Chester "Ace" Bernstein
Ace infobox
Occupation Gambler / racehorse owner
Marital Status Single
Actor Dustin Hoffman
Chester "Ace" Bernstein is the main character of Luck, played by Dustin Hoffman. He is an organized crime figure in his late 60s who has just been released from a three-year prison sentence and is plotting revenge against his former partners with his driver and friend Gus Economou. He owns the racehorse Pint of Plain with Gus acting as a front.



Bernstein is a respected organised crime figure with ties to Nick DiRossi, Michael "Mike" Smythe and Isadore Cohen. He pleads guilty of possession of 6 kilograms of cocaine and is interred in Victorville prison for three years. The cocaine was discovered in a co-op owned by Ace but lived in by his grandson. The drugs really belonged to Mike. Ace and Mike had once been business partners and shared the co-op. They met in 1987 and Ace once had great respect for Mike. He blames Mike's cocaine use for ending their partnership. He plead guilty to the charges to protect his grandson and Mike. However, Ace secretly blames Mike for putting him in the situation. Ace is well known in the horse racing world as a crime figure.

While Bernstein is in prison his driver Gus Economou wins five million dollars on a Las Vegas slot machine. Bernstein arranged the win through his associates. Bernstein helps Economou to invest the money in a race horse, paying off the prison guards so that he can watch footage of potential buys. They buy Pint of Plain for two million dollars and have the horse imported from Ireland. They engage trainer Turo Escalante. Economou is acting as a front for Bernstein in the arrangement because Bernstein cannot hold a horse owners license because of his felony conviction.

Season 1Edit

Luck (pilot)Edit

Main article: Luck (pilot)

Bernstein is released from Victorville prison. He is met outside by his friend and driver Gus Economou. As they drive away from the prison Bernstein grips the bridge of his nose and sighs in the backseat of the car. Economou asks how he is doing. Bernstein ignores the question and says that he wants a tape recorder. Economou queries his meaning and Bernstein reasserts his desire. Economou suggests that he has a penci, offering to write down a note. Bernstein assumes that he is joking and rebukes him. Economou produces the implement and says that he has a scrap of an advertisement he could write on. Bernstein’s glare melts into a look of affection and he asks Economou about the trees he grows in his back yard. Economou smiles, says that they are good and mentions that he was considering taking the wraps of his fig trees. Bernstein asks to see Economou’s horse owners license and Economou passes the identification card back to him. Economou jokes that he was surprised that the cameraman didn’t see through him. Bernstein firmly reminds Economou that he is the true owner of the racehorse. Economou says that he understands. Bernstein rhetorically asks if Economou thinks that he is the first front in history and shakes his head.

Economou and Bernstein arrive at a hotel. Bernstein gazes around wistfully and is greeted by the manager, Maurice. Bernstein jokes that if Maurice has been partying in his suite he should make sure it is cleared. Maurice counters that if he missed one or two Bernstein can send them down the fire escape before becoming serious and saying that they have been preparing all week. Maurice gestures at Economou and references his windfall. Bernstein notes the timing and Economou jokes that he only drives Bernstein for fun now. The doorman excitedly greets Bernstein and tells him that he has graduated, Bernstein deadpans that he has done the same.

Bernstein dresses in the mirror. He pulls off his tie and undoes his top button, unhappy with the fit of his shirt. Economou calls from elsewhere in the suite, wondering if Bernstein is ready. Bernstein asks how Economou left things with Escalante. Economou reports that he agreed to call when he was a few minutes away from the track. Bernstein advises Economou on his attitude with Escalante, telling him to be businesslike. Bernstein puts on his jacket and approaches a box of mail on the counter. Economou explains that it is correspondence from Bernstein’s friends and associates while he was in prison and that he has replied to all of it. Bernstein picks up a recorder from the counter; Economou has fulfilled his request. Bernstein continues with his advice regarding Escalante, instructing Economou to be assertive and furnishing him with the sample phrase “spare me the hat dance, just train my horse.”

Bernstein enters DiRossi’s restaurant, still adjusting his clothing. He is greeted by the hostess and then warmly met by DiRossi himself, who says that they are back to full strength. DiRossi leads Bernstein back to his office and asks how he is doing. Bernstein says that he is great and noting the plush surroundings adds that DiRossi must be doing very well. DiRossi reports that his clubs are also doing well with new venues in Atlantic City, Miami and Macao.

