“Poker Aces: The Stars of Tournament Poker” Review

[LL] “In 2004, poker pro Ron Rose wrote a mini-poker player encyclopedia called Poker Aces: The Stars of Tournament Poker, featuring 89 players from around the world”, Leroy the Lion explained. “Each player gets two facing pages, including three photos,1 two quotes (usually from the player but not always), and brief sidebars covering biographical details (like birth year and place, colleges, and previous jobs) and poker accomplishments.

[RR] “How did he pick those 89 players, and why not an even 100?” Roderick the Rock wondered.

[LL] “Rose selected players from four categories:

  • Phil Hellmuth’s Champion of the Year rankings
  • Card Player magazine’s best players of the year
  • Poker in Europe’s player of the year stats
  • Other famous players he wanted to add

So, yes, he could easily have added eleven great veteran pros like Crandell Addington, Johnny Moss, Puggy Pearson, and Jack Straus to get to an even 100.”2

[RR] “What, no Johnny Moss?”

[LL] “I think he preferred players who were still fairly active on the tournament scene.

Unfortunately, this means the book contains a fair number of players whose peak of fame was neither bright nor long. Fourteen years later, more than a few of the names3 are unrecognizable to all but the most ardent poker fans. I doubt many current poker fans can pick Paul Phillips (#16 on 2003 Champion of the Year list) or Asher Derei (top European player) out of a police lineup, but that doesn’t mean that their stories aren’t enjoyable.

Still, the big (9″ x 11.5″) but fairly thin (180 pages) book is fun to read or just browse, making it a very good coffee table/bathroom book.”

Title Poker Aces: The Stars of Tournament Poker
Author Ron Rose
Year 2004
Skill Level any
Pros Brief biographies and stories from a wide range of poker pros around the world.
Cons Because of the rigid format, the feats of the more accomplished are squeezed, while the lesser players biographies are sparse. Includes many European players who aren’t that well known in the U.S.
Rating 3.0


  1. There are four exceptions: Joe Beevers, David Benyamine, and Erick Lindgren get four photos, while Chris Karagulleyan gets only two.
  2. My guess is that he couldn’t get the rights to photographs cheaply enough (or maybe he wanted to save some great players for the sequel).
  3. That includes Rose himself, who had a career year in 2003, winning the WPT World Poker Challenge in Reno for $168,298, the WSOP $1,000 Seniors No Limit Hold ‘Em for $130,060, and the World Poker Tour Battle of Champions for $125,000 for the three biggest cashes of his career and his only WSOP and WPT bracelets. He apparently retired from competitive poker shortly after a second final table in the Seniors event in 2006.

“Tournament Poker and the Art of War” Review

[LL] “Like Larry Phillips’s 1999 Zen and the Art of Poker and 2003 The Tao of Poker, David Apostolico’s 2005 book, Tournament Poker and the Art of War, compares poker to an entirely different discipline, quotes from famous old books, and repeats itself over and over again”, Leory the Lion analyzed. “But the Sun Tzu-inspired book is the best of the three, as poker is much closer to war than it is to mindful meditation!”

[RR] “Oh, I don’t know,” Roderick the Rock countered. “I find meditation extremely helpful after my umpteenth straight bad beat.”

[LL] “Yes, but that’s after you bust out of the tournament. The Art of War is more useful during the event. Maybe it’ll help you inflict some pain on other players instead of suffering yourself.”

[RR] “So, does Apostolico say that getting eliminated from a tourney is like dying?”

[LL] “No, oddly he doesn’t. He’s more focused on general strategies. Big picture. The forest, not the trees.”

[RR] “Such as?”

[LL] “Knowing the enemy and yourself. Planning thoroughly. Deceiving your enemy. Hiding your strength. Attacking your opponent’s weakness. Seizing the initiative. Taking calculated risks.”

[RR] “I see how those all apply to both fields. Did you like the book?”

[LL] “Yes, since I haven’t read Sun-Tzu’s book, The Art of War, I probably learned more about waging war than I did about playing poker. The parallels are apt, much more so than the stretched analogies in both of Phillips’s books. Unfortunately, Apostolico’s sound advice is intentionally lacking in all the details you’d need to put his recommendations into effect in your next poker game without some more serious thought and planning on your part. So, although the book was enjoyable enough (although a long blog essay might have been better), it won’t improve your poker game much.”

