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My Reviews of Books on Poker and Gambling

(Updated 10/09/14)

I really like reading about poker and gambling. I enjoy both the stories and books on how to play poker. Much like my books on candy and chocolate page, I thought I would share my thoughts about those books on my web site. So here they are. There's links to Amazon so you can read more or order the book.

Quicklinks to reviews on this page (alphabetical order):

Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide by Barry Greenstein
 
Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt  
 
All In: The (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker by Jonathan Grotenstein & Storms Reback
 
Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People: The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived by Amarillo Slim Preston  
 
Bet the House: How I Gambled Over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance by Richard Roeper  
 
Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker by Doug Swanson  
 
The Biggest Game in Town by A. Alvarez  
 
Check-Raising the Devil by Mike Matusow  
 
Final Table: A Winning Poker Approach from a WSOP Champion by Jonathan Duhamel  
 
The Godfather of Poker by Doyle Brunson  
 
Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling by Martha Frankel  
 
How To Beat Low-Limit Poker by Shane Smith and Tom McEvoy  
 
Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America's Worst Poker Players by Jay Greenspan  
 
I am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-play Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
 
Lay the Favorite by Beth Raymer  
 
Lucky at Cards by Lawrence Block
 
The Making Of A Poker Player: How An Ivy League Math Geek Learned To Play Championship Poker by Matt Matros
 
Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom  
 
Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker by Chris Moneymaker
 
The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead
 
One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey "The Kid" Ungar, The World's Greatest Poker Player by Nolan Dalla, Peter Alson, Mike Sexton (Foreword)
 
Poker as Life: 101 Lessons from the World's Greatest Game by Lee Robert Schreiber
 
Poker Nation: A High-Stakes, Low-Life Adventure into the Heart of a Gambling Country by Andy Bellin
 
Poker Night: Winning at Home, at the Casino, and Beyond by John Vorhaus
 
The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time by Michael Craig
 
Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback
 
Super System by Doyle Brunson
 
Whale Hunt in the Desert: Secrets of a Vegas Superhost by Deke Castleman
 
Winning Low Limit Hold 'em by Lee Jones
 

 


 

Winning Low Limit Hold 'em by Lee Jones

In many poker circles, Winning Low Limit Hold 'em by Lee Jones is considered the best book on low limit hold 'em. I'd agree that this is a darn good book. If you are just starting to play poker and you don't know the basics of poker, maybe it isn't for you. Lee Jones assumes the reader knows certain things about poker. But if you're like me...a low limit player who can't consistantly win...this book should help. Although I'm still under my break even point, I feel this book helped me and I see the situations the book talks about. It's just a matter of me taking advantage of those situations. Plus, it wasn't long ago I read it. So in the long run, I'm sure I'll show improvement to the bankroll because of this book.

A big thing I liked about this book was that it was written for low limit games. Low limit games are vastly different from high stakes games...from the people who play them to how they are played. This book centers on low limit games and how a lot of people play them. You'll learn what to look for and how to react and hopefully take advantage. Of course, there's no guarentee you're going to win every time. But keep applying what you read in this book, and you almost can't help but become a better player.

One more note...there is a 2nd edition of this book. If you decide to buy it at some point, make sure you pick up the second edition. There aren't a lot of changes, but there are some. UPDATE: There is now a third edition out which I haven't read yet. For information on the third edition, click the book to the right (although the link doesn't always work).

           

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Super System by Doyle Brunson

It's known as the bible of poker, it's Super/System by Doyle Brunson. "Texas Dolly" is a long time poker pro who wrote this book with several other pros back in the 70's. Basically, each pro wrote a section on what he was an expert on. Generally regarded as poorly written, the knowledge you will gain is tremendous.

I really can't write much of a review because when I got this book for Christmas, 2003, I had just started getting into poker and this book was waaaaaay over my head. Now that I've been playing for a little while, I can't wait to pick it up and read it (when I get the time).

He also has Super/System II out which is half update, half new book. I didn't have time to read the whole thing when I got it out of the library. From what I hear, the No Limit Hold 'em section is almost exactly the same. The Limit section is good, but too short (and somewhat deals with some pretty high limits). And there are some other poker games that you might not have heard of or may never come across (but I think it's good to learn new games). There is a section by Mike Caro about poker in general that I did enjoy reading. I've provided links below to both books.

