust me, Heidi, my Swedish hot-rub expert from two Vegas trips back, could relax the man of steel down into a pool of metal. Those fingers of hers were secret weapons and, I know for a fact and from wonderful memory, that she turned Poker Boy into Go Fish Man in two minutes.
I stopped and just took a deep breath of the smoke-tainted air of the old casino, filling my lungs with the poisons that killed others, but gave me strength.
Stopping just inside a casino front door was a habit of mine. Every time I went into a new casino, or an old one like the Horseshoe, I would just stop inside the door and look around, giving myself a few seconds to enjoy the feel. As Poker Boy, I get a lot of good feelings, especially when I have helped someone, but there are never enough of those good feelings in life, so I take my joys where I can get them. And stopping inside a casino door and just looking around was one of my joys in life.
Today, everything around me looked like a standard day in casino world.
On my right were some of the live poker games, on my left the overflow part of the tournament area, now with all the tables empty. The main desk for the hotel was beyond all the tables, and I had to get there by sort of following the yellow brick road of the pattern on the carpet, through the tables, down between the railings along the poker tables, and then through the ropes in the open area in front of the hotel desk.
Those ropes that guard the front desks of most hotels always made me feel like a cow being herded to the guy with the hammer who would hit me, put me out of my misery, and turn my body into prime rib and flank steaks. Some hotels had almost done that to me in the past.
There wasn't even anyone waiting in line to check in. Maybe I could avoid the ropes altogether and just go for the hammer.
I put my head down and moved toward the front desk, following the pattern on the carpet, hoping I could get checked in and to my room before anyone knew I was here. Even superheroes needed time to unwind from the traveling and the cab ride from the airport.
Actually, I was looking forward to taking a nap.
I somehow made it all the way to the front desk without being recognized. Granted, I am really not that famous, in a strict sense of the word. But I am often recognized across a crowded casino by someone who wants my help, like a dog in need to pee spotting a tree. I was the tree, and thankfully, at the moment, there were no dogs.
"Good afternoon, sir," the nice-looking woman behind the front desk said as I stepped up to the polished wood counter.
I had cut inside the ropes like I knew what I was doing, and was actually feeling a little proud of myself at that moment. Avoiding front desk rope lines, combined with the flowing power of a casino around me, could sometimes be a heady experience. I savored the moment, then looked up at the woman who had greeted me.
Her smile actually included her eyes as she leaned forward a little. And what eyes they were. I had an out-of-body experience as I studied them.
Brown, large, and round, with the light over the front desk giving them a little twinkle. I could stare into those eyes forever, but I knew I shouldn't.
Yet I wanted to.
I knew I shouldn't.
I floated there, arguing with myself, until I finally returned to my body and somehow managed to look at the rest of her.
She had long brown hair pulled back into a flowing ponytail, a smile that showed perfect teeth, and skin that was pleasantly tan. She wore the Horseshoe employee brown jacket and white blouse in such a way as to somehow make the dull outfit look sexy.
Of course, a woman with those eyes and that smile could make burlap look sexy as far as I was concerned, so my astute powers of perception on her uniform was more than likely skewed by my own interests.
"Checking in," I managed to say, even though my throat was suddenly dry.
"Here for the tournament?" she asked, her smile not fading.
"I am," I said. "That obvious?"
"Poker players do have a look about them," she said, laughing.
Her laugh was so fine, so perfectly tuned that it matched her smile, her eyes, her sexy look. The Horseshoe sure had a way of greeting a poker player. I wanted to stand on the counter, shout "Poker Boy is here to save you!" and jump her right there.
I refrained, but I had no doubt I was in love.
Actually, more accurately, lust.
I was in lust with Miss Brown-eyes behind the front desk. Nothing unusual, but very enjoyable.
It was good to be back in a casino.
"Your name, sir?" the beautiful woman—who I shall forever think of as Brown-eyes until I learned her name—asked.
She stood in a non-threatening manner behind the front desk of the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel, her fingers poised over the keyboard of her computer. I would have much rather had those fingers poised over me, but since she was about to type my name with those wonderful hands, I couldn't complain too much.
