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Unlucky: A Poker Novel – Arthur W. Goodhart

19 Apr

UnluckyAs 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.

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23 Comments

Posted by on 19/04/2015 in Fiction

 

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23 responses to “Unlucky: A Poker Novel – Arthur W. Goodhart

  1. shadowoperator

    19/04/2015 at 20:17

    A book that sounds like it’s right up your alley, given what I now know about you (i.e., your recently divulged interest in poker). I tried to follow the rules of even plain ol’ 5 card stud, and got lost, so I can imagine how Texas Hold ‘Em must work on the mind. I once heard someone describe it, but knew it was beyond me. So, why don’t you win a stake and travel around the poker circuit, and get on tv, and all that stuff? Because (probably) in spite of your enthusiasm, you’re a sensible guy who knows there’s no such thing as a sure thing. I have a poker enthusiast in the book I’m working on now, but I think I’m going to try to write my way around describing any actual poker games. I’m focusing instead on the character, and what his (unrealistic) expectations are. This is the novel I told you about which has caused me so much wasted time and difficulty. We’ll see what happens.

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    • Ste J

      19/04/2015 at 20:32

      The game is simple in its rules but complex in the weighing up of the statistics of the game, I suppose it is like Chess in a way, there are many complexities to each move but all it takes to play is to learn the moves, Poker really is little more complex than Chess rules wise. I haven’t played much but I wouldn’t rule out having a dabble at a local game one day for starters, the money would be handy though! The games were the plot in this book but I think were you to put them into yours it may slow the flow down too much, I do look forward to the end result of your labour though. It would be interesting to compare the two books…

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  2. Jill Weatherholt

    19/04/2015 at 21:28

    This sounds very intriguing, Ste J. Since I know nothing about poker, I might learn something and be entertained. I love the cover.

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    • Ste J

      20/04/2015 at 08:16

      It’s a nice primer to get the rules understood and then drip feed information throughout. The cover is very understated, I like what he did with the first A of his name.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  3. Lyn

    20/04/2015 at 04:53

    My Dad taught me to play poker when I was very young (about 8 or 9). Sadly, I think I’ve forgotten more than I ever learnt – if that’s even possible 🙂

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    • Ste J

      20/04/2015 at 08:14

      Well a refresher course is always worth it, especially when it comes in book form. It has made me think of facial expressions and exactly how O use them., not only in a poker game but in a wider context. Books that make you think, yay!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  4. Jilanne Hoffmann

    20/04/2015 at 18:10

    I have had friends who played poker in Las Vegas, some of them for a living. I prefer to play for nickels. It’s safer. Very interesting and unusual to use poker as a way of telling a story. I like it.

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    • Ste J

      20/04/2015 at 18:44

      It had me sufficiently intrigued as well, it is something I hadn’t come across although a quick internet search shows that there is quite a few around. I don’t mind losing a few coppers amongst friends either.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  5. LuAnn

    21/04/2015 at 17:31

    Very interesting. Just to experience poker being used as a way to tell a story may bring me to read this book.

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    • Ste J

      22/04/2015 at 10:05

      I hadn’t come across the idea of centring the plot focus on the games, naturally the characters have their stories but it really is all about the poker.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  6. Christy Birmingham

    21/04/2015 at 18:17

    I’m glad to read from your review that the book doesn’t glorify gambling. I have never learned to play poker! I suppose I’m too busy with chocolate and tea and non-poker books, but there’s still time, I suppose 🙂

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    • Ste J

      22/04/2015 at 10:03

      Tea is great! The book is careful to temper any readers expectations of the game which is good as all the TV adverts make it seems like you’ll win every other hand. A poker book on your shelf will…insert pun here because I can’t actually think of one.

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    • writersideup

      22/04/2015 at 18:31

      Yes, I think that’s what it is that turns me off about poker. I don’t know if anyone plays withOUT gambling. Hmmm…

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Ste J

        23/04/2015 at 13:11

        I don’t think there would be much point without some sort of point to the game, still it’s cheaper all round if strip poker is on offer lol.

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  7. writersideup

    22/04/2015 at 03:39

    There is no question—I am almost strictly a kidlit reader or nonfiction of a variety of subjects. Poker playing would never draw me in! lol But that’s me! 😀

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    • Ste J

      22/04/2015 at 10:16

      It is you and i wouldn’t have you any other way but if you do fancy a dabble in the game of kings (queens, ace, jacks et al) then this one will inform and entertain.

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      • writersideup

        22/04/2015 at 18:39

        You know, it’s funny—I’m integrally involved with ChessTV on Chess.com, and over the years it’s bothered me that many serious chess players are drawn to poker. I’m not quite sure why. Is it the fact that there are kings and queens in both games? lol Anyway, I think it’s my dislike of the almost inseparable gambling aspect (plus the stigma) that irks me so much and I feel like it somehow taints chess for that very reason. Also, I don’t know if it’s still on TV (I pretty much never watch it, especially commercial TV), but I abhore the “reality” poker shows that are on. I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you, but in quite a few ways, I’m a conservative thinker! I’m sure it’s a fun game to actually play, though 🙂

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        • Ste J

          23/04/2015 at 13:15

          I suppose for Chess players the reading of other players may give them an advantage in Chess, I’m not really sure, maybe it is because a game can be over quicker than a Chess match. I’ve watched those poker shows a few times but they have never really grabbed me, especially as it seems all the players have a gimmick which will be marketable at some point. Happy Families or Snap are definitely less controversial way.

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  8. RoSy

    22/04/2015 at 17:00

    “There were a few over the top characters…”
    We see these types of people in real life anyway – right? 😉

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    • Ste J

      23/04/2015 at 13:04

      That’s true and they can certainly make life interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  9. Andrea Stephenson

    26/04/2015 at 22:03

    Sounds interesting, I’m not a poker player and I wouldn’t have suspected a book about poker would intrigue me, but it actually sounds quite exciting!

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    • Ste J

      27/04/2015 at 08:13

      That’s exactly what I thought, how can poker keep the attention for a whole book? I think the realism of it and all the little tips that come through the book keep it interesting and then you get invested in the game and you’re hooked.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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