           

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Moneymaker : How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker by Chris Moneymaker

Do you think Chris Moneymaker got lucky in the 2003 World Series of Poker? Read his book and find out what he thinks. I liked this book. Long title, but good book. Written with the help of Daniel Paisner, Chris isn't exactly the greatest author in the world. But that's not a concern with this book. This book is simply Chris telling you what it was like to play in the WSOP, plus the events that lead up to the tournament. And you really get the feeling that he is sitting next to you telling you the story.

Chris starts out telling you about hanging out with friends who bet on anything while growing up. That spread to sports betting when he went to college (he was up some $60,000 and lost it all in one day of college football bets) and his introduction to poker. He met his future wife, got a 'real' job, lost his real job, got another job and quickly got into debt (gambling and other debt like house payments, car payments, etc). After winning a $40 online tournament, he was playing for a seat at the 2003 WSOP. Chris was actually gunning for 4th place, which paid $8,000. He didn't think he would stand a chance against the pros in Las Vegas and wanted the cash instead of the free seat to the WSOP so he could pay some bills. A friend talked him out of it, he won his seat, and, well, you probably know the rest.

This book is an easy read and I really liked the way Chris described the action as he took his seat at the tournament and made his way through the field. This book probably won't teach you any poker skills as it's not an educational book. But it might give you some inspiration to buckle down and maybe see just how far you can take your poker skills.

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The Making Of A Poker Player: How An Ivy League Math Geek Learned To Play Championship Poker by Matt Matros

This book was a little interesting. Not sure if I liked it or not. The book is part "how to", part "this is my life". And I think because of this, you get a little of something and a lot of nothing. The book follows Matt as he starts his poker career and, thanks to a postscript, ends with him winning $700,000 in a WPT event. In that regard, it is interesting as he gives you tips as he goes along. For example, I'm a small stakes Hold 'em ring game player. So I was interested in how he approached the game when he was at my level. And I did pick up some tips. But then he got into tournaments (which I don't play), and I started skipping around the book. Because he gives you tips throughout the book on different levels (ring and tournaments, different stakes), that's why I feel you get a little of something and a lot of nothing. He can't spend 200 pages on how to play low limit Hold 'em, then another 200 pages on single tabel tournaments, and so on. So you get a few tips on each level...a little of something. But not a full blown course on how to play at a particular level...a lot of nothing. It was interesting seeing him go from level to level and how he did it. You can see that, if you're good enough, you could follow a similar path. But don't buy this book if you are looking for a "How To Play" book.

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One of a Kind : The Rise and Fall of Stuey "The Kid" Ungar, The World's Greatest Poker Player by Nolan Dalla, Peter Alson, Mike Sexton (Foreword)

On one hand, it's easy to feel bad for Stu Ungar. On the other hand, he had nobody to blame but himself. "One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey 'The Kid' Ungar, the World's Greatest Poker Player" is an excellent book and I can't recommend it enough. I'm not a huge reader, but this is one I found hard to put down.

It's the story of Stu Ungar, the kid from New York who was probably the greatest Gin player in the world. He was so good, literally nobody in the world wanted to play him. He either beat them or they refused to play. So, since he was a gambler, he had to find another game. And it was poker. And he was one of the best at that too.

As you read, you'll follow Stuey as he grew up with his bookie Dad and card playing Mom. His discovery of the card game Gin and of the poker rooms of New York. His love of action and the horses. He started getting so good at cards that nobody in New York wanted to play him. Plus, he was a little hard to get along with, and he started owing money to the wrong type of people. Combine those things and he had to look for a new place to play. So, he moved to Las Vegas.

The book details his rise as possibly the greatest poker player to live with three WSOP main event titles. And then it details the fall as he discovers drugs and suffers through massive losses on sports and horse betting, plus personal tragedies. Often when he was broke, other players would stake him. But soon, when he developed a drug habit, it was clear he was spending the money on drugs. Soon, nobody would back him. He had plenty of chances to clean up, and plenty of people willing to help him, but the drugs were too strong an addiction to break. It's estimated that Stuey won $30 million in his lifetime, but towards the end of his life, he was pennyless. Funds had to be raised to pay for his funeral.

