Most pundits believe that poker's incredible boost in popularity over the last few years comes largely from three sources: (1) The expansion of online poker, (2) the popularity of televised poker,Nick Christenson is widely regarded as one of the best gambling book reviewers publishing today. He is a contributor for Poker Player magazine, and has published in Full-Tilt and Gambling Times. He is also the editor of the very funny 'Casino Death Watch,' which chronicles the comings and goings of casinos in Las Vegas. He is an avid poker and blackjack player. Nick's website is www.jetcafe.org/~npc/ and (3) the spectacular success story of Chris Moneymaker's win in the final event at the 2003 World Series of Poker. Amateur poker players all over the world have been inspired by Moneymaker's story, parlaying $40 into what at that time was the biggest tournament poker payday ever. Moneymaker recounts how this all came about in his self-titled book.
About the first third of the book cuts back and forth between background on Moneymaker, the events that lead to his arrival at the World Series, and his recollections of the event itself. Once the setup is done, the rest of the book goes into considerable detail about the events of that fateful week and provides some information on the aftermath.
The background material is remarkably candid. Basically, Moneymaker makes the claim that his low-stakes online poker playing was in some measure a way for him to keep a big sports betting problem in check. He recounts both the good and bad aspects of his upbringing and history in a way that sheds a great deal of light on his character. He isn't looking for absolution here, he's calling it like he sees it. Even though Moneymaker doesn't paint a terribly flattering picture of himself here, there is something admirable in this sort of forthrightness.
Moneymaker's story can't help but be compelling. In its most basic form, winning the final event at the World Series of Poker in dramatic fashion is a dream likely shared by everyone with even a peripheral involvement in poker. This story appeals to those who play nickel-dime-quarter poker around the kitchen table, and it also appeals to the most seasoned tournament professionals, including even those who have already won this event. Consequently, I'd expect that just about every poker player would be interested in the story line of this book.
A strategy guide, Moneymaker is not. Based on my reading, the hands and situations described by Moneymaker are often accompanied by a rather shallow analysis of the situation. Of course, I don't know the extent to which the book reflects on the author's own understanding of the game. In any event, this is not a strategy book, and it suffers little in this regard.
The book succeeds by giving the reader insight into Moneymaker's perspective on the 2003 World Series of Poker. This inside view is likely to be more titillating to those who haven't played a number of big money tournaments, but I expect it will still interest those who have. Moneymaker doesn't appear personally compelling or as a person of destiny or anything like that. More than anything else he appears to be just another guy who happened to stumble across a winning lottery ticket. This is someone to whom we can all relate.
Moneymaker may not be "high literature", and it's not a strategy guide. It is a light and entertaining guide to winning a major poker tournament, and this is probably as close to this experience as most poker players are going to get. I enjoyed it.
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