"Conway Moore," I said, giving her one of the fake names I had been using since I had become Poker Boy.
Her fingers stroked my name into her computer, her head nodding slightly.
I watched, mesmerized as her hands worked.
I often got mesmerized by a woman's hands. It only becomes a problem when a woman is playing with her chips in a poker game. I then have to force myself to stare down at my own chips at that point, or into the eyes of the other players to break the spell.
I would have loved to have told this woman behind the desk that my name was Poker Boy, but Poker Boy wasn't the name I had made the reservation under, so it would have just confused the issue.
Poker Boy was my superhero name, and Conway Moore was the other part of my superhero name, used when I needed to do regular world things like check into a hotel, sign into a poker tournament, rent a car, that sort of thing.
Actually, Conway Moore wasn't the name I was born with. I had known Poker Boy was going to need a secret identity to get by in the world. Conway seemed like a good name. Conway was also a character thought up by James Hilton in his novel Lost Horizons. I liked the book, so I borrowed the name for my secret identity.
At first, I thought about just using Conway as both my first and last names, then the last name of Moore came from a poker game like a hundred dollar bill laying in the parking lot.
Shortly after I became Poker Boy, some guy in a ten-twenty hold-em game accused me of never getting enough of his money. I don't remember what casino I was in, but I do remember that he said that all I wanted was more and more. I had to agree, since he was one of the worst poker players ever to flash a large roll of bills in front of me. As long as he sat there at the table and pulled out more bills, I sat there and took his money. Thus was the nature of poker.
And besides, a superhero had to eat.
On the way back to my room hours later, I kept thinking about how he just repeated "More and more and more." I decided that would be my last name. I changed the spelling of "more" to Moore to make it seem name-like. And thus, my secret identity of Conway Moore was born, both from the heart of a literary novel and the sweat of a poker game.
Perfect secret identity for Poker Boy.
"Here is your key, Mr. Moore," the woman said, sliding the paper packet with the plastic key toward me. I reached for it and her hand brushed mine.
I saw stars!
I saw the gambling gods!
I saw a royal flush against four aces, all in that order.
"I hope you have a good stay," she said. "And good luck in the tournaments."
Her smile was in full force, her wonderful eyes controlling me like a well-trained seal that could bark and balance a ball on its nose on command.
"Thank you," I managed to say without barking or balancing a ball.
Then I turned and tripped over my luggage.
Somehow, I managed to miss getting tangled in the front desk rope maze as I fell.
That floor may have been carpeted, and I may be a superhero, but it was still hard, and it still hurt.
"Are you all right, Mr. Moore?" she asked, a frown of worry crossing her beautiful face, making it beautiful in a different way. She leaned over the desk and looked down at me like an angel, the light behind her head giving her a halo.
I thought of lying there, staring at her until she floated over to help me up, then I thought better of it.
I sprang to my feet.
"I'm fine," I said, pretending to laugh it off.
I had heard that superheroes always spring back to their feet when knocked down, and I sure didn't want to be an exception to the rule in the superhero world, even when the fall was caused by my inability to not be consumed by a pretty woman.
That, and poorly placed luggage.
Every superhero has his weak spot. Superman has Krytonite, Poker Boy has pretty women. Especially pretty women with big, brown eyes who can make a plain hotel uniform look sexy.
Luckily, I took the fall while in my secret identity of Conway Moore. Conway Moore had far less to lose than Poker Boy.
The pretty woman behind the desk watched me, trying not to laugh, as I rounded up my kicked luggage.
"Thanks," I said, finally getting myself together.
"You're welcome," she said.
Her smile was different than the one she had greeted me with. I might have been only imagining it, which was very possible, but I think I felt in that smile amusement, maybe attached to a little fondness.
I turned and headed for the elevator. If I knew what was good for me, Poker Boy and his alter ego, Conway Moore, would stay very far away from that front desk area.
Yeah, right. And that was going to happen.