'Duke' calls attack just a bad hand


Professional poker player Ron Wall is used to defending himself at the tables.

But the man known as "The Duke of Fremont," who makes the rounds at Las Vegas poker rooms dressed like a 1930s gangster, found himself fighting for his life on June 26 after he was ambushed in a Primm casino hotel.

Wall was at Whiskey Pete's hotel to purchase gold and silver from a man he had dealt with before. He was carrying $137,000 in cash and a couple of Smith & Wesson .38-caliber handguns.

As he entered a hotel room to view the precious metals, Wall was jumped and hit in the head.

For 20 minutes the man he had come to meet and a woman bludgeoned Wall with any object in the room they could grab -- a toilet tank cover, a lamp, a garbage pail and an iron, according to a Las Vegas police report. Wall also was stabbed with a knife and suffered a type of scalping wound.

In an interview with the Review-Journal, Wall said he believed he had to stay conscious or he would have been killed and dumped in the desert.

"It seemed like an eternity to me. I fought with all that I had," the 59-year-old said. "If I had been knocked unconscious I would have been snuffed out."

Wall was then hog-tied with duct tape and phone cords. The suspects told Wall there was a contract out on his life, according to the police report.

Wall freed himself and escaped.

Dazed and covered in blood, Wall ran to the registration desk. "I thought my number was up," Wall recalled.

Investigators would later find the hotel room full of debris, the police report stated. Broken pieces of a lamp and a toilet were covered with Wall's blood and hair and scattered on the ground.

Wall identified the man as Edmond Price and picked him out of a photo lineup.

Price, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., has a prior criminal history in that state and sports several prison tattoos on his face and neck, according to the police report.

Police from Paso Robles, Calif., arrested Price on June 29 on warrants out of California.

At the time of his arrest, Price was with Victoria Elizabeth Edelman, described by authorities as his girlfriend.

Detectives showed Wall a photo lineup with Edelman and he was able to pick out the 23-year-old as the woman in the hotel room.

Edelman was arrested and extradited from California to Nevada earlier this month, according to jail records.

Edelman was indicted by a grand jury for eight felony counts including first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, robbery with use of a deadly weapon and attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon.

If convicted, Edelman could face a minimum of 16 years in prison or a maximum life sentence.

At a hearing Wednesday, prosecutor Roy Nelson asked Judge Linda Bell for $10 million bail for Edelman and said she and Price were suspected of using Wall's cash to hire defense attorneys.

"The facts of this case are extremely horrendous. She is a true danger to the community and she is a true flight risk," Nelson said.

Bell ordered Edelman held on $2 million bail. She is being held at the Clark County Detention Center, according to jail records Wednesday.

Price remains in a California jail, authorities said.

Wall suffered numerous injuries in the attack. His ribs, cheek bones, and nose were broken. Both of his hands had defensive stab wounds and were fractured. He also suffered a concussion and numerous cuts to his head.

Wall had to undergo surgery and is still attending physical therapy sessions.

Authorities have called Wall's escape and survival "lucky."

The irony, Wall said, is that he takes far greater risks in life than gambling. "I'm not known to make a mistake," playing poker, Wall said.

His playing style is far less flashy than his persona, he said. Wall plays tight and never risks all of his money unless he knows only he can win.

Wall's reputation is a bit of Las Vegas folklore, according to poker blogs, websites and magazines. He dresses in suits he designs himself, fedoras and scarfs. He wears spats on his shoes. He sports pinky rings on each hand and flirts with young women in casinos. And he keeps tens of thousands of dollars in cash in a purple Crown Royal bag.

A self-described adventurer and world traveler, Wall quipped, "I've used up another one of my nine lives."

Wall said he's always cautious, but this time "I turned my back on the wrong people at the wrong time."

Wall isn't the only professional gambler who has been a victim of crime in the valley. World Series of Poker champion Greg "Fossilman" Raymer fended off would-be robbers outside his Bellagio hotel room in 2004.

But Wall doesn't want to be seen as a victim. "I'm a survivor. It was a bad hand. A bump in the road. Sometimes Lady Luck is fickle."

Wall missed about a month's worth of poker action while recovering from his injuries. He said the rumors spread about what had happened to him: Was he in a car wreck? Off on safari? Kidnapped in South America?

He's now back as the Duke, dressing in pinstripe suits, carrying rolls of cash and winning big pots at the poker tables.

Wall said, "The adventure continues."

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

 

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