Skip to main content

Make Me Even and I'll Never Gamble Again


Make Me Even and I'll Never Gamble Again

A wise person once said, “Nobody is always a winner, and anybody who says he is, is either a liar or doesn’t play poker.” The hero of MAKE ME EVEN AND I’LL NEVER GAMBLE AGAIN, hedge fund pioneer Jerrold Fine’s debut novel, is about to discover this saying to be brutally spot-on.

Rogers Stout is a young man growing up in Ohio in the 1960s and ’70s --- a time that was at once turbulent and innocent. His mother died when he was quite young, and his father, a doctor, is loving but perpetually busy at the hospital. His mother’s early death was “a tragedy my dad and I shared but rarely talked about. It was an open wound that refused to heal.” One way they spend family time together is their weekly dinner and poker nights, which take place every Friday. Even as a boy, Rogers shows great prowess at gambling, and the odds-making he learns during these evenings with his dad, he applies to his other great passion: baseball.

Like his classmates, as he gets closer to his graduation, and with some helpful encouragement from his dad, Rogers starts thinking about his professional goals. Although he doesn’t want to disappoint his father, he’d rather not pursue a career in the medical field. Given his love of sports and poker, he is leaning toward finance. With his dad’s connections, Rogers secures an internship with a local financial firm near his home in Cincinnati, and it’s here where he gets his first glimpse of the tempestuous world of finance, not to mention the boisterous characters who inhabit it.

" enjoyable and appealing coming-of-age story... Fans of Michael Lewis, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Philip Roth will happily ingest this young man’s ripening as he steers clear of the sharks in the direction of his destiny."

Once immersed in this world, Rogers quickly realizes that he can put all that great poker knowledge to use. Ronnie Davis is one of the young-gun brokers working at the firm, a seemingly innocuous guy whose straight-shooting advice makes him a revered touchstone for Rogers: “(Ronnie) had been schooled on the streets and in public playgrounds where your last name didn’t carry any weight. His respect was reserved for the underdog, someone who could will himself up from the old neighborhood into a position of authority.” This early training would provide a solid foundation for his career in big business, and a highly coveted one-on-one meeting with the head of the firm results in a recommendation to the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business. Suddenly, Rogers’ path is clear.

Once enrolled in Wharton, Rogers is knee-deep in facts, figures and other students as equally ambitious. It is here where he meets professors who prove influential, like Bates MacNeer, who addresses his class on the first day a la Debbie Allen in the movie Fame: “For those of you who commit to a Wall Street career, and for those who will be investing on their own, remember to embrace this rule: you can read every word ever written on investing, you can study balance sheets and income statements until you’re dizzy, you can seek advice from the best financial minds of the day, but the one element, the one crucial ingredient in the investment brew that you can’t buy in any store, find in any books, or uncover under any rock is judgment. Some of you will be blessed with it, others will not. We at Wharton will try to help you, but you will have to travel on your own discovery journey.”

This is where they start paying…in sweat. During this time, Rogers also meets Jacob, another classmate who later becomes his roommate and seems restless being in class all day: “While Jacob treated his education as medicine he had to take to survive and then move on, I actually enjoyed the learning process and found the challenge exhilarating.” While still in school, the two start to keenly observe the real estate market in nearby Atlantic City, New Jersey, which has just legalized gambling. They become involved in a few low-risk investments but soon up their ante, leaving Rogers in a very comfortable position as he graduates from school and heads to New York City to begin his Wall Street tenure in earnest.

Along the way, Rogers finds a little time for romance. While still in high school, he reluctantly agrees to accompany his dad’s colleague’s daughter, Charlotte, to a New Year’s Eve party and immediately see that she’s different from the other girls in school. Like Rogers, she has big dreams and even bigger ambitions, and she’s not going to let anything get in the way of her plans. They date throughout college steadily until Charlotte heads overseas to work with Doctors Without Borders. They stay in touch through letters, but feeling lonely, Rogers begins to see Elsbeth, who “was a potent combination of smarts, drive, confidence, determination, and killer good looks.” Can he keep up with the sexy and sophisticated Elsbeth, or should he hold out for altruistic Charlotte’s return?

In addition to navigating treacherous romantic waters, Rogers finds himself in an entry-level position at a top Wall Street firm and gaining notice among the top brass for his quick-witted ability to know when to take a risk. Impressed by his acumen with his Atlantic City holdings, other sharks soon start circling when they smell fresh blood in the water, and Rogers sees how truly perilous Wall Street can be: “I was always anticipating some pernicious evil creeping up behind me. I wanted to be as prepared as possible for whatever lurked in the dark.” Luckily, he still has friends like Ronnie to rely on for support and good counsel, reminding him, “If this were a basketball game, you’d probably throw up an air ball, but this is your game and you’re good at it, so go for it, because it could be a swish.”

MAKE ME EVEN AND I’LL NEVER GAMBLE AGAIN offers up an enjoyable and appealing coming-of-age story, even if you possess scant knowledge of the stock market and its world. With an affable, relatable protagonist, we follows Rogers’ journey from his unassuming Midwestern upbringing to the hallowed halls of Wharton and on to Wall Street, the belly of the proverbial beast, all while trying to hang on to his principles. Fans of Michael Lewis, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Philip Roth will happily ingest this young man’s ripening as he steers clear of the sharks in the direction of his destiny.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on August 14, 2018

Make Me Even and I'll Never Gamble Again
by Jerrold Fine

  • Publication Date: August 14, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks
  • ISBN-10: 1948122057
  • ISBN-13: 9781948122054