Title Tournament Poker and the Art of War
Author David Apostolico
Year 2005
Skill Level Any
Pros Easy read with apt analogies between war and poker.
Cons Very repetitive. General advice only.
Rating 2.0

“How I… Won Millions at the WSOP” Review

[LL] “Annie Duke’s biography, How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the WSOP, mostly alternates between poker and personal chapters. The poker side starts with the history of playing cards in China in the 9th century but then primarily recounts the 2004 World Series of Poker $2,000 Limit Omaha 8-or-Better tournament. The family side begins with Duke’s parents’ initial meeting and their family life in New Hampshire before Duke moves to New York City, Philadelphia, Columbus (Montana), and Las Vegas.”

[RR] “Sounds like the book covers a lot of ground.”

[LL] “It does. I don’t really like the format as the two tracks aren’t parallel chronologically or any other way, but I suppose it caters to the younger generation’s shorter attention spans.

Growing up in New Hampshire with her intellectual parents, older brother Howard Lederer, and younger sister Katy, who had told her own version of the story two years earlier in Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers,1 Duke paints a picture of a somewhat dysfunctional family, primarily because of her mother’s drinking (she dreamed of being an actress, not a housewife).”

[RR] “Every family seems to have its problems, but poker players definitely have rougher childhoods than most.”

[LL] “I’m not so sure of that; I think the worst ones just stand out. Nevertheless I wouldn’t trade my childhood for most of theirs. After Duke survived hers, she followed Howard to New York City. He had already joined the poker and gambling world, but Annie was focused on school until she met, proposed to, and married Ben Duke.2 Only when she was off in Montana questioning her career choice did she take up poker, with technical and later financial help from Howard.

Eventually, Duke decides to become a professional poker player, moves her family to Las Vegas, and starts winning. That leads to the other half of the book, where she competes at the World Series of Poker. The book covers many Omaha hands, supplementing their instructional value with occasional insets containing general playing tips.

Overall, How I Raised… is a great look at what makes one of the top female players tick. It’s heavier on the autobiography side than the poker strategy side but can be read for either or both.”

Title How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the WSOP
Author Annie Duke (with David Diamond)
Year 2005
Skill Level any
Pros Engaging history plus helpful insets with twenty poker playing tips.
Cons More than you probably want to know about Duke’s health issues.
Rating 3.5


  1. Katy Lederer’s book doesn’t have enough poker to merit its own review, but she did actually learn how to play and did okay in cash games for a while (no Hendon Mob entry, so she either didn’t play any tournaments or didn’t have any success in them). It is, however, mentioned in chapter 6 and is a very easy read that gives good insight into how Howard Lederer and Annie Duke turned out the way they did.
  2. The actual events took a little longer than that, but not by much. Annie and Ben never even dated! The marriage survived longer than you’d have expected, ending in divorce in 2003 after they had four children.

“The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King” Review

[LL] “Michael Craig (or his publisher) deserves significant credit for the catchy title of his book, The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King“, Leroy the Lion claimed. “But the Professor (Howard Lederer) and the Suicide King (Ted Forrest) were just two of over a dozen top poker pros who played sky-high stakes heads-up Limit Hold ‘Em against the Banker (Andy Beal) over a few years until Beal gave up his high stakes hobby.”

[LL] “Despite being non-fiction, Craig’s prose is more entertaining than C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, requires more suspension of disbelief than Grimm’s The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage, and provides more lessons than Aesop’s The Lion, the Bear, and the Fox“.

[RR] “What about the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker?” Roderick the Rock wondered.

[LL] “That depends on how you feel about gambling. I say, ‘It’s not gambling if you expect to win’, so the poker pros did no wrong, except perhaps gambling beyond their means. Beal is pretty innocent too, as it was practically play money for him. With a net worth of about $10 billion, playing with a $20 million bankroll was basically the equivalent of you and I playing penny ante poker.

