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Poker Nation    by Andy Bellin order for
Poker Nation
by Andy Bellin
Order:  USA  Can
Perennial, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

For fans of high-risk adventure that doesn't involve a lot of climbing or running or even the outdoors, here's a fascinating and informative little book about a popular pastime. Bellin discovered the joys of poker while he was in university, double-majoring in physics and astronomy. He dropped out to devote more time to the game, and now makes most of his living from it. He's also a freelance contributor to such magazines as Maxim and Esquire, and a contributing editor to Paris Review. He's got a lively, friendly writing style, and a knack for making even the most technical points seem straightforward.

Here, Bellin takes us nimbly through the rather extensive rules, techniques, tips, tricks, and dangers of the game that, when you see it in the movies, always seems like it's pretty simple. In fact poker - particularly Hold'em, Bellin's primary focus - is actually very complicated. Bellin, who's played a lot of games and won (and lost) a lot of money, tells us about probability theory (there's some math in the book, yes there is) and body language and strategy and luck. He introduces us to some of the great poker players: Benny Binion, Johnny Moss, Stu Unger - men whose skill and finesse turned a card game into an international spectacle.

Like Anthony Holden's Big Deal, this is a hands-on book: you'll get plenty of anecdotes, about Bellin and other poker addicts. Bellin teaches by example: this doesn't work because I tried it and it didn't work, or this isn't a good thing to do because some of my opponents did it and I beat them. There's even a little chapter on cheating: not so much how to do it, but why some players do it and why you probably shouldn't.

Whether you're a skilled cardsharp or a player whose skills run more to a really nice game of 52 Pick-Up, Poker Nation is a very fun read. I learned a lot. You will too.

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