DiRossi commiserates with Bernstein about his conviction. Bernstein says that he is pleased with the trouble people took regarding Economou. DiRossi offers his blessing to Economou. Bernstein elaborates that he wanted Economou to be showing legitimate income and paying taxes when he purchased the horse. DiRossi says that his accountants needed the exercise and says that he hopes the horse gives pleasure to Bernstein. Bernstein says that he must keep his distance from the track and DiRossi says that he understands. Bernstein adds that he needs to feel out his supervised release and determine if there is give on his leash. DiRossi brings up Bernstein’s suggestion that he invest in a racetrack. Bernstein seems surprised that DiRossi is interested. DiRossi reports that the track is in financial trouble, assuming that Bernstein already knew. Bernstein suggests that with the shrinking tax base in Sacramento the council is ripe to approve a casino. DiRossi likes the idea of having a casino on the grounds of a racetrack. Bernstein adds that the area is also ripe for development with hundreds of acres of land around the track but that he cannot get involved given his recent release. DiRossi agrees that it is too risky for Bernstein and Bernstein says that he is worried about still being an asset. DiRossi says that Bernstein is an architect and that he should take his time. Bernstein admits that he has a shorter temper and worsening memory and shows DiRossi the recorder. DiRossi is taken aback by the recording device. Bernstein asks what is wrong and clarifies that it is just a memory aide. Bernstein becomes incensed at the idea that DiRossi suspects him of being an informant and stands up, tipping over his chair. Bernstein tears his shirt open, sending buttons flying, to prove that he is not wired. DiRossi tries to placate him, calling him Basta. Bernstein wonders if DiRossi has been watching old film, insults his Itlalian origins and asserts his loyalty by referencing his 3-year prison term. DiRossi says that Bernstein’s loyalty is appreciated as Bernstein regretfully notes that he has lost the buttons from his shirt. There is a knock at the door and DiRossi instructs his driver, Jimmy, to take Bernstein back to the Beverley Hilton. Bernstein thanks DiRossi and DiRossi says that he will fly his associates in to discuss the racetrack whenever Bernstein is ready. Bernstein puts this off, referencing his high blood pressure, and DiRossi encourages him to relax. DiRossi says that Economou’s horse ownership is an opportunity to get an inside view of the track. Bernstein says that he has shrunk and needs new shirts.

Bernstein sits in bed remembering his past. He says that he was responsible for building an organized crime empire from the ground up, having learned from his predecessors who had plenty of blood on their hands. Economou calls through to ask if he wants anything and Bernstein instructs him to check the thermostat. Bernstein asks about Economou’s visit to the track and learns that their horse has opened its bowels. Economou avoids commenting on the horses condition given his inexperience so Bernstein asks if Escalante was satisfied. Economou confirms that he was. Bernstein notes that the guards at Victorville prison could by themselves Cadillacs with the money he paid them to allow him to view race tapes of the horse. Bernstein says that the horse is all heart. Economou observes that there were other animals in the stable and Bernstein says that is not unusual. Economou says he saw a goat with huge testicles and Bernstein says he hopes the animal was bow legged. Economou confirms that it was and wonders how Bernstein knew. Bernstein says that it would need to be to be able to walk around. Bernstein recalls following Escalante’s career from its humble beginnings. Economou says that Escalante is like Bernstein in that regard. Bernstein checks the clock and says that he is falling asleep although it is only 7:45 p.m. Economou excuses Bernstein, saying that he has had a busy day. Bernstein nods and changes the subject to his betrayers, saying that they are going to move on the racetrack and that Economou is their new favourite Greek. Economou says that he is nervous about Bernstein relying on him when he is out of his depth. Bernstein replies that Economou does not know his own depth. Bernstein says that he should get a girlfriend and see if they reach out. Economou wonders if they should use someone they trust or someone they don’t. Bernstein counters that he trusts no-one, not even himself, but gives Economou a pass. The two friends share a smile.

Episode 1.2Edit

Main article: Episode 1.2

Ace meets with his parole officer. Ace sits in silence as the officer scans his paperwork until the questions begin. Ace denies having done anything to violate the terms of his parole. His gaze is drawn to photographs of Miles Davis and Malcolm X on the office wall. His attention is drawn back when he is asked about changes in residence or contact information; he confirms that he has made neither. A softer question about how he is settling in is last, Ace says he is good. The parole officer asks for a urine sample and retrieves a pot from his desk drawer.

Ace notices the parole officer trailing him to the bathroom and says that he has difficulty going if someone is looking. The parole officer wonders how he coped in prison and Ace says that people made adjustments for him. Once in the bathroom Ace struggles to go while the parole officer stands behind him. The parole officer says that Ace has shy kidneys and turns on the taps to aid him.

Ace is met by Gus Economou as he exits the police station. Gus reports that Ace has a lunch invitation and wonders if they should postpone their planned visit to Turo Escalante at Santa Anita Park to accommodate the lunch. Ace says that they will fit it in. Gus asks about the meeting and Ace says that his parole officer seems decent. Gus opens the rear door of his Mercedes for Ace before calling to confirm the lunch, avoiding using any names on the phone. Ace observes that the last minute invite was intended to put him on the back foot as Gus starts the car.

