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Colson Whitehead does a great job of taking you inside the dreams of the normal, and more often, the abnormal, poker-playing American. I read the book because I heard the NPR segment about it, and my brother was headed to WSOP. It was a great crash course book to see how one person figured out what it does/doesn't take to get there and I saw many of the same tactics employed by my brother (consulting books/cheat sheets, supplementing 'the' game with other sit n' gos, etc). Overall, I liked Whitehead's snarky, sarcastic attitude, and I know I laughed out loud at a few times, but sometimes the writing style left me trailing off the book and thinking about other things or skimming ahead. Maybe it is a testament to him doing the same as he tackled this subject...trailing off, taking an aside, going back/forth in time. I do wish he had talked a bit more about his actual experience at WSOP and not the leading up to it and the afterward.
Colson Whitehead brings a careful eye and a wry sense of humor to the semi-glamorous world of professional poker. But the book started as a magazine article, and it still bears the marks. It reads like a "director's cut" -- all the parts that would usually be taken out for concision and focus are left in. This gives us some great profiles, some fun descriptions of his college road trips, and a bit of colorful commentary on the Nation of Anhedonia. But at times the narrative feels baggy and disorganized. On the whole, the journey was worth it. But at times, I wasn't sure.
Interesting in the sense that he references a lot of other writers, stories, etc and it's nice to be able to think "I get it, I get that joke". But it's a less-than-entertaining story. Sort of barely over the "do I have time to read this" line. But I did read it and finish it and that gets it more than 2 stars.
Mom always said profanity is evidence of a limited vocabulary which may be why I am sensitive to it. Not that it does not have a place in writing and in life, but Whitehead, like many Millennial writers tends to use it as casual adverbs and adjectives and this overuse becomes wearing as you move through the pages. The book itself seems a bit forced. I found out that it is an "expansion" of a magazine article and feels like it. A title that would have worked is "But I digress ..." since he leads us down so many side streets. Some of the poker stuff is interesting but it is a thin veneer on the workings of the pro circuit.
I admit, that's why I bought this book, as I am interested in poker and I thought it would be entertaining to read an "everyman's journey" through the tournament. And, the author does have a witty style that is funny and entertaining.
However, it's not as much about poker as it is about the author trying to find some meaning and joy in his life. Which is fine, if that's what you want. And it would even be better if he did find some meaning and joy. But, the author seems to be categorically incapable of finding any joy whatsoever in anything he does. Quite frankly, by the end of the book I was sick of his negative attitude about everything. He stated that he suffers from anhedonia, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts." And if this is really his problem, then I do feel for him. I'm just not totally convinced, because it seems that he is mostly whining and being negative for the sake of being witty and funny, and after awhile, it just got on my nerves.
Anyway, if you want to read about some poker from a different perspective, then this book is an option. I think, though, there are better choices out there. Unless, of course, you enjoy reading negativity and whining, but you can find that for free on Tumblr.
For a person really interested in Poker and the nuances of the game, this is not the book. The author fancies himself as a comedic personality, and while a few lines are worthy, for the most part the lack on continuity of a story line, and little describing the play and interaction of the participants in playing the game was a real disappointment.
I love to gamble and play poker and have read all the key poker books written recently. This is a good addition to the canon. Very well written but does not( could it?) trod any new ground. But if you enjoy poker like I do, you'll gobble up any cool new book on the subject. This is one of those books. It's a safe bet you'll enjoy it.