Title: Poker Nation: A High-Stakes, Low-Life Adventure into the Heart of a Gambling Country
Author: Andy Bellin
Price: Approx. $10.00
Many poker books have been written during the games long and colorful history, but many are purely strategy books with tips and tricks on how to outwit the other player and improve your game. While these books are essential to every poker player’s library, the true gems are the books that recite a person’s experiences with the game we all love. Author Andy Bellin has been playing poker since a young age and has many experiences to share and his book Poker Nation does a great job of illustrating them.
This book begins with the author in an illegal New York poker club playing with a colorful assortment of players from all walks of life. The poker played here is not the glorified version many of us witness on ESPN or the WPT, but rather a game of wit and deception where crossing the wrong person may leave you in a hospital for the night. Many of these players are addicts, just there to get their fix and move on with their lives that are spent congregating around one felt covered table. Some people play for a living, while many others have day jobs yet still find the desire to drive from the suburbs and into the red light district for a game of Texas Hold’em.
This book is by no means a strategy book, rather it colorfully tells the stories of the author’s experiences in the world of poker. Aside from the occasional tip of when to play or fold a loser, this book is more of an autobiography and a place for him to tell his stories of bad beats and great triumphs.
Some of the more technical anecdotes in this book are how to do count outs, reading a player’s tells, and counting cards in a blackjack game. These are touched on briefly and only enough as to provide the reader with ample information about the subject he is talking about. Most of the time, the strategy he is talking about leads into a story and this makes for a book that intertwines stories and makes it very hard to put down once you begin reading it.
As the book progresses, many of his close friends and people he has met are discussed in detail. One of the most entertaining stories that I found in the whole book is where he is dealt the 8 and 9 of clubs and limps in to see both a flush and straight draw appear on the flop. He calls a small round of betting, and on the turn he completes his straight, 5,6,7,8, and 9. He immediately gets greedy and puts out a small bet hoping to be checkraised so that he can then come in over the top and either win the pot outright or continue to build the pot. The two remaining players call his bet and another club comes up on the river. While this may improve his hand theoretically, it actually hurts him as anyone with an overcard of clubs and another club in their hand has him beat. By being lazy on the turn, he has now put himself in a position where he is down in a hand where he at one point had the nuts. The opponent first to act bets $2000 and Andy is forced on a tough decision to call with the nut straight, or fold in fear of a higher flush. After several minutes of thinking, he decides to call and lose a hand that at one point was his.
This story clearly illustrates the unpredictability and difficulty of playing poker at a higher level than many of us are used to. Every story in this book is just as engaging and exciting as the previous story and makes for a worthwhile book that is surely a great addition to any collection. While his book is fairly short and lacks the dynamic plotline that Positively Fifth Street possesses, it is still well worth the purchase at just over $10.00. I give this book an enthusiastic score of 4 out of 5.