Ace has lunch in the clubhouse of a golf course with his business associates DiRossi and Cohen. Cohen admits that he is jealous that Ace still looks so good given his recent prison term. Ace says that it was no tea party and Cohen and DiRossi commiserate. Cohen changes the subject, asking if Gus is enjoying the jackpot he won in Las Vegas. Ace says he is and adds that they are going to see Gus’s horse next. Cohen looks at DiRossi and jokes about the number of stunts his floor staff had to pull to ensure Gus was the winning player. DiRossi asks if Ace wants something to eat and Ace shakes his head. DiRossi waves away the waitress. Cohen says that he has a message from Mike – he sends his best wishes and wants to support Ace in any way that Ace suggests. Ace asks if he can start and begins his pitch. He says that with the recession the leisure gaming market is tightening and Cohen agrees with his assessment. Ace rhetorically asks why they should look at buying a race track, lists the reasons against and then says that it is an opportunity to infiltrate casino gambling into California. He says that with horse racing being legal but the sport in financial crisis he believes they can use the purchase as a Trojan horse to bring in slot machines and table games. Ace offers to fund the purchase while Cohen will provide his name for the signs. He offers ten percent of the operation and the option to purchase a further thirty-nine percent at his purchase price plus costs. Cohen laughs, saying that the proposal requires an all-out effort to convince the legislature in Sacramento rather than just costs. Ace raises his voice to say that the option is a choice afforded to Cohen not a price he has to pay. DiRossi observes that this is an exhibition of the famous Ace temper. Ace moderates his tone and says that the ten percent share is a gesture of friendship if Cohen decides not to exercise the option. Cohen notes that Ace needs his name on the sign, irritating Ace by referencing his status as a felon. Ace asks Cohen to tell Mike that he can take a piece of the ten percent or the option if he wants it. DiRossi punctuates the discussion by announcing that “the Ace is back in place”.

On their drive to the racetrack Gus asks Ace how the meeting went. Ace reports that he believes his old partners will move on the racetrack. Econmou predicts that Mike will be easily drawn by the idea of a casino and Ace agrees that there is nothing Mike likes more than stealing another’s idea. Gus wonders how Ace got involved with Mike and learns that Ace saw him as a skilful businessman when they first met 25 years earlier. Ace intimates that cocaine was Mike’s undoing. Gus asks if cocaine was involved in the problems at the condo. Ace is bemused and then corrects Gus that it was a co-op that he and Mike owned in New York for entertaining business clients. Ace says that when they ended their partnership he took the co-op while Mike took the plane. Ace relates allowing his grandson to live in the co-op while studying at New York University. Mike also continued to use to co-op to stash narcotics. Gus notes that Mike could have kept the drugs anywhere and Ace says that there is no way to understand Mike’s perverse logic. Ace reports that his grandson drew complaints from the neighbours for holding parties and that the co-op was searched by the police who discovered the drugs. Gus says that he is only able to remember a little boy running around with his shoes untied from that time. Ace recalls that his grandson was in such poor shape at the time there is no way he could have obtained the 6 kilograms of cocaine he was found with. Gus believes the federal investigators knew that Ace’s grandson was not responsible and Ace confirms that they did, believing that they wanted him to testify against Mike. Ace opted to claim the drugs were his to protect both his grandson and Mike. Gus asks what Mike would have done if the situation was reversed and Ace says that Mike would have given him up. Ace insists this is immaterial because he has never given information on anyone to the police. Gus laments not being allowed to kill Mike. Ace tells Gus to stop it, ending the conversation.

Escalante greets Ace and Gus outside the barn. Gus makes introductions and Escalante is sycophantic. Ace urges him not to interrupt his routine and Gus tells them that while Gus’ horse is a champion he is about to race an $8,000 bum. Across the track Goose tells Renzo that the horse looks good. Leon walks up to Escalante and is introduced. Ace wishes him a safe race as he leaves with Escalante and Mon Gateau. Gus asks Ace to explain training races to him. Ace tells him that the horses in the race all have a buying price set by their owners. Gus wonders when you have to pay and Ace says that the claim is put in before the race. Gus asks if you can pull your offer after seeing the horse runs and Ace explains that at that point you own the horse unless someone else has claimed it too. Ace notes that Gus knew the answer to his last question already.

Leon asks Escalante if he should warm the horse up thoroughly. Escalante suspiciously questions why Leon is asking. Leon says he had no reason. Escalante says that Leon should be as sound as the horse while helping him up. Escalante returns to Ace and Gus. Gus says that Leon seems nice and Escalante says that he has no brains. Escalante tells Gus that the horse will win provided Leon stays on.