And he did his homework. He studied, ran simulations, and practiced Heads-Up Limit Hold ‘Em. He did his best to increase the stakes beyond the pros’ comfort level, well beyond the highest stakes that had ever been played in the Big Game, which had shifted to the Bellagio from the Mirage in October 1998 as Bobby Baldwin moved over to his own new poker room.”

[RR] “But the pros did end up winning, right?”

[LL] “Yes, but it’s fascinating to see how close they came to failing spectacularly. Their edge may have been smaller than they realized, and the variance at such high stakes was too high for their bankroll, but under Doyle Brunson’s leadership, they decided the risk was worth the upside.”

[RR] “Bankroll management has been a downfall for many poker pros. But at least it worked out for the Corporation. I take it you recommend the book?”

[LL] “The good, the bad, and the ugly: it’s a fascinating read; except for Beal’s brief returns in 2006 and 2015,1 nothing like this has ever happened in poker before or since. Unfortunately, the story is rather repetitive, much like the game itself. Of all the poker games they could have played, Beal chose Heads Up Limit Hold ‘Em, which is one of the least exciting games if not for the sky-high stakes. It would also be the first poker variation conquered by computers a decade later because of its simplicity.

It’s a unique volume in all of poker literature.”

Title The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King
Author Michael Craig
Year 2005
Skill Level any
Pros Fascinating insider’s account of the highest stakes poker ever played.
Cons A bit repetitive and almost entirely about the relatively simple game of Heads-Up Limit Hold ‘Em.
Rating 3.0


  1. After the book was published, Beal returned to play the Corporation in 2006 and won $13.6 million. But a week later, Phil Ivey took it all back, plus another $3 million, sending Beal into poker retirement again. Beal played casually after that, only returning briefly to Bobby’s Room in 2015 for a single, $50,000/$100,000 Limit Hold ‘Em heads up match in which he lost $5 million to Todd Brunson.

“Amarillo Slim’s Play Poker to Win” Review

[LL] “Originally published in 1973 as simply Play Poker to Win,” Leroy the Lion explained, “Amarillo Slim Preston’s 2005 update prepends his name to the title, rearranges the chapters a bit, and adds 33 pages of new material, including sections on Tells, Online Poker, and Tournaments. Bill G. Cox, who was credited as a co-author for the original book, is no longer attributed.”

[RR] “Probably dead”, Roderick the Rock guessed.

[LL] “Wouldn’t surprise me after 32 years. It’s now been 45 years since this book was originally published, so it’s interesting to see how it’s aged.”

[RR] “And how is that?”

[LL] “Well, the original version was derided as a ‘make-a-quick-buck’ book, capitalizing on his world championship. And in fact, the book used to open with the story of his WSOP Main Event win (that chapter’s been moved near the end in the updated version). But I still think that’s a pretty harsh criticism, especially given the paucity of poker books back then. I now rate this book in the middle of all the poker books I’ve read, although the updates were probably worth half a star.

Preston’s strategy advice is sound, if a bit basic, because he covers more than half a dozen poker varieties in limited space, and the stories he sprinkles throughout are entertaining, although not nearly as plentiful as his other book, Amarillo Slim in a World of Fat People.

Preston covers a lot of ground in just over 200 pages, and he’s a better storyteller than he is a teacher. Well, I suppose many of his stories are meant to educate, but they’re not a particularly efficient vehicle.

Given that the book was originally written almost three and a half decades ago, it’s a good read with surprising emphasis on No-Limit games. You’re better off with Amarillo Slim in a World of Fat People if you just want the stories, and you’re better off with many other strategy books if you want to learn to play poker, but if you want an entertaining introduction to poker, Amarillos Slim’s Play Poker to Win is still a good choice.”

Title Amarillos Slim’s Play Poker to Win
Author Amarillo Slim Preston
Year 2005 (originally published 1973)
Skill Level any (stories) / Beginner (strategy)
Pros Good mix of stories and strategy plus a detailed account of the 1972 WSOP Main Event.
Cons No depth. Still has some errors1 despite the update.
Rating 3.0 (stories) / 2.0 (strategy)


  1. Errata:
    • Page 48: Preston twice says he felted four players on the same hand, but the story clearly shows that it was only three.
    • Page 62: Preston claims that on the flop in Hold ‘Em only a royal flush cannot be beat by the river, but it’s also true of any non-wheel straight flush where you have the top card or a Ten or higher.
    • Page 79: the Omaha high hand should be the Deuce-Four, not the Four-Six, for the straight.
    • Misspellings include Jack “Strauss” (instead of “Straus”) and “their’s” (instead of “theirs”).