This was a great book...and a sad book too. Hard to say what it would be like had Stu Ungar lived to see poker as popular as it is today.

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Poker Nation: A High-Stakes, Low-Life Adventure into the Heart of a Gambling Country by Andy Bellin

I ended up reading this book twice. Was it because the book was so good? No...it was because I read it once before, forgot I read it, and ended up getting it out of the library again. Only when I started reading it again did I realize I read it before. Does that mean the book is no good since I couldn't even remember reading it in the first place? Not really.

It's a somewhat interesting book that is hard to describe. It kinda floats around from being autobiographical to giving general tips on how to play (nothing earth shattering....if you've been playing for a while, there's nothing new for you), to telling poker stories involving the author, to telling poker stories not involving the author. None of the stories are long or in depth, a few are interesting and comical.

I do like the pace of the book. It's a light book that meanders around...doesn't seem to take itself too seriously. A good book to keep around so you can pick it up and read a few pages here and there. A good book to have on the nightstand for those nights when you're not quite ready for bed. As an example, I actually finished the book (for the second time) while waiting for my car at the mechanics. I didn't love the book, but I didn't hate it either.

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Poker Night by John Vorhaus

This wasn't a bad book. A little different from the other books I read as the main subject of this book is to tell you what you need to know about playing a home poker game. It does branch out into other poker related subjects, but it doesn't really go into great detail about any one subject. More or less, it gives an overview and enough information that you can follow through on your own.

The book starts as most poker books do...with a quick rundown of the hand rankings. But it also starts in right away with some good tips on playing poker...playing with patience, observing others, and how to get your money in the pot when you have the best hand. It goes on to tell you how to set up a home game, how not to cheat yourself by buying cheap poker chips, how you can serve alchohol, but you yourself shouldn't drink any (so you don't lose your edge!), how to work the bank, and so on. He suggests some rules, although he always states that what he tells you isn't the hard and fast rules. The best home games evolve and change over time. But one thing I do like is how the author always makes it clear that all rules should be spelled out in the beginning so everybody knows the rules from the start.

He also goes over basic poker games (Hold 'em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, Draw) and basic variations (hi/lo, etc). And he also gives some brief strategy on each game. There's a few sections on the weird games you might come across (Pineapple, Baseball, etc) or might want to introduce to your home game. Towards the end of the book, the author branches out from the home game and discusses things like playing in a casino or poker room for the first time, and even touches briefly on online games (but this section is kinda small as he refers you to his book about online poker).

If you read this book, you're not going to learn all the secrets of poker. But you will feel more comforatable if you are like me...someone who is thinking of starting a home poker game but wasn't sure where to start.

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All In : The (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker by Jonathan Grotenstein & Storms Reback

This book is an easy recommendation. It's a very easy read of the history of the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Personally, I like reading about the old time poker players like Amarillo Slim, Johnny Moss, and Puggy Pearson, to name a few. They're all here and a lot of others as you learn how the WSOP came about. Basically, each chapter is about one year of the WSOP, from its meager beginnings in 1970 when it was just a small group of Texas road gamblers meeting up in Las Vegas, to 2004 and the 2,576 entrants (won by Greg Raymer). Read a brief history of Benny Binion and how the Horseshoe Casino was born. Plus, read how Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth burst on to the poker scene. You can't talk about the WSOP without Stu Ungar, and, Of course, Chris Moneymaker gets quite a few pages devoted to him.

But there's also side stories about Benny Binion and the whole Binion family, how there almost wasn't a 2004 WSOP, why they started the tradition of dumping the prize money on the table once it got heads up, how Puggy Pearson got the name puggy, and much more. If you want to learn the history of the WSOP, this is your book. Well done. By the way, if you're wondering why it's the "almost" entirely true story, there weren't any records of the early WSOP tournaments. So the authors had to go from the stories and tales told by the old time poker players, along with any kind of information to back things up as best they could.

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The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time by Michael Craig

Another good book about poker. Like the last couple poker books I read, this isn't a "how to" book. This book is about Texas banker Andy Beal and his quest to play heads up poker against the best pros he could find for the highest stakes he could find. It's an interesting read as it gives some background on Andy Beal, how he made his millions, his other projects he got deeply involved in, and how he became addicted to poker. Basically, he's the type of person who needs to be the best at whatever he does and he's turned into one of the best heads up poker players around. But it's interesting to see how he changed his game while adjusting to the pros...going back to Texas to work on his game after each match against the pros.

