“Bigger Deal” Review

[LL] “When Anthony Holden’s Big Deal came out in 1990, he had no way to know how inspirational the book would prove to so many poker players (casual hacks and future pros alike)”,1 Leroy the Lion stated.

[RR] “I’m surprised. If I didn’t already play poker, it would have scared me away from ever taking up the game. I guess I’m just not cut out to be a degenerate gambler.”

[LL] “Holden had even less inkling that poker itself would explode after decades in the smoky shadows into an immense industry with round-the-clock, round-the-dial television coverage, multimillion dollar tournaments around the world, and a new breed of online poker players who never need to leave their house to play. Bigger Deal takes a look at the new world order as the author, one of the strongest poker-playing writers, travels around Europe and the U.S. to play in tournaments and cash games starting and ending with the World Series of Poker.”2

[RR] “And I’m not big on travel either.”

[LL] “That may have caught up with Holden, too, albeit because of his writing. His marriage to ‘the Moll’ shortly after the previous book ended in divorce a decade later. She shows up at one of the poker festivals as they are still friends, but he has no problem with knocking her out of one tournament. His sons are now old enough to play poker legally, and he buys one of them into a poker tournament as a birthday gift.

Besides Las Vegas, Holden plays poker — now mostly No-Limit instead of Limit Hold ‘Em — in Connecticut (Foxwoods and Yale), Manhattan, the Caribbean, Monte Carlo, and London and Walsall in England. He’s a good enough player to still net after expenses enough to earn his buyin into the 2006 WSOP Main Event. He’s still better at cash games than tournaments, but he has occasional successes in the latter format.

Along the way, Holden covers the forerunner of the World Series of Poker,3 celebrity poker, poker camps, and online poker. He profiles Dave ‘the Devilfish’ Ulliott, Andy ‘the Monk’ Black, Doyle Brunson, Henry Orenstein,4 and Howard Lederer.

[RR] “That’s a lot of ground to cover.”

[LL] “Indeed it is, but with the tremendous growth of the poker world since Big Deal, the sequel appeared as just one of a slew of poker books published in 2007. As such, it didn’t garner nearly as much attention as its predecessor, and objectively it isn’t nearly as important. But, it’s almost as entertaining and equally non-educational.”

Title Bigger Deal
Author Anthony Holden
Year 2007
Skill Level Any
Pros Shows how the poker landscape changed dramatically in 17 years.
Cons Too many details about unimportant small tournaments and cash games the author plays in.
Rating 2.5

Footnotes:

  1. Among the people who took up poker after reading Big Deal: Nick Leeson (the rogue Barings Bank trader had some time to kill in jail), Bill Gates, and Randolph Fields (one of the founders of Virgin Atlantic Airlines). A 1995 Holden biography, The St Albans Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Graham Young, may have inspired something a bit more sinister, a Japanese girl and chemistry student murdered her mother with thallium.
  2. The book starts with the 2005 WSOP Main Event and ends with the 2006 WSOP Main Event, but the 2007 is covered briefly in the Epilogue.
  3. The Texas Gamblers Reunion was organized by Tom Moore at his Holiday Hotel in Reno in 1969. When he decided not to repeat the event, he freely gave the idea to Benny Binion.
  4. Barry Hearn, started using hole cams on his Poker Millions television show without realizing that Orenstein had a patent on them. Hearn intended to fight Orenstein in court until he read the Polish concentration camp survivor’s memoirs and thought {page 197}, “My God, I’ll pay him whatever he wants.”
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