Card Player POY: Adrian Mateos

[SS] “Happy New Year!” Stan the Stat exclaimed.

[LL] “More importantly, good riddance to 2017!” Leroy the Lion insisted.

[SS] “You said the same thing last year.”

[LL] “I didn’t expect 2017 to be so much worse than 2016.”

[SS] “Well, you may not have had a great year, but Spaniard Adrian Mateos, at a mere 23 years old, certainly did. As did American Bryn Kenney, whom he edged out for Card Player Player of the Year honors in the closest race ever.1 Kenney tied the record of 5 titles and set the record with 23 final tables, one more than Mateos, and even won a year-high $8,201,128, over $2.5 million more than Mateos, who notably became the first non-American to win the title.2

Kudos also to Fedor Holz who followed a runner-up finish last year with third place this year.”

Card Player Player of the Year – 1997 to 2003

Year Winner
1997 Men Nguyen
1998 T.J. Cloutier
1999 Tony Ma
2000 David Pham
2001 Men Nguyen
2002 T.J. Cloutier
2003 Men Nguyen

Card Player Player of the Year – 2004 to Present

Year Winner Points Runner-Up Points Margin
2004 Daniel Negreanu 8,764 David Pham 7,068 19.4%
2005 Men Nguyen 5,204 John Phan 4,428 14.9%
2006 Michael Mizrachi 5,989 Nam Le 5,215 12.9%
2007 David Pham 6,562 J.C. Tran 5,748 12.4%
2008 John Phan 6,704 David Pham 6,022 10.2%
2009 Eric Baldwin 6,994 Cornel Cimpan 5,934 15.2%
2010 Tom Marchese 6,738 Dwyte Pilgrim 5,576 17.2%
2011 Ben Lamb 6,036 Chris Moorman 5,875 2.7%
2012 Greg Merson 5,100 Dan Smith 5,040 1.2%
2013 Daniel Negreanu 5,140 Paul Volpe 4,298 16.4%
2014 Daniel Colman 5,498 Ami Barer 5,042 8.3%
2015 Anthony Zinno 6,632 Joe Kuether 6,070 8.5%
2016 David Peters 8,601 Fedor Holz 7,058 17.9%
2017 Adrian Mateos 7,220 Bryn Kenney 7,173 0.7%


  • Men Nguyen won the award a record four times (1997, 2001, 2003, and 2005).
  • T.J. Cloutier (1998 and 2002), David Pham (2000 and 2007), and Daniel Negreanu (2004 and 2013) have won twice each.
  • Negreanu outpoint second place by the largest (2004) and third largest (2013) margins. Merson (2012) eked by with the smallest margin. { January 4, 2018 update: Mateos edged Kenney by a mere 47 points (0.7%) for the 2017 crown. Fedor Holz finished third for a second consecutive medal finish. }

Here are the all-time records for Points, Titles, and Final Tables with data going back to the rule changes of 2004.

Most Player of the Year Points

Rank Year Player Points Titles Final Tables Winnings
1 2004 Daniel Negreanu 8,764 4 11 $4,420,221
2 2016 David Peters 8,601 5 22 $7,370,255
3 2017 Adrian Mateos 7,220 4 22 $5,664,635
4 2017 Bryn Kenney 7,173 5 23 $8,201,128
5 2004 David Pham 7,068 5 15 $1,533,268
6 2016 Fedor Holz 7,058 6 15 $16,288,714
7 2009 Eric Baldwin 6,994 4 17 $1,494,494
8 2010 Tom Marchese 6,738 2 11 $2,068,658
9 2008 John Phan 6,704 3 8 $2,075,323
10 2015 Anthony Zinno 6,632 5 11 $3,442,769


  • David Pham was the first player to finish in the Top 10 three times (2004 [2nd], 2007 [1st], and 2008 [1st]). Jason Mercier matched him in 2015 and Justin Bonomo and David Peters in 2016. Many players (16 through 2017) have done it twice.
  • Erik Seidel and Jason Mercier are the only players to finish in the Top 25 five times. Phan, Peters, Dan Smith, Daniel Negreanu, J.C. Tran, John Juanda, Steve O’Dwyer, Erick Lindgren, and Joseph Mckeehen have each done it four times.
  • Vanessa Selbst is the only women to finish in the Top 25, which she had done three times with two Top 10 finishes before retiring at the start of 2018.