Of course, the book also covers the professional player's side of things. There's mini backgrounds on most of today's big poker players...Doyle Brunson, his son Todd, Jennifer Harman, Barry Greenstein, Ted Forrest, Howard Lederer (the professor in the title of the book), and more. It's neat to be able to see how each side reacted to the matches, which were spaced out over a couple years.

The book follows the negotiations between Andy Beal and the pros. The pros would pull their money together and play against Andy, who put up his own money. Andy would constantly try to negotiate higher and higher limits, wanting to play $100,000/$200,000 limits!! Usually, the pros settled on $20,000/$40,000, but would often raise the stakes when they were winning.

I had heard about this book and was planning on reading it one day. But then Andy Beal returned to Las Vegas in early 2006 and the poker world was all abuzz. Rumor has it Phil Ivey won several million for the pros off Andy Beal. Because of all the buzz, I made sure that this book was the next one I read. I recommend it.

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Hunting Fish: A Cross-country Search for America's Worst Poker Players by Jay Greenspan

Poker writer Jay Greenspan considers himself a semi-pro player. But he's thinking of becoming a full time pro, playing the high limit games at the Commerce Casino in LA. In order to do that, he needs to pad his bankroll. So, he decides to leave his apartment in New York and drive to LA, stopping along the way at casinos, home games, and illegal underground poker rooms trying to get the bankroll needed to play at the higher levels. Does he make it? Read the book!

I liked this book. It's a quick, easy read. If you like the 'trip reports' that poker players are known to post in poker forums describing a live poker outing, you'll like this book. Each chapter is a stop on his 'tour'...places like Atlantic City, Foxwoods, Philadelphia, Georgia, Tunica, Dallas, Las Vegas, and more. He gives a brief poker history about each stop, lets us know what he's thinking at that point in his journey, and, of course, the colorful characters he comes across. He also describes the changes in his personality as he tries to go pro, and the thoughts he has about family life and being a pro (when the book was written, he was engaged). He also describes a few key hands from some of his sessions and his thought process in the hand. An interesting part of the book is when he thinks about the moral issue of seeking out poorer players to take their money and how he feels when he takes their entire stack in what he considers an unfair fight.

This book is not a how-to book. Although for me...someone who is trying to learn as much as I can...I did come away with some thoughts about how I play compared to his play. Obviously, if he's thinking about becoming a pro, he's much more advanced and playing much higher limits than me. But it was interesting seeing how he thought out some hands. I enjoyed this book and recommend it!

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The Biggest Game in Town by A. Alvarez

This book is often touted as one of the best poker books ever. I don't know if I would go quite that far. Published in 1983 and mainly centering on the 1981 WSOP, it's a time capsule look at poker in the early 80's. A world that was much different than poker in the 21st century. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy reading it. I just don't know if I would classify it as one of the best ever.

What I did enjoy was the glimpse into the poker world of 25 years ago. Some classic names are talked about, including Johnny Moss, Nick the Greek, Jack Straus, Stu Ungar, and of course, Doyle Brunson. Poker players were looked upon quite differently back then. It's funny to read about the amounts of money they were playing for which must have seemed so big in 1983, but are rather small by today's standards.

If you enjoy reading about poker history, you should pick up this book. If you are looking for a how-to book or one with stories about today's poker stars, skip this one.

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Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide by Barry Greenstein

It seems with this book, you either love it or hate it. Put me in the 'love it' group. First off, it's not your usual poker book. It's not a "how to" book, yet it is. What I mean is, it's not a how to book in as far as how to play poker. It's more of a how to conduct yourself in the poker world. Although he does present some strategy and some hand examples, a lot of what Barry Greenstein talks about is having the right attitude, dealing with poker and your family, the psychology of gambling, game theory, and more. All these things affect your poker game and need to be thought about. Barry does a good job in presenting this in short, easy to read chapters.

