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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death Hardcover – May 6, 2014
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2014: Every year, thousands of card players converge in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, all hauling varying levels of hope and skill with them into the southern Nevada desert. As a regular in a neighborhood game, Colson Whitehead didn’t harbor that kind of ambition—until Grantland.com staked him $10,000 for a seat at the WSOP. Whitehead goes all-in with a Rocky IV-worthy regimen, hiring a personal trainer to prepare himself for the long, grueling table hours and a tournament-hardened coach to navigate the mysteries of Texas Hold’em. When he arrives at the tournament, he navigates using a set of laws essential to any aspiring card sharp: which casino restaurants provide poker-appropriate nutrition; how to hit the bathrooms ahead of the mad rushes of the game breaks; and, of course, the necromancy of a successful Hold’em hand. With its cast of poker-universe luminaries and aspiring misfits, the tournament stuff is fun, especially to this gambling rube. But Vegas is Vegas, and between the notes of the Wheel of Fortune slot machines, one can hear the suck of entropy. Whitehead--whose previous books landed him on the short-list for the Pulitzer, as well as a MacArthur "Genius" grant--has the wry sense of humor to observe the twisted reality of the “Leisure Industrial Complex” without mocking it; he’s the kind of writer who can see the human condition reflected in the windows of a failed Vegas market that sells only beef jerky (and other jerky-like products). Buy the ticket, take the ride.--Jon Foro
*Starred Review* This is not one of those poker books about a gang of math whizzes from Harvard who go to Vegas and win a gazillion dollars. About those guys, Whitehead says, The part of the brain they used for cards, I used to keep meticulous account of my regrets. And, yet, Whitehead has some personality quirks that make him a decent poker player: I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside. A self-described citizen of the Republic of Anhedonia, whose residents are unable to experience pleasure, Whitehead, author of Zone One (2011) and other novels, agrees to enter the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and see how far his half-dead poker face and a $10,000 stake can take him. Not very far, as it turns out, despite reading countless poker books and working with a coach and physical trainer. Yes, he learns a little, but in the end, people, as ever, are the problem. Specifically, those nine other people at the table, their weathered faces showing the underlying narrative of their decay. Yes, Whitehead’s account may seem at first like just another sad story about a pair of Jacks, but it’s really something very different, much sadder and much, much funnier. He calls his book Eat, Pray, Love for depressed shut-ins, and that pretty much says it, if you remember that the eating part is mostly about beef jerky and the praying is for aces. If you’re looking for read-alikes, forget other poker books and pick up Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence (1998). --Bill Ott
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I wish there had been a little more on the poker coaching at the beginning and a little less about his younger self going to Vegas somewhere around the book's middle - that just seemed like filler. Did I get a sense of what the WSOP Main Event is like? Yes, I think so. It lacked certain Texas Hold'em details I was hoping for, but oh well.
All in all, I was pleased with The Noble Hustle. Will you be? It's hard to say...