I don’t know of anyone who knows who Bob Stupak is but doesn’t have a strong opinion of him. The “Polish Maverick”, as he has been called, has been one of the most colorful figures in the menagerie of Las Vegas colorful gambling figures. His tireless energy, streetwise savvy, and relentless self promotion boosted him from a kid with grandiose dreams to one of the most influential casino operators in Las Vegas, gambling’s Mecca. This book is the story to date of his wild life.
The book starts with Stupak’s childhood in Pittsburgh and the gambling associations of his family. The book then chronicles his restless early life, the founding of his empire during a few years in Australia, and his arrival in Las Vegas. We hear about how he builds Bob Stupak’s Vegas World from scratch, and the controversy he attracts along the way.
The last half of the book covers what was to be Stupak’s crowning achievement, the building of the Stratosphere hotel and casino on the site of Vegas World. The high points of the Stratosphere’s problems and Stupak’s fall from relative grace are fairly well known. The details prove to be interesting as an object lesson on one of the Strip’s few failures. We also hear about Stupak’s nearly fatal motorcycle crash and his miraculous recovery, and the book ends with Stupak, hidden away in his own “Fortress of Solitude” plotting his comeback.
The book is passably written, although it’s not spectacular. Early on, there are several places where the writing seems forced. We move from one event to the other with a distinct lack of continuity. In addition, sprinkled about the book, are a few places where facts seem to be thrown in more because the author felt they were worthwhile and needed to go somewhere than because they fit into that portion of the narrative.
The research done in preparation of the book is impressive, owing much to the late decision by Stupak to cooperate with the biographer by opening up his own “Stupak Library” to Smith. Smith covers a lot of history, not just of Stupak, but of the Las Vegas ligaz11 gambling scene to which Stupak, for better or worse, is indelibly linked. Smith also, to his credit, doesn’t bring an agenda to the recounting of Stupak’s life, other than that Stupak is an interesting figure, and his life story is worth recording.
On the other hand, I would like to have seen a more complete analysis of Stupak’s character. He’s a complex man who is brilliant, but uneducated, and suffers for a serious inferiority complex. Even though he is most well known for using “late night used car sales tactics” in the promotion of his properties and exorbitant wagering, there is much more to him than that. He can, alternately, charm a person with his self deprecating sense of humor, and then he can turn right around and annoy them to tears. I would have appreciated a more thorough analysis of Stupak’s motivations and a deeper exploration of his feelings as the events of his life unfold. It seems to me that all he has ever wanted to be was admired for being successful, a recurring theme in his life that is not completely developed in this work.
No matter what one might think of his methods, it’s hard not to admire Stupak’s tenacity and outright audacity that precipitated his rise to fame and power. His life certainly warrants being chronicled and, overall, Smith does a good, if not inspired job. Even though No Limit isn’t a brilliant work, the author should be credited with not trying to overreach and ruining this worthwhile story. Not everyone is interested in the story of Bob Stupak, but if you are, you must look here.
No Limit recounts the colorful life to date of Las Vegas legend Bob Stupak. This book isn’t a work of genius, but it does seem to be thorough, accurate, and fair. Consequently, if Bob Stupak interests you, or you want to learn this part of the complete history of Las Vegas, this book is well worth reading.