Barry does do some hand histories towards the end of the book. They are designed more like quizes. They're actual hands he has played...he sets them up and then presents several questions for you to answer. They're desinged to make you think a little. He also talks about his career and the poker society. And the book is filled with lots of beautiful pictures. I enjoyed this book and recommend it!

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Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling, by Martha Frankel

This book is often described as a tale of online poker addiction. And it is...sorta. It just takes a while to get there and doesn't spend a lot of time on the subject. But don't let my description stop you from reading this book...I really liked it a lot.

Author Martha Frankel describes her childhood (filled with gambling with her tight knit family and their friends) and tells us how she got involved with poker. It was research for a screenplay she was writing. But it became much more. She played in a regular Wednesday night poker game to learn the game, became obsessed, got really good, took a poker cruise, played in AC and LA, started doing less of her 'real' job (interviewing celebraties for magazines, and she was doing quite well) and started playing poker more. Then that fateful day when she learned you could play online...and she just couldn't win online. She lost quite a bit of money, pulled away from her friends and family (who she never told about her problem), and couldn't stop...constantly trying to win it back.

There's more to this book than just poker tales, and I'm OK with that. And when Martha Frankel talks about poker, rarely does she talk about specific hands. But she has a breezy style of writing and it was really a joy to read this book. I'm not much of a book reader...I'd rather play poker than read a book. But if you are a reader, you would probably finish this book in one or two nights. Highly recommend for a quick read.

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How To Beat Low-Limit Poker, by Shane Smith and Tom McEvoy

I got this book out of the library kinda as a lark. I've been playing poker online for a couple of years now, have some live experience (don't get to play live as much as I would like), and have read a lot about poker while trying to get better. By no means do I think I'm an expert, but I hold my own.

I decided to get this book out to see what it was like as a beginner book. And I'd have to say that it's not very good. I think it's a great idea...a book on how to play low-limit poker because that's where most people start and need the most help. But this book just didn't really give enough tips or the kind of tips I think needed to be made. Not that I know what they are, but I would know them when I saw them.

The book covers several topics like Limit, No Limit, Tournaments, and even Omaha High/Low (also known as Omaha/8), which I thought was an interesting game to include in a beginner's book. Omaha still confuses me since you get four cards instead of two and you HAVE to use 2 from your hand and three from the board. I was actually looking forward to this section of the book because I'm thinking of starting to learn how to play Omaha/8. But it was this chapter that made me realize this isn't the best book.

For example, he never tells you how to read a low hand...a common mistake with new players. Low hands start from the highest number down, not the other way around. It's extremely easy to get confused and think your A-2-3-4-7 is better than someone else's A-2-3-5-6 because you have Ace through 4 versus the other guy's Ace-2-3-5. But it doesn't work that way. Think of your hand as a number, starting with the highest numbered card in your hand. So in this example, the first hand can be read as 74,321 against 65,321. Low number wins. The A-2-3-5-6 is the better hand. The author doesn't explain this anywhere and I think it's a HUGE part of learning low hands.

Sorry. While I can't recommend a good beginner's book, I know I can't recommend this one.

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Check-Raising the Devil by Mike Matusow

I had wanted to read Mike Matusow's Check-Raising the Devil for a while and actually did get it out of the library at one point. But I was too busy to read it and had to return it. Finally I got it out again and made sure I read it this time. I'm glad I did.

When I first saw Mike Matusow on various poker shows, I didn't like him. I tend not to like loud people and he's definitely loud. But the more I watched him and the more I learned about him, I started liking him more. Also, I think he may not be as loud as he was a few years ago.

His book is a quick, easy read. He takes you back to how he got involved in poker, back to his dealing days...dealing poker, that is...how he was out of control with the partying and drugs, and how he ended up in jail. The whole jail situation is interesting, but remember that it is his side of the story. And it includes his life once he got out of jail. His stories are interesting and it really does let you enter his mind and you see why he is the way he is. It's cliche to say you can't put a book down, but I did rally enjoy this book and looked forward to picking it up and reading more of it when I could.

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Bet the House: How I Gambled Over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance by Richard Roeper

The book "Bet the House: How I Gambled Over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance" by Richard Roeper is not only one of the longest titles I read, but it also falls into that 'not really a poker book' area. Richard Roeper decides he's going to gamble at least $1,000 a day for 30 days on various gambling outlets, including lottery tickets, horse racing, black jack, sports betting and yes, even poker. He admits he was inspired by Morgan Spurlock's documentary "Super Size Me", and for the most part, the book is fairly entertaining.