Most Titles

Rank Year Player Points Titles Final Tables Winnings
1 2005 John Hoang 3,267 6 17 $492,817
2008 Men Nguyen 3,662 10 $776,832
2012 Dan Smith 5,040 9 $3,673,806
4 2017 Bryn Kenney 7,173 5 23 $8,201,128
2016 David Peters 8,601 22 $7,370,255
2005 Men Nguyen 5,204 17 $1,004,718
2004 David Pham 7,068 15 $1,533,268
2010 Dwyte Pilgrim 5,576 13 $1,074,997
2004 Can Kim Hua 4,495 12 $785,779
2015 Anthony Zinno 6,632 11 $3,442,769
2014 Joseph Mckeehen 3,266 11 $1,223,852
2004 John Phan 3,080 10 $677,045
2009 Jason Mercier 4,130 9 $1,245,876

Most Final Tables

Rank Year Player Points Titles Final Tables Winnings
1 2017 Bryn Kenney 7,173 5 23 $8,201,128
2 2016 David Peters 8,601 5 22 $7,370,255
2017 Adrian Mateos 7,220 $5,664,635
2004 Gioi Luong 5,006 $504,004
5 2004 John Cernuto 3,631 3 19 $460,789
6 2005 John Hoang 3,267 6 17 $492,817
2005 Men Nguyen 5,204 5 $1,004,718
2009 Eric Baldwin 6,994 4 $1,494,494
10 2010 Sorel Mizzi 4,851 4 16 $1,524,371


  • Luong tops this list but is hardly a household name. The Californian has never won a WSOP bracelet, and his biggest cash was $290,792 for a runner-up finish in a WSOP circuit event in 2007.
  • While it seems obvious to have another list with the top ten in Winnings, it’s a rather uninteresting list topped by the 2014 and 2012 One Drop winners followed by eight WSOP Main Event champs.


  1. In 2012, Greg Merson beat Dan Smith by 60 points (5,100 to 5,040) for a 1.18% margin, while Mateos overcame Kenney by just 57 points and a mere 0.65%.
  2. Mateos first made a name for himself by winning the 2013 WSOP Europe Main Event in 2013 when he was just 19.

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“Bad Beats and Lucky Draws” Review

[LL] “Just a year after Phil Hellmuth published his first book, Play Poker Like the Pros, he was back with his second”, Leroy the Lion explained. “The winningest World Series of Poker player in bracelets, final tables, and cashes had just caught Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan at nine WSOP bracelets when he put together Bad Beats and Lucky Draws, an impressive book of poker hands. The subtitle, ‘Poker Strategies, Winning Hands, and Stories from the Professional Poker Tour’, is accurate, but you’ll be gleaning random strategy tidbits with no unifying theme, so you have many better choices (although his first book isn’t recommended) if your main aim is improving your poker skills.”

[RR] “So, you recommend Bad Beats just for entertainment value?” Roderick the Rock questioned.

[LL] “Yes, although what Hellmuth finds entertaining and what you find entertaining might not always match. The book includes almost a hundred hands grouped by setting, with chapters on the major festivals (WSOP, WPT, and European Poker Tour), brilliant reading of opponents’ hands, and hand stories told by other players.1

The Poker Brat’s first person perspective may lend authenticity to the hands he’s involved in, but a third party perspective could have made the book more enjoyable to read (as could the exclusion of the Bad Beats, most of which seem to be included just so Hellmuth could say that he played great but got unlucky).2 Still, the sheer quantity of noteworthy hands makes this an excellent read.”

