Customer Review

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poker Face, March 27, 2014
This review is from: The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death (Hardcover)
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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.

The Noble Hustle is adapted from a magazine article, so it does feel a bit drawn out occasionally, and the poker lingo was over my head at times, but unlike the anhedonic Whitehead, I enjoyed this book very much.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 17, 2014 7:33:28 AM PDT
No, the "hooker bar" is a real thing at the Rio...so dubbed because that's where a lot of hookers hang out.
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