Yes, this is the same Richard Roeper who is a columnist and film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and who co-hosted the TV show "At the Movies" with Roger Ebert from 2000-2008, which he discusses in the book. But don't think this is some semi-popular figure deciding to do this book on a whim. Roeper admits he's been gambling at least since his teens and he kicked around the idea of this type of book for a few years.

I admit...it's been a while since I actually read the book, but I do remember it getting a little bogged down in the middle. And I think he suggests, not in so many words, that he wouldn't be surprised if online poker was slightly rigged (I forget the exact context...I really need to start writing this stuff down). But overall, I enjoyed the book and if you enjoy reading about gambling, you probably will too. It's not the greatest book on gambling, but it's not the worst either.

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Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People: The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived by Amarillo Slim Preston

When I had heard that Tom "Amarillo Slim" Preston had passed away on April 29th, 2012, it reminded me that I never read his book, "Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People: The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived". So I got it out of the library and I still haven't read it...all the way through, that is. I started reading and gave up. Why? Well, Amarillo Slim will be the first to tell you that he was a great self promoter. Maybe not the way Phil Hellmuth is today, but Slim talked a good game.

Don't get me wrong. I think some of the credit to how poker is perceived today is due to Slim. He was the right guy to 'win' the 1972 World Series of Poker (win in quotes as there are some stories he didn't win as so much they let him take it for the good of poker). He helped the tournament get noticed in the early days of the WSOP by doing interviews, etc. It was a good foothold for poker.

But the book is basically page after page of him boasting about how crafty he is and how everybody tries to get one over on him but he's too smart for them, and on and on. It gets boring after a while. So I stopped reading it. Plus, since he's known to stretch the truth a bit, who knows what's true and what isn't. I know the saying 'don't let the truth get in the way of a good story', but is seems every one of his stories goes like this:

1) show up somewhere.
2a) some hustler bets me something because he thinks I'm stupid.
2b) some hustler wants to play me in some game because he thinks he's better than me.
3) outwit and/or outplay him...win the bet.
4) go to #1.

Some of the stories are interesting, but I can't recommend this book. Sorry Slim...R.I.P.

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Poker as Life: 101 Lessons from the World's Greatest Game by Lee Robert Schreiber

Gonna be honest about this book...I didn't finish it. I was looking for something else and stumbled across "Poker as Life: 101 Lessons from the World's Greatest Game". Basically, it ties poker lessons into life lessons and how you can use your poker skills in everyday life.

The book is broken down into 101 segments, each only two or three pages long. The first part is the poker skill part, then the 'how to use it in life' part, followed by some poker terms. For example, one poker skill discussed is to not tilt...don't let emotions rule your game. In life (well, in business in this example), don't let emotions get in your way of your job.

Some of it was interesting, there's attempt at humor here and there. The book is from 2004, so some of it might be dated as far as the poker and the terms. I wouldn't buy this book but if your library has it, maybe it's worth it to get. It's a smallish book...a quick read...an airplane book or something.

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Lay the Favorite by Beth Raymer

I never heard of this book until I read a blurb in Sports Illustrated about it becoming a movie. While most of the 'gambling' books I read are about poker, this has no poker at all. It's about Las Vegas waitress Beth Raymer looking for a new job/life and ending up working for a professional gambler. It's her memoir of her exciting times as she works for the gambler, takes up boxing, quits and heads to NY, works for another gambler and so on. While it is supposed to be a memoir, the writing style at times makes you feel like you're reading a novel. Not sure if that's good or bad.

One interesting aspect is how she gives us background on some of the people she ends up meeting. Like her first professional gambler boss. We meet him when she goes for her job interview. Then we spend a chapter or so learning his back story and how he got to where he was. Same when we meet his wife.

I didn't totally love it...I didn't totally hate it. I like reading stories of gamblers, but I'm not sure there was a lot there. And I'm still a little unsure on what she actually did for her bosses. Towards the end, I got a little bored.

The book originally came out in 2010 and has been repackaged for the movie.