Title Bad Beats and Lucky Draws: Poker Strategies, Winning Hands, and Stories from the Professional Poker Tour
Author Phil Hellmuth
Year 2004
Skill Level any
Pros Almost 100 important and interesting hands from 1974 to 2004.
Cons Strategy is only taught haphazardly. Hellmuth’s incessant bragging can be annoying.
Rating 3.5


  1. If you like this chapter, Steve Rosenbloom’s “The Best Hand I Ever Played” is full of them (52+ hands from 52 players).
  2. If you’re not a fan of bad beat stories, you’ll be disappointed that they’re not segregated into an easily skippable chapter.

“The Tao of Poker” Review

The Tao of Poker: 285 Rules to Transform Your Game and Your Life, Larry Phillips’s “follow up and companion book to Zen and the Art of Poker” is similar in many ways, with non-poker quotes and lists of general poker advice. But it also differs in many ways, as it’s less mystical and more directly applicable to poker, while it pretty much ignores its title. In fact, the sequel has more quotes about Zen than it does about Taoism, which is simply the hook to get you to buy the book. Phillips explains the Tao (‘The Way’) connection as an ‘attempt to get closer to the actual truth of the game — the underlying game, when it is perceived correctly’.

The title is surprisingly misleading in a second way: the book actually gives 287 rules, two more than promised. He could even have gotten into the mid-300s if he wanted to count a little differently as he gives nine poker ‘Excuses’, nine ‘telling looks’, 25 ‘common traps’, two ‘things that separate the good player from the bad player’, six ‘solutions to being off-rhythm’ and three ‘good poker rules’ (that somehow don’t count as rules). Furthermore, his last three chapters, including sections on ‘All-Star Idea’, and ‘Online Poker’ contain a fair amount of advice but just three numbered rules.

Phillips’s sequel lacks the charm of the original but is more useful, if just as repetitively repetitive. The Tao of Poker is worth a quick skim, but it can be a painful read unless you enjoy being told the same things over and over again.”

Title The Tao of Poker: 285 Rules to Transform Your Game and Your Life
Author Larry Phillips
Year 2003
Skill Level any
Pros Solid, high level advice that’s applicable to any poker variety (and even to life in general).
Cons Beyond repetitive. The book could easily have been a quarter of its 260-page length.
Rating 2.0

“Positively Fifth Street” Review

[LL] “Lots of poker players dream about playing in the World Series of Poker Main Event. Many poker-playing authors dream about writing about their experience in doing it. And a few lucky ones have managed to get paid to do it. Unfortunately, almost without exception, most of these book are filled with the lead-up to the event — the poker training (cue the Rocky music), the warm-up events, the obligatory airplane landing in Las Vegas, sometimes even a satellite event to qualify for the big one — because their stay in the Main Event doesn’t last long enough to fill more than a chapter or two.

Positively Fifth Street is the sole, notable exception. It has a great writeup of the 2000 WSOP Main Event because James McManus managed to last long enough to give a personal account of most of it.”

[RR] “So he got paid to play poker?”, Roderick the Rock wondered.

[LL] “No, McManus figured that as long as he was there… Harper’s magazine actually sent him to Vegas to cover several other stories:

  1. Women at the World Series of Poker.
  2. The impact of the growing crop of advice books and computer programs on poker.
  3. The death of Ted Binion.”

[RR] “A good old murder mystery?”

[LL] “Not at all. McManus actually begins his book by giving a hypothetical account of how Binion’s girlfriend Sandy Murphy and her new boyfriend Rick Tabish murdered him for a stash of silver and other valuables. Fascinating story, but its only connection to poker is that Binion’s family owns Binion’s Horseshoe, where the World Series of Poker takes place. Ted had helped to run the business for a couple of decades but had been banned in 1996, over two years earlier, because of his persistent heroin abuse.”

[RR] “Well, that’s more exciting than poker at least.”

[LL] “At first. Unfortunately, the rest of the story about how they almost got away with it but were later put on trial pales by comparison. But that’s when the poker part of the book picks up.

McManus gives a brief history of poker in Las Vegas, starting with a brief biography of Benny Binion, Ted’s father. He goes on to recount the story of Nick Dandolos and Johnny Moss’s supposed marathon poker match.”1

[LL] “Positively Fifth Street is really two books in one. For the poker player, his World Series of Poker run is a vicarious thrill that most of us just dream of.2 For everyone else, the sordid story of murder and the theft of millions of dollars appeals to the baser, more primal urges.

