Pokerstars big deal

I am not a big fan of poker books for their insights into strategy, but vacationing in Thailand with Anthony Holden's 'Big Deal' was enjoyable enough. The book really should be called '101 Ways to Blow Your Bankroll'. The premise is that Tony is going to spend a year as a professional player. To do this, he is going to set aside $20,000 to play poker, reserving the bulk of his net worth for handling things like rent, alimony, his children's tuition et cetera. One gets the impression that poker is just a game to him, as opposed to the make or break proposition it is for most professionals.

Here's a not-so-brief list of things he does in an attempt to go broke:

  • plays well over his bankroll
  • plays in many clandestine games
  • jumps directly on the touring pro circuit
  • blows his winnings on extravagent gifts
  • spends $4000 on a single transatlantic fare
  • chases his losses with $100/hand blackjack
  • exercises extremely poor game selection
  • uses his writing income to disguise his losses
  • uses monetary gifts to disguise his losses
  • plays way too loose
  • puts too much weight in tournament results

This book really is not the story of a year as a professional poker player. Rather, it is the story of an acomplished writer spending a year playing poker so that he can write a book. Because of this underlying motivation to have something to write about, he does an extreme amount of traveling to play with the touring pros in exotic locations. His trip to play in a clandestine poker tournament in the American South is a perfect example. It is almost as if he is hoping that the local authorities will in fact bust up the gathering just so he can have more to write about.

Interspersed throughout the book is the story of poker. There is a lot of history, much adulation of the poker personalities, and a fairly detailed personal poker biography. In the book Holden describes how his poker life is framed by his relationship with his father, his psyche, and ultimatly his need to simultaneously rebel from, and be accepted by his peers. It really is this subthread which makes the book worthwhile.

As a diary of a poker professional the book falls flat on its face. As an expose of one mans obsession with a game which he hopes to master, but masters him instead, it is a worthwhile and provocative read. This was really very enjoyable to read.

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