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Every now and again you stumble upon a book where the title intrigues you and it turns out to be an absolute delight. This was precisely the case with The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time (to give it it's correct title) which I came across on Amazon (£7.69 new/£3.49 Marketplace).
Given the world wide popularity of Poker, which these days seems to dominate the late night cable channels, you get to know a little about the superstars of the game and it has always fascinated me that anyone can go and play poker with these guys as long as you have got the bank roll or can win yourself a seat at a final table. A bit like having a round of golf with Tiger Woods or taking on Roger Federer in the Wimbledon Final.
Well for some mere mortals this can become reality and in 2001 a stranger from Texas walked into the high-stakes poker room at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and threw down a challenge to the assembled pros. He wanted to play the world's greatest poker players, in a series of heads up (one on one) matches for high stakes. Seriously high stakes. Stakes that would break the bank roll of many top pros. A bank roll it had taken a lifetime to accumulate. Culminating in more than $20m on the table. This is the true story of what happened.
The author has written this book with the co-operation of "The Banker" (who is the stranger, a very wealthy banker, who threw down the challenge) and also the pros, who were less than forthcoming (some were open and some were evasive) in putting their sides of the story across, probably given the egos that were bruised along the way. As a result it is a little one sided in terms of focus (but not on opinion) and can often read as though it is a story about the Banker. Whilst he has obtained significant input from the pros there are still gaps which don't detract from the story and which thankfully he resists the urge to fill in or guess at. He allows the reader to read between the lines to make their own mind up.
In itself this is a superb story full of interesting characters, that would be worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster but it is not really a story about whether the Banker can go and win. And that is what makes this a compelling, fascinating read. For the Banker it was never about the money. It was all about the challenge, the psychology and his attempt to break the mind, spirit and bank rolls of the top Texas Hold 'Em players in the world over a series of games over a three year period. It is a battle of wits and full of twists & turns along the way which at times makes it read like a non fiction novel. Whilst the Banker is a competent player, where he was behind in skill alone he made up for in iron nerve that really cranked up the pressure on the pros. The level of the stakes meant that the Pros mettle was tested in almost every hand as a loss would have left some of them almost broke.
The ending is a bit of a let down really but this book is not about the ending, but the journey. Throughout the book we are in the Bankers head whilst he plans his next strategy and learning about the lessons he has learnt along the way and how he is going to put these to good use in the next game. Similarly, it also goes into detail regarding the banker's frustrations & weaknesses so it is not all sweetness and light in favour of the Banker.
The author does an excellent job of cranking up the tension and at times you can almost see the sweat dripping down the Pro's faces as they are left with a decision that, if wrong, could bust them. It is a book that actually gets you sat down with the players and gives you a look inside their heads with both the Banker and pros pushing each other's buttons to see who will crack first. The question is, how did it all end?
This is a riveting book and provides a tremendous view from inside the rail. At 282 pages (including 20 pages of bibliography and acknowledgements) it is not a long read and the absorbing nature of it means it is very quick and enjoyable.
Amazon £7.69/Marketplace £3.69.
* Paperback: 282 pages
* Publisher: Little, Brown & Company; Reprint edition (3 Aug 2006)
* Language English
* ISBN-10: 0446694975
* ISBN-13: 978-0446694971
* Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
In 2001, a stranger from Texas descended upon the high-stakes poker room at the world famous Bellagio in Las Vegas and challenged some of the best poker players in the world. At the start, the stranger and one opponent each brought $1 million to the table, betting $10,000 and $20,000 per hand. But after warming up at those stakes, the Stranger, a self made millionaire by the name of Andy Beal, wanted to play even higher...And so began what would become the richest poker game in history. In order to play at such high stakes, the top ten poker professionals in the world had to form "The Corporation" to pool their money and keep playing against Andy Beal and his seemingly limitless bank account. The result was a series of seven games, culminating in October 2003 with a jackpot of over $20 million dollars.But THE PROFESSOR, THE BANKER, AND THE SUICIDE KING is more than just about a few hands of poker. It is a story of outsize egos, appetites, and ambitions; it is a story about the highest echelons of poker playing that very few are able to see; it is a story about one man, twenty million dollars, and one of the most exciting poker games in history.