Septem adeste undecim
RANGE: From the two dollar Show window at an off-the-beaten track to the Chicago Commodities Exchange; from the jai alai frontons of Miami to the dog tracks of Tuscon; from jumping contests of celebrated frogs to the Sacred Heart basement bingo game around the corner; from the cock fights of El Barrio to the free floating crap games of the nation’s Holiday Inns— wherever the urge to push your luck burns a hole in your soul, you will surely find the Daemon Runyon: the low rollers’ companion and archenemy of Lady Luck.
HABITS: He draws your attention to a surething long shot in the Racing Form—where he has previously inserted a typo. He whispers random numbers in a card counter’s ear. He helps you draw to an inside straight if anyone else is holding a flush. He is small enough to ride a tossed coin and stand it on end and tall enough to slam dunk home the shot that helps the Lakers beat the spread . . . and you. He’ll steer you to a sucker the morning after he’s blown his roll. He lets you win from welshers and makes you loose to Mafia dons. He’s the one-armed bandit who trips the filly in the home stretch, slides your chip off the double zero just before it hits, tips the heat to your bookie’s address before you can collect, and drowns you in the office pool.
HISTORY: The Daemon is a descendant of the Fadas, those glittering creatures native to the French Riviera. His motive for immigrating remains obscure (for Europeans are as easily tempted as Americans to punt the patrimony on a long shot), but come he did, to work his scams and cons from the beaches of New Jersey to the Sands of Vegas. His first recorded act in the New World was to greet Columbus and tout him it was seven-to-five he had hit the Indies. He later gave Custer the same odds against the Sioux. With his parimutuel friends, Jack O’Diamonds, “Auntie” Up, “Three Card” Monty and “Old Snake Eyes,” he caused havoc on the river boats of the old Mississippi. Daemon’s biggest sting was in 1929, when he called all the bluffs, broke the bank, and left Uncle Sammy sitting at the table in his red, white, and blue underwear.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: The Daemon Runyon can be seen riding a cab to the track, and the bus back. He sits on the shoulder of a fat man weeping in an all-night coffee shop. He smells of cheap cigar smoke and bar rye. He sounds like the slap of a flush-busting card on green felt. He tastes like finger nails. He feels like the simultaneous breaking of your heart, your bank account, and your leg.