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Final Table: A Winning Poker Approach from a WSOP Champion by Jonathan Duhamel

This is another 'sorry...didn't finish it' review. This one being of the 'not because I didn't like it' type. I was going on a trip for work for a training class and would be away all week. I'd be spending some time in the airport with a layover, and the flight itself. So I wanted something light and breezy to read...something I didn't have to think about too much while reading.

I thought Jonathan Duhamel's book was going to be almost like an autobiography...some background on the 2010 World Series of Poker champion, how he started out, all leading up to his big win. But it's not. It more about skills and traits outside poker that Jonathan thinks you need to be a good poker player. Each chapter is one of these traits, like passion, self-confidence, perseverance, knowing yourself, etc.

Sprinkled in-between are some hands of poker that Jonathan played with his thoughts on how he played them and how some of the traits he talks about figured into the hand.

It's an interesting concept and I did read a couple of chapters. But it wasn't what I thought it was going to be and I didn't want to read a 'heavy' book while on the plane and in the airport. Not that it was hard to read...I just wasn't in the mood to learn.

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Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback

At first, I wasn't going to read this book. I'm a boring older guy who doesn't like loud flashy people with no respect. And it just seemed like this book would be filled with those people. You know...loud people having fun and all that. And, basically, it was. But I will admit that I mostly liked the book.

It's about several young poker pros who make tons of money playing online poker and the life they lead. It's told in an interesting way as the chapters switch back and forth between the players as they all come together as a group of friends, meeting up in Vegas and other locations, and then as they drift apart to some degree. Another interesting aspect is the authors use the poker player's Internet poker names instead of their real names. But if you're up on your poker, you will either know the names or can figure out who's who. And there's always Google if you're not sure who someone is.

It's basically a collection of rags to riches (and sometimes back to rags) stories interwoven among the players as we follow the young guys discovering poker, some trying to go to collage (some trying a couple times), how they deal with Black Friday and try switching to live poker, how, for some, poker becomes a job rather than something they used to enjoy doing, and other adventures and life choices. It's an easy read...recommend.

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The Godfather of Poker by Doyle Brunson

For Christmas I got the autobiography "The Godfather of Poker". Most poker players know most of the stories about Doyle Brunson...Doyle was an exceptional basketball player until an industrial accident injured his leg, the trips of playing poker on the road, the start of the World Series of Poker, etc. But this book goes much deeper into his life with a lot of stories you probably didn't hear before. Not much else to say...I enjoyed reading about his life. Recommend!

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Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt

For the past four years, I've been going to Vegas for the WSOP. And I usually try to take books on my GF's Nook that have something to do with poker. Usually, I just search for poker on the library web site and see what comes up. I take just about any book that comes up because I like to read how authors try to write about poker when they have no idea how poker really works. Not all authors are like this, but there's a lot.

So the book Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt pops up. Seems like an interesting story. 17-year-old high school senior needs money for college. She gets a job as a cocktail waitress at the local casino even though she isn't 21, thanks to a fake ID. She's a math wiz and she ends up in a secret poker group. She tries poker and thanks in part to her math skills, she's good at it. Her family has no idea this is all going on. We're building up to the big scene at the casino's big poker tournament...a million dollar, winner take all tournament.

It was an OK book. The problem I had was it's really a teen book. There was some teen romance angst and the usual teen problems that happen when you're a senior in high school. There wasn't a lot of actual poker in there, but what was there was pretty accurate. It wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't exactly written for a 48-year-old guy.

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Lucky at Cards by Lawrence Block

I was duped. This was another one of those "it mentions poker, I'm going to read it" books I got out of the library. I thought it was a relatively new book...like maybe 5 years old or something. But when I started reading it, it felt like it was written many years ago. The slang, the price of things, etc. But it wasn't written in a way where the author was doing it on purpose. So I did some research.

Lucky at Cards was released in 2007. It was first released as The Sex Shuffle in 1964 under the pen name Sheldon Lord. OK, now it makes sense. That's why there's perhaps questionable language (by today's standards) when describing certain neighborhoods and why the lead character's sandwich and coffee he bought costs like 65 cents. And how he was amazed he could work a job and make $10,000, maybe even $15,000 a year. Once I knew that, it was kinda funny reading it.