Title Positively Fifth Street
Author James McManus
Year 2003
Skill Level any
Pros Very well written account of the author’s journey to and through the 2000 WSOP Main Event.
Cons About half the book has little to do with poker and may not be interesting if you aren’t into sensational murders.
Rating 4.0


  1. The likely truth is that two or more separate events have been confused. Dandolos and Moss may very well have played a private poker match in 1949. And there may have been a public event at the front of the Horseshoe Casino after it opened in 1951. But neither Dandolos nor Moss had a role in the latter. Jack Binion spoke about the confusion in June.
  2. Despite never having cashed in a notable tournament before the 2000 WSOP started, McManus was already a pretty good poker player. He has since reached two WSOP final tables: the 2004 $5,000 Limit Hold ‘Em (4th for $70,080) and the 2006 $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold ‘Em (6th for $53,690).

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“Poker Nation” Review

[LL] “Nothing is more American than baseball, apple pie,… and poker”, Leroy the Lion claimed.

[SS] “Hot dogs and hamburgers”, Stan the Stat suggested.

[LL] “Both based on meats created in Germany. But I’ll give you both of those.”

[RR] “Football”, Roderick the Rock added. “American football, that is, not soccer”.

[SS] “For now. Unless they solve the concussion problem, football won’t be around much longer. Players are starting to retire younger and younger just so they have functioning brains for the rest of their lives.”

[LL] “And that’s one of the great things about poker, you can play it into retirement and beyond. In Andy Bellin’s book, Poker Nation, a 91-year-old named Iron Mike at the Winchester Club says, ‘You know, this damn game ain’t baseball, or basketball, or even golf. Poker’s a thing you do your whole life. I started playing when I learned to count. I always figured I’d quit when I forgot how to. And since that ain’t happening yet, the older I get, the better I get. What else can you say that about? The only trick for a kid your age is to try not to waste your entire time on the planet playing this stupid game.'”

[RR] “I’m sure that when I’m too old to even play golf, I’ll still be playing poker. Sure beats shuffleboard or bocce.”

[SS] “And yet it’s not a dying game like bridge, where the average age of players keeps creeping up.”

[LL] “Yep. Internet poker brought the average age down a fair amount, and the effect will hopefully last until it’s legal in most states again. I started gambling for pennies before I was a teenager. Bellin played for mini-marshmallows at age eight.

Poker’s a game that can be played by anybody regardless of age, gender, bankroll, or physical capabilities, and Poker Nation covers them all at home games, underground and legal clubs, and casinos.”

[SS] “Like baseball’s World Series, when the WSOP started, it was all Americans for a while.”1

[LL] “Bellin talks about the early years of the event and the history of poker leading up to it.2 Then the self-described semipro mostly covers his own experiences at the aforementioned locations over a period of two decades. He introduces you to players of all skill levels, from tell-ridden fish to stoic, soul-reading pros.”

[RR] “Did you like the book?”

[LL] “Mostly. Although the title reflects the popularity of poker in the U.S., Andy Bellin’s book suffers from bad timing, predating the online and Chris Moneymaker-fueled 2003 poker boom by a little over a year. Luckily, Texas Hold ‘Em, which would dominate the poker word over the next few years, does appear throughout the book, including in the main hand that ties the ends of the book together. Overall, Poker Nation is readable but random, sweeping but shallow, and entertaining but empty.”

Title Poker Nation
Author Andy Bellin
Year 2002
Skill Level any
Pros Entertaining and covers a lot of ground.
Cons More than you need to know about weak players in the author’s home games, including Bellin himself. Very little poker strategy.
Rating 3.0


  1. The first non-American to win a World Series of Poker bracelet was Sweden’s Thor Hansen in 1988 in the 19th running of the festival after 180 or so American winners.
  2. Although Bellin details the likely apocryphal, five-month Nick Dandolos-Johnny Moss match, which he places in 1949, he fails to mention the Texas Gamblers Reunion of 1969, which directly led to the World Series of Poker the following year.