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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death [Kindle Edition]

Colson Whitehead
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $24.95
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $13.96 (56%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

The Noble Hustle is Pulitzer finalist Colson Whitehead’s hilarious memoir of his search for meaning at high stakes poker tables, which the author describes as “Eat, Pray, Love for depressed shut-ins.”
 
 
On one level, The Noble Hustle is a familiar species of participatory journalism--a longtime neighborhood poker player, Whitehead was given a $10,000 stake and an assignment from the online online magazine Grantland to see how far he could get in the World Series of Poker.  But since it stems from the astonishing mind of Colson Whitehead (MacArthur Award-endorsed!), the book is a brilliant, hilarious, weirdly profound, and ultimately moving portrayal of--yes, it sounds overblown and ridiculous, but really!--the human condition.
    
 
After weeks of preparation that included repeated bus trips to glamorous Atlantic City, and hiring a personal trainer to toughen him up for sitting at twelve hours a stretch, the author journeyed to the gaudy wonderland that is Las Vegas – the world’s greatest “Leisure Industrial Complex” -- to try his luck in the multi-million dollar tournament.   Hobbled by his mediocre playing skills and a lifelong condition known as “anhedonia” (the inability to experience pleasure) Whitehead did not – spoiler alert!  - win tens of millions of dollars.  But he did chronicle his progress, both literal and existential, in this unbelievably funny, uncannily accurate social satire whose main target is the author himself. 
 
Whether you’ve been playing cards your whole life, or have never picked up a hand, you’re sure to agree that this book contains some of the best writing about beef jerky ever put to paper.




From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"Whitehead serves up an engrossing mix of casual yet astute reportage and hang-dog philosophizing, showing us that, for all of poker’s intricate calculations and shrewd stratagems, everything still hangs on the turn of a card."
   - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"As a novelist of considerable range, Whitehead consistently writes about more than he's ostensibly writing about...here writing a poker book that should strike a responsive literary chord with some who know nothing about the game...Engaging in its color and character."
-Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

COLSON WHITEHEAD is the New York Times bestselling author of Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York, a collection of essays. A recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and a MacArthur Fellowship, he lives in New York City.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1614 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385537050
  • Publisher: Doubleday (May 6, 2014)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GL3OJQQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,165 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poker Face March 27, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm new to Colson Whitehead's writing, but I'm always on the lookout for a good book about gambling and Las Vegas. The Noble Hustle filled the bill on both scores, and does it without any scams or cheating of any kind, which must be a first for this kind of book.

Whitehead emphasizes the fact that he lives in a state of anhedonia (or The State of Anhedonia, as he puts it) which means he is unable to experience pleasure. Perhaps he really does have a degree of anhedonia, but he seems to like playing poker, he certainly enjoys eating beef jerky, and he must get a kick out of writing, because he's pretty good at it.

The narrative follows Whitehead, a New York novelist, practicing to compete in the World Series of Poker. He is a casual player but is ramping up his game in preparation to write a magazine article about the World Series experience. He plays in tournaments in Atlantic City to get toughened up. Then it's on to the Series in Las Vegas.

Along the way he meets some characters, such as The Coach, a poker tournament pro who looks like an upper middle class housewife. She gives him pointers and strategies and cheers him on. As something of a fish out of water, she can relate to Whitehead, who is also not the typical Las Vegas pro poker player, with his dreadlocks and lack of a killer instinct. But in his favor, he has an unbeatable poker face, due of course, to his anhedonia.

Whitehead has a light way of writing, even as he maintains his gloomy demeanor. He tells of a player at the World Series who encourages him to check out the "hooker bar," which throws Whitehead, since that seems a bit forward even for Las Vegas. He pretends not to realize that the enthusiastic patron was probably talking about a "hookah" lounge.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Negatively fifth street April 11, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
You know what would be a great story? A novelist and casual home-game poker player gets sent to Las Vegas by a magazine. Using his expense money to enter a satellite tournament, he'd win to buy into the main event at the World Series of Poker. He'd get to the final table, and hobnob with top pros and old-style outlaw Vegas royalty, while thinking of life and friends and wife and kids. Between hands he'd get involved in a murder trial of a stripper accused of using a horror-movie technique to dispatch a casino owner. The whole tangled tale would climax in a double lap-dance session.