Leon is led out to the starting gate. The starter’s assistant asks if he is ready and Leon uncertainly affirms. The gate opens. Ace smiles as Gus nods excitedly. Mon Gateau is trapped between two other riders. Leon pulls back on the reins and Mon Gateau tosses his head in defiance. Leon eventually slows the horse enough to go outside his competition. He then allows the horse to reach its full speed and overtakes the riders who had boxed him in. Leon progresses through the field as Gus cheers along. Leon takes the lead and Gus tells Ace the horse is going to win. Leon wins lengths ahead of the field. Gus tells Ace he bet $200. Escalante, Leon and Mon Gateau pose for their photograph. A Steward’s Assistant places a claimed tag on Mon Gateau. Leon dismounts and commiserates Escalante on Mon Gateau being claimed. Escalante warns Leon to hope that he does not find out that Leon talked to anyone. Leon protests his innocence as Escalante stalks off. Gus observes that Escalante looks unhappy for someone who has just won.

Escalante approaches Ace and Gus in the stands, complaining about losing Mon Gateau. Gus offers congratulations to Escalante on the win anyway. Escalante promises to get revenge on whoever talked about his horse, ignoring Gus and addressing Ace. Ace says only good and then waits for Escalante. Escalante apologises for bothering them with his problem. Ace asks when Gus can see his horse and Escalante offers to take them right away.

In Escalante’s barn Gus says that Pint of Plain is looking much better than last week. Escalante says that often people have a feeling and speak when they really know nothing about the subject, insulting Gus and referencing his belief that someone’s big mouth is behind his loss of Mon Gateau. Gus and Ace take offence. Ace and Escalante share a hard stare and Ace asks if it is too hard to keep a civil tongue. Escalante says that he will not beg to keep the horse. Escalante agrees that the horse is better and reports that he has had new shoes fitted. Ace tells Gus that the horse has a great stride, adding that Gus showed him tapes to maintain the illusion of Gus being the decision maker. Escalante agrees that the horse has a smooth action on the track. Escalante says that he had to start paying all of Mon Gateau’s bills himself two years prior because the horse had a problem with its front legs. He is upset that he has now had to give the horse away to Mulligan. Ace tells Escalante that it appears that he lost in a game he ran. Gus is distracted by the goat and points it out to Ace. Ace says only good and does not look away from Escalante. Escalante reports that Pint of Plain likes the goat and will often nudge him with his nose. Escalante’s stable hand says that the goat waits by Pint of Plain’s stall when the horse is out of the barn in Spanish and Escalante translates for his visitors. Escalante says that the stable hands have named the goat after an exercise rider because of his bowed legs. Ace asks what Gus calls him and Escalante tells him “Goat”. Ace asks how much Escalante pays for the bags of carrots he has on the side, clarifying that he means now rather than when Escalante started out 30 years ago. Escalante checks with the stable hand and reports that it is about $15 a bag. Escalante asks why Ace cares about the cost of the carrots. Ace avoids the question and asks if Escalante knows that he was in prison. Escalante confirms that he has heard people say so. Ace suggests that people might also say that Gus’ ownership of Pint of Plain is related to organized crime. Escalante says that he wouldn’t know, being from Peru. Ace smiles and asks to pet the horse. He gently strokes the horses head as Escalante observes that the horse has a plain head.

In his hotel suite Ace talks about first meeting Escalante with Gus. He tells Gus that Escalante used to work on a fruit and vegetable stand outside the track. Ace recalls Escalante furiously haggling over small sums. Gus wonders at Escalante being stuck outside the track wanting to get in. Ace clarifies that he wasn’t sure Escalante had ambitions in that direction but knew that he hated being in a foreign country selling vegetables. Gus goes on to say that Ace was responsible for getting Escalante inside the track. Ace tells Gus that Escalante is responsible for his own success and that all he did was ask a trainer to hire him as a stable hand. Gus relates this to Ace’s plan for revenge on Mike, noting that Ace never leaves an open contract. Ace tells Gus that they need to find a go-between to continue their dealings with DiRossi, Mike and Cohen. Gus suggests himself and Ace admits having concerns about Gus’ temper. Gus then asks if they need someone they trust or someone that they don’t. Ace says they need someone for whom trust will not be an issue. Gus notes that Ace went to a lot of trouble having his associates fix the slot machine so that they would feel that they were owed a favour. Ace asks Gus to set up a meeting with his investment company the next day and adds that he will pick a go-between so they can advance their plans for revenge. Gus asks Ace to reassure him that he did not let him down. Ace does so and Gus says “let’s go get these cocksuckers.”


Memorable QuotesEdit

  • "I don't trust anybody; not even myself. I'll give you a pass." (to Gus Economou in "Luck")


Season one appearances
Luck Episode 1.2 Episode 1.3
Episode 1.4 Episode 1.5 Episode 1.6
Episode 1.7 Episode 1.8 Episode 1.9
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