“Fading Hearts on the River: A Life in High-Stakes Poker” Review

[LL] “Almost every parent brags about their children,” Leroy the Lion noted, “but Brooks Haxton deserves the ‘2014 Parental Brag of the Year’ award for writing Fading Hearts on the River: A Life in High-Stakes Poker, a 288-page homage to his son, Isaac Haxton.”

[RR] “Very few of us will be remembered for our accomplishments after we’re dead, but out children give us a sort of immortality”, Roderick the Rock contended.

[LL] “The elder Haxton covers everything from his son’s precocious infancy — 2-year-old Isaac once explained, ‘That was gas, muffled by my diaper’1 — to his college days at Brown University to his meteoric rise as a poker player, with the largest part of the book devoted to his deep run in the 2007 PCA Paradise Island $8,000 buyin Championship Event.”

[RR] “When was this book written?”

[LL] “2014. Although Brooks could have written most of it in 2007 or 2008, he was belatedly inspired by his soon-to-be empty nest status.

A writer by trade, he is technically proficient at his craft but is not an entertaining storyteller,2 preferring to impress with his erudite knowledge. On the plus side, he understands how to play poker very well and provides detailed explanations of tournament hands and thorough descriptions of hand ranges and game theory as it applies to poker.

Isaac’s family isn’t dysfunctional like so many other poker players’ seem to be (e.g., Annie Duke’s and Howard Lederer’s), and while all the major poker opponents are unrelated males, the other main characters in Fading Hearts are all family and female: Isaac’s mom Francie, his twin 13-year-old sisters Miriam and Lillie, and his significant other, Zoe Weingart3

While his main opponent, Ryan Daut has faded into obscurity (adding just 20% to his lifetime tournament earnings since this, his first documented cash), Isaac Haxton has sustained his high-level success, recently winning the Aria $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl on December 19, 2018 for a career-best $3,672,000, which pushed him over $23 million in career tournament winnings.4 His career has survived the test of time better than this biography has.”

Title Fading Hearts on the River: A Life in High-Stakes Poker
Author Brooks Haxton (father of Isaac Haxton)
Year 2014
Skill Level any
Pros Chronicles the rise of a young poker star, mixing his life story with details of his breakout tournament.
Cons An unusual biography written by the player’s father and not the player himself. Significant amounts of non-poker content.
Rating 2.5

Footnotes:

  1. Page 53. He was able to solve 24-like math puzzles at age 4 and play chess games in his head at age 5.
  2. Brooks Haxton’s writing style contrasts markedly from Colson Whitehead’s. Like Whitehead, the younger Haxton never got his driver’s license either.
  3. The book’s subtitle is a major spoiler: “How my Son Cheats Death, Wins Millions, & Marries His College Sweetheart”.
  4. As of this writing (February 2019), Isaac Haxton ranks #13 all-time in tournament winnings.
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