As a week of increasingly frenetic poker unfolds the stakes could not be higher, the outcome more uncertain. A family’s livelihood is threatened when the authorities impound their fishing boat. With Christmas approaching and debts mounting a race is on. While Alan struggles to make ends meet, his son Tommy travels to London where he has found a temporary job in a Knightsbridge department store. A chance meeting in the staff smoking room leads to a growing friendship with two students. Lilly is a ‘glamorous classicist more inclined to Versace than Virgil’. Nick, ex-army, is struggling to avoid being fired. Tommy has learnt his poker the hard way, would rather be good than lucky. At Lilly’s behest he agrees to give Nick some guidance in a deceptively simple game – Texas Hold’em. None foresees the excitement, exhilaration and exhaustion that await. Grunge and glamour, cash and comps, London’s vibrant and varied poker scene comes to life. Enjoy the jargon, appreciate the skill, feel the adrenalin surge.
Having dabbled in a few friendly hands of Poker yet never really making the effort to follow-up my vague interest – apart from with a few Flash Games when bored – it was probably not surprising that my curiosity would be piqued by a book on the subject. I was curious to see how the game would translate to the page and also if it would be successful in its endeavour, like Stefan Zweig’s book Chess was.
It is essential for a book of this kind to have the rules and terminology reiterated for casual readers and explained for non-players, this is put into the text early on and everything is made clear in a simple way by page 60 so everybody should be up to speed and ready to be submersed in the Poker, of which there is plenty.
The story is told through a series of poker games, I was curious to see how the Poker atmosphere would translate into a book. I enjoyed the way the players came across as natural with plenty of talking about everyday things and the camaraderie and banter of friends being a thinly covered veneer over the competitiveness. It feels real and I believed most of the characters and that gives the book a more immersive quality. There were a few over the top characters but that didn’t really matter as they became characters I loved to hate and hoped they lost their money, in short I was invested because of it.
It is important to point out that the book doesn’t glorify gambling at all but shows the pitfalls for the unwary and the novice, explaining the various tactics of experienced players to part competitors from their money. It is a down-to-earth piece of fiction that will encourage interest in the game but balance it with level-headed advice on what to do and what to avoid.
Reading this book was like a beginner’s guide in story form. There is a big market for Poker these days and a book like this will be more preferable to the dry text-book type of book in explaining how things work. It makes the game more accessible for the casual player and gives some good tips that wouldn’t seem apparent to novices even though they seem obvious when they are revealed. As an extra bonus there was also he ending, which I wasn’t expecting but left me pondering an important message that I had forgotten about whilst being caught up in all the big betting.