Bookie Tom Vale never refuses a bet. Bettor Bill Lacey only bets long shots and beats impossible odds each time. Lacey's latest bet is that Vale will die by 8:00 am tomorrow.
- Danny Aiello as Tommy Vale
- Tom Noonan as Bill Lacey
- Robert Weil as Horace Chadway
- Anthony Phillip as Phil the bartender
- William Magerman as Drunk
- Mario Todisco as Mafioso
- Michael Quill as Lacey's Man
- Dave Johnson as Announcer
- Paul Sparer as Narrator
Act I Edit
In a bar, the musical alarm for a day planner is playing. A bookie named Tom Vale is annoyed by the alarm and tells his worker, Horace, to turn it off. Horace agrees to, but says the planner is for Vale as a present. Vale, however, does not trust electronics and only calculates with his pencil and brain. Horace tells him to catch up to the modern age, but Vale refuses.
It is implied that Vale's stubbornness is the reason why his business is so slow. Vale says he will get by because he has "never been cheated and never been broke." Horace gets up to get a soak.
Vale looks at the phone and feels a cold breeze. He tells his bartender Phil to turn the fan off because it is cold. The fan, however is not on.
A tall man in a white suit and hat appears. Phil says he never heard the door open. The man walks over to Vale and sits down in his booth. Vale makes a comment about his leg and the smile leaves the man's face. The man in the suit reaches into all of his pockets eventually finding a paper. He looks up at Vale and asks to bet $500 on Ryan's Daughter to win the first race at Belmont.
Vale initially tells the guy he's crazy, since Ryan's daughter is forty to one and he does not want the man to lose too much money. The man in white insists and puts down five coins on the table. They are noncirculated $100 nickels.
Horace's alarm goes off again and Vale tells him to turn it off. Horace says it goes off every hour and he has no control over it.
Vale moves the coins back. The man in white assumes the bet is too hot for Vale, but Vale tells him he is not accepting the bet because the race already began at two o' clock. Looking at the clock, it is one minute past two. Vale tells the bartender to turn on the race. The race was delayed and did not start. Once the race starts, the man in white pushes the money back to Vale.
For the majority of the race, Ryan's Daughter is in last place. Horace takes out the planner and plays the funeral dirge for the man in white. However, the man just grins as Ryan's Daughter starts to catch up, eventually making it a two horse race. As Ryan's daughter crosses the finish line, the man in white continues to smile. Vale tells him he'll have $20,000 for the man in white the following morning.
The man in white wants to know the line on Detroit. Vale shakes his head saying there is no big payoff, it's one to three. The man in white says he likes big payoffs and little birdies. So he decides to put the $20,000 he just won on the Orioles, a bet the bartender assumes is suicide. Phil tells Vale that he doesn't have time to lay off the bet, but Vale insists he has never refused a bet. The man in white smiles.
Act II Edit
Suddenly Vale is swamped with business. Everyone is calling and betting on the Orioles. Horace assumes someone is playing hunches but Vale insists he already knew that. Horace suggests they watch the game, but Vale doesn't want to. He asks Horace to show him how to use the calculator on the planner.
Vale loses tons on money on the Orioles because he always accepts a bet.
The man in white shows up and insists that business has never been better. Vale gives the man in white his money when Vale accuses him of selling his hunches. The man in white starts laughing and Vale realizes something. He calls Horace over and asks Horace if he knows the man in white. Horace thinks he looks familiar and tries to figure out who he is.
With Horace stumped, the man in white asks Horace is he has ever heard of Bill Lacey. At first Horace laughs and admits he has, but his face suddenly drops as he realizes a connection. Vale says that the man in white is Lacey's son.
The man in white tells Vale that the box his money came in is a nice box. Then he comments that that he likes to box. He wants to bet on Rodriguez in the boxing match. Horace feels this is silly as Ramirez is eight to one.
Vale accuses the guy of trying to put him out of business. He says since the guy is so hot, Vale is cutting the odds in half. When the man bets his odds, Vale has to make a call. The man in white makes fun of him for being broke. He gives Vale a dime and says it should be added to the bet.
While Vale is making a call, the man in white and Horace talk about Bill Lacey. The man in white says that Vale should be dead. Vale comes back and asks if that is what the man in white wants. They begin to talk about Lacey, and Vale insists that he never strong arms anyone and it was Lacey's fault that he overbet himself. Lacey committed suicide because of his debt and the man in white blames Vale for not ceding Lacey a dime, referencing his early remark about the dime.
The man in white tells Vale he will be back tomorrow, and Vale remarks "If you win."
The next moment, Vale gives the man in white all of his money for winning.
The man in white has one last bet, and Vale tells him he'll take a bet as long as he gets to name the odds. The man in white offers even money, double or nothing, that Vale will be dead by 8:00 AM the next morning.
Vale tells him it is too easy because all the man in white has to do is shoot him dead. The man in white insists that the autopsy must show natural causes. Vale take the bet and tells the man in white to come back and they will sit it out until morning. As the man in white leaves, Horace worries because he has not lost a bet yet.
Act III Edit
Horace, Vale, and Phil are waiting in the bar. Horace is playing a song on the day planner. Vale remarks how good Horace is and suggests that Horace play at his funeral. Horace is mortified until Vale begins laughing.
The man in white walks in with another man carrying the money. All the money is put on a table as the man in white joins them at the table.
Vale closes his eyes and the man guarding his money shakes him. Vale insists that he is just going to take a nap. He tells Horace to wake up him up if he dies.
Vale goes to sleep and wakes up several times. Each time, he sees the man in white watching him. Finally, when it gets close to eight, Horace worries because Vale seems to have died. Vale, however, was playing a joke on Horace and he smiles as he opens his eyes.
With five minutes left to eight, Vale starts making fun of the man in white. He tells the man in white that he knew he was Bill Lacey the moment he walked in the door. Vale insists that he knows that Lacey got all this inside information about what was going on because Lacey was dead and would be able to figure out what was going to happen. He calls Lacey a loser and keeps making fun of him for being a horrible person and crappy better. Both the calculator and the clock show it to be 8 AM.
Vale tells Lacey that he is a loser and should never underestimate the power of the human spirit. Vale's guard takes the money and Lacey hangs his head and walks out.
Vale tells Horace to give him pen and paper so he can write a will. As Horace insists that Vale beats the odds, Vale reveals that he set the clock ahead as well as the timer on the calculator. He laughs as he writes the will admitting he knows he is about to die but he was able to do two things: make Lacey look like a loser and to maintain his legacy of never being cheated. He continues to laugh as Horace comes back and sees Vale dead on the bench.
Ryan's Daughter is the name of a 1978 movie starring Robert Mitchum about an affair between a married Irish woman and a British officer.