You're nothing but a cheap compulsive gambler. You're no man, you're scum."" So says Leslie Lazar to her N.Y. social-worker husband David--who, now abandoned by Leslie, decides to become a fulltime, committed handicapper like those gambling titans Nathan Rubin and Solomon Lepidus. He determines to revamp his character, to refine and cultivate himself, to write the definitive Handicapper's Handbook for professional sports betting, to make a gambler's fortune. Twin brother Doug mercilessly looks for holes in David's plan and even foresees failure. But neighbor Morty Lefko thinks well enough of David's dedication to help get some backers together (including himself). So David's book grows (with lots of quotes from super-gambler Nathan Rubin), he finally works out a successful gambling formula, and in three years he secretly expands (using ""beards"" to hide his identity): working out of cheap railroad-flats (which he sublets through his welfare clients), Dave reinvests his principal, gained largely from his specialty of college basketball, scoring big when the Vegas gamblers issue an inflated betting line. His faultless winning streak makes him famous, as does his Handbook; and his untaxed winnings prove to himself that he's not a compulsive gambler but rather a sharp businessman who can retire with his untold millions: ""From dungheap to glory he had marched, and yet he could not savor success."" He writes a second book, a novel swimming in tidal self-pity, depicting God as a ""consummate businessman,"" and when ten publishers reject the masterpiece, David has a mental breakdown--as does this improbable, clichÃ‰d first novel. Still, though readers looking for believability or depth will want to look elsewhere, Kalich's fellow gambling devotees--sports-betting division especially--will appreciate the in-the-know details here. . . and maybe the sheer wish-fulfillment too.