That, of course, was Jim McManus' great Positively Fifth Street. Take away the murder, stripper, great title, lap dance, celebrities, constructive thinking and journey from lowly satellite seat to the final table and you have Colson Whitehead's interesting slacker version. It's much shorter without all the collateral stuff, and is intensely negative both in the sense accentuating unpleasant aspects of everything and showing more interest in what is missing than what is happening.

The Noble Hustle belongs to an older poker tradition, the gritty decay of The Man with the Golden Arm and The Cincinnati Kid (the books, not the movies in which star power obscures the message).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A satire of all those other stunt memoirs May 7, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
REVIEWED BY LAURA

First of all, you should know that I am a total sucker for a good "stunt memoir" (or "participatory journalism," if you want to get fancy). You cooked a Julia Child recipe every day for a year? I want to read about it. Read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica? I'll preorder your book. Played in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) as a reporter for a magazine? I'm all-in, if you will. My fascination with getting a peek into different subcultures is definitely satisfied by authors doing crazy things and then writing about them.

This, however, is not your typical stunt memoir. So for a while I was a little confused--I wanted more of a plot, more of an inside scoop on the scene at the WSOP. Then it finally hit me--he's doing a satire of all of those other stunt memoirs! Gosh, that's clever! Because while I do love those stunt memoirs, they usually are pretty predictable--person decides to do something crazy/unique/ill-advised, does it, writes about it, learns a valuable life lesson and then finds love/a job/a new passion for living. This book is like the anti-that.

And Colson Whitehead flat-out won me over with his satirical sense of humor, witty observations, and terrific writing. Whitehead is an AMAZING writer! His writing is so slick sometimes I almost couldn't stand it. At the beginning, he takes some time to explain the game of poker to those readers who aren't familiar with it:

"To start, when judging a five-card hand of random crap, the highest card determines its value...Whoever has the better stuff wins. Sound familiar, American lackeys of late-stage capitalism?"

Come on, that's pretty funny, right? Well, the whole book is basically like that. I'm not kidding.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Perceptive Poker Read
Mr. Whitehead pegs the typical tournament player exactly. And makes reading about them entertaining. Great book. Very polished and perceptive writer.
Published 10 days ago by nicolas marsch
3.0 out of 5 stars I digress ...
Mom always said profanity is evidence of a limited vocabulary which may be why I am sensitive to it. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Fred Forbes
3.0 out of 5 stars Smooth prose and a sharp wit, but lacking in poker action and devoid...
A smooth and enjoyable read all the way through, I easily could've given this book 4 or even 5 stars if I'd felt it delivered more on the poker side of things and if Whitehead had... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Richard Bon
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious, Dull, and a Complete Waste of Time
This is the worst book I've ever read about poker. As a writer Whitehead is pretentious, dull, and untalented. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Bernard Chapin
2.0 out of 5 stars The Insufferable Narrator
Whitehead is one of those writers who has a few books I've enjoyed so much (The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Zone One) that I'm more or less willing -- for now -- to read almost... Read more
Published 27 days ago by A. Ross
3.0 out of 5 stars “I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside
“I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside.” That first sentence let me know that this book would be full of the dry, sometimes, self-deprecating humor that I have... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Toni Campbell
1.0 out of 5 stars Too cool for his own good
Too cool for his own good; Colton Whitehead's style of writing complicated sentences chock full of metaphors and references to other things than he is writing about is exhausting... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Canbax
3.0 out of 5 stars It reads like a "director's cut" -- all the parts that would ...
Colson Whitehead brings a careful eye and a wry sense of humor to the semi-glamorous world of professional poker. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lynda Nuss
4.0 out of 5 stars An "Anhedonic" Does Vegas??
Colson Whitehead probably wouldn't be anyone's first choice to send to Las Vegas to report on life in the pleasure-seekers' capital of the United States, regardless of his ability... Read more
Published 1 month ago by S. McGee
3.0 out of 5 stars Really just OK. Good if you like rambling. Less so if you like poker.
Colson Whitehead gets staked by Grantland (ESPN/Disney) to play in the World Series of Poker. That covers about 10% of the book. And those parts are good. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John J. Franco
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More About the Author

Colson Whitehead is the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. He has also written a book of essays about his home town, The Colossus of New York. A recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship, he lives in New York City.

His next book, a non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker, is called The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death. It will be published in 2014.

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