As far as the book itself, it was OK. Bill is a card cheat who ends up in a town after getting chased out of Chicago. He gets invited to a home game and cheats a little to win. The wife of the guy hosting the card game picks up on it but nobody else does.

She confronts him later, they get it on, they hatch a plot to get rid of the husband so they can be together. Her life is boring now...she wants to go back to her old life of hanging out with card cheats and the like, but wants the husband's money. And so it goes.

It's not a bad book. I enjoyed it. But there was very little actual poker talk if that's what you're looking for.

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I am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete

I was hoping to like this book. Frank Scoblete has written a bunch of books (gambling and non-gambling) and this one was to chronicle his blackjack card counting adventures. But I ended up not liking it very much.

For one, he seems to be a little full of himself. Confidence is a good thing, but to me he comes off a bit jerky. He keeps referring to his wife as 'the beautiful AP' which gets annoying real fast. OK, maybe use it once or twice. But through the entire book? And a couple of times he complained that if you're dumb, casinos welcome you but if you're smart (like him) and count cards, they don't want you. And they ban you because you're smart. Yeah, we get it. Card counting isn't illegal but the casinos reserve the right not to serve you...get over it. And get over yourself. Plus a lot of his card counting buddies have stupid nicknames. You're not 12 years old.

Some stories lack detail but he did warn the reader that he doesn't remember everything. OK, I understand that. I can't remember a lot either. Overall, I didn't like the book very much.

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Whale Hunt in the Desert: Secrets of a Vegas Superhost by Deke Castleman

Whale Hunt in the Desert is mainly about Las Vegas casino host superstar Steve Cyr...how he started in the business, how he came up with new ideas on how to get the high rolling whales into Vegas, etc. There are some chapters that are about other people, about the whales themselves, or about why we gamble.

Since I like gambling and casinos, and hope one day to be a whale myself (I'm running out of time though...I think only a lottery win will put me into whale territory), I enjoyed most of the book. There was a part or two that were a little slow. But I enjoyed all the stories. Recommend!

FYI, I read the second edition which came out in 2009. The first edition came out in 2004. So some of the stories mention casinos no longer there or things that aren't true in Vegas anymore, etc. But I still enjoyed it.

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Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom

I really liked this book. Molly Bloom ran some of the biggest underground poker games in the Hollywood area with some of Hollywood's biggest stars (both those in front of the camera and behind the scenes) before turning to running huge games in New York. It's a pretty quick, easy, flowing read. I don't read much (or fast) but I finished it over a long weekend. It kept me entertained enough that I didn't want to put it down.

Molly tells us of her upbringing in Colorado, her dad's stringent ways, competing with her two brothers in sports and in life. She moves to LA bouncing from different waitressing jobs until she stumbles into an office manager type job. Not really an office manager...not sure how to describe it. But her boss knows a lot of famous people and wants to start a high stakes poker game in the basement of the famous Viper Room. He has Molly organize and run it, and she loves it. Eventually, she takes over the running of the game, moving it from the basement of the Viper to high class hotel suites and gorgeous private homes. She doesn't charge rake, which her lawyer says keeps the games legal. She lives off the tips, which soon turn into tens of thousands of dollars at each weekly game. One aspect of the book I liked is it named names. No secret code names or anything like that. And I have to tell you that I lost respect for one of the stars she talks about...but have to remember that she is telling just her side of the story. Really liked this book...recommend you check it out.

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Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker by Doug Swanson

First off, if you're thinking of reading this book because of the poker aspect in the title, be prepared to read a LOT before getting there. And then when you get there, there isn't a whole lot written on it. I knew the stories of Benny Binion, but didn't realize the depth of his, um, ways of handling issues. Although he seemed like a nice guy to your face, you simply didn't cross Benny Binion. Chances are that if you did, you wouldn't be around much longer to talk about it.

This is a pretty long book and I really liked Doug Swanson's style of writing. Unless you read a lot, I don't think you're going to read this over a weekend. It's a good book, following Benny from his roots in Texas, to Vegas, to jail, and back to Vegas. Lots of twists and turns and allegations and excitement in his life. Recommend, but it might take you a while to read it. Well, it took me a while anyway.

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Other books on poker and gambling you might want to check out (or books Amazon thinks is poker/gambling related):

 


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