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Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew Hardcover – January 15, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2013: Don't let the title throw you off: Ship It, Holla Ballas! is not about raising the precocious young poker star to the status of folk hero. Rather, the narrative reads straight out of Greek tragedy (or Scarface): Guys with a natural affinity for probabilities stumble across online poker; hone their skills and fill their bank accounts; call themselves the "Holla Ballas" and sort of successfully reinvent themselves as hard-partying rock stars; and lose it all through a combination of bad decisions and a government crackdown. Although poker brought them together, they get into trouble according to their personalities: Some decide to dive with sharks and (unsuccessfully) try to pick up Playboy playmates; others invest in TempurPedic mattresses and home cooking. This breezy but electrifying read is a tale of greed, hubris, and how the ability to make a lot of money does not always come with the ability to handle it--or yourself--responsibly. --Darryl Campbell

From Booklist

If you’re asking yourself, “Ship what? Holla Balla what?” then you probably haven’t been following Internet poker. The Ship It Holla Ballas—the name comes from a poker term, a celebratory yell, and a bit of urban slang—are a group of guys whose love of online poker brought them together in 2000, at the height of the online-poker craze, and turned them, virtually overnight, into a sensation, not to mention making them rich. Written in the style of a Ben Mezrich true-life thriller (The Accidental Billionaires, 2009), the book is a story of ego, inspiration, desperation, and wild excess. It’s also a story of some very clever guys, who studied the game, learned how to exploit its mathematical foundation, and made some truly revolutionary changes in the way poker is played. The authors give readers a good sense of the rapid rise and equally rapid fall of Internet poker, and their portrayal of the Ship It crew members as fun-loving, bright guys who succeeded way beyond their expectations seems just right. --David Pitt

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1St Edition edition (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250006651
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250006653
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Aaron C. Brown TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I did not expect to like this book. The back cover seemed to promise a retelling of Bringing Down the House with some teenage poker players instead of MIT blackjack team members. That is not what happened to the Holla Ballas. Then I saw the authors' note, "some names and details have changed." That might mean minor characters had names and minor details changed to protect their privacy, or it could be an out-and-out fictionalization with composite characters, the story changed to make it more exciting, with some made up stuff as well.

The only reason I opened it at all is the back cover features three of my favorite writers in what might be loosely categorized as this genre, James McManus, Michael Craig and Bruce Porter. While Grotenstein and Reback are not in the class of those three as non-fiction stylists, they got hold of a great story and have told it with honesty and insight. I don't know what they changed, I witnessed a few things in the book and heard about others, all seem to be described with as much accuracy as sincere recollection by the participants can give.

Contrary to the hype, this is not a story of kids "partying like rock stars." They party like middle-American conventioneers in Las Vegas, or like nerdy frat boys who came into a small windfall. They don't even party that much (adjusted for age and profession).
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By e.b. on January 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read a lot of nonfiction and biography. Favorite authors include Michael Lewis, Clay Shirky, Chris Anderson, Malcolm Gladwell, Rick Atkinson, Robert Caro, and Bob Woodward.

Great nonfiction doesn't just tell a gripping story populated with vivid characters; it captures the texture of what it all felt like as it was happening. "Ship It Holla Ballas" does that. It's riveting to read about Good2CU, Raptor, Apathy, Durrrr (my favorite name), and their friends -- kids who suddenly find themselves making sick amounts of money gambling online and don't really know what to do next. Not surprisingly, they go a little nuts: strippers, Cristal, expensive cars, XBox360s in every room of the house, etc.

That stuff all makes for a rollicking, fun, at times cringe-inducing read. But don't write this off as a story about hedonistic kids. It's about something much bigger, something that's reshaping our society from top to bottom: applied statistics. In the same way that Billy Beane and his brethren rewrote the rules of baseball by using player performance metrics with greater predictive power, in the same way that Nate Silver rewrote the rules of political analysis by dumping "gut" in favor of hardcore analysis, the Ballas made fortunes and earned a seat at the table with poker's top pros (in some cases, taking their money) by developing a deeper understanding of the math of the game than the generation that came before them.

If that sounds dry the way I describe it, in the book it's anything but. From bad beats to quad-monitor configurations for playing 8 simultaneous sit 'n gos, the authors render the technical aspects of poker with such simplicity and clarity that you almost feel like you're an expert poker player yourself.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First off the book is an easy read and is written for the internet generation specifically those weaned on online poker. Here is the crux of the book:

Half a dozen people discover online poker and take their math skills to a level that other players don't even know exist. They make obscene amounts of money however how this money is made so easily is never described (the reader is left out of those conversations), but instead discussed among themselves either personally or posted on a website that will be familiar with those who have played for a living or at least took the time to play in more than a cursory way. (twoplustwo.com)

It is a fun easy read, but if you think you are going to learn anything about the game you are sadly mistaken. This is more of a study on how a bunch of underage kids achieved their wealth (it is impressive) and spent it on booze, weed and hookers, before the end offers redemption for most of those that inhabit these pages. Over the 300 pages the same story is told over and over again and I felt like I was trapped like a player seeing mundane hand after hand being dealt on a computer screen while reading observations that could have been made in 50 pages.

Real names are not used,only poker handles are bandied about and I am sure with a little research I could figure out who Good2cu, Raptor, and Durrrr, are in real life, but frankly by the end I knew who they "were" and really see no need to see who they are now. A few of them are very successful and they do seem wiser at 25 than at 18 and when online gambling becomes legal again in the near future there will be another group ready to replace these "dinosaurs" of the poker world.
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