And Death, Beef Jerky, The Noble Hustle: Poker

By Colson Whitehead

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
sarah jordy
An entertaining read. It'll make you laugh and it'll make you cringe, but one thing it won't do is teach you anything about the game of poker -- that said, perhaps that's not the point of the book. If you're looking for a good satire and a good laugh, it's a good read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gill robertson
Fun read. Took me about two hours. Behind the scenes of a non-pro assigned to play the 2011 World Series of Poker. Good stuff.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jacob
For very light reading. If you ane not interested in poker don't even open the book but if you like the game and have ever watched it on TV it is highly likely that you will enjoy this. A difficult assignment well done.
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★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
april middleton
There are a lot of things to like about this book. The author does a good job of presenting what the poker community is like, I think, in a sociological sense. Or at least he does a good job of showing what I imagine that it is like. His self-effacing style of prose is, at times, rewarding and bracing, stripping out the braggadocio you often see in things like this.

That said, he very often overshoots the mark by a long, LOOONG way, and we end up in the land of self-pity. That style isn't nearly as enjoyable. Moreover, he constantly refers to himself, speciously, as a resident of the fictitious Republic of Anhedonia. For those who aren't familiar with the actual disorder of anhedonia, it is characterized (very specifically) by the lack of any ability to feel joy. Unsurprisingly, it's a common co-morbid condition with depression. And the author clearly demonstrates a depressive affect throughout the story.

And make no mistake about it. The author's affect is central to the story. Ostensibly about the poker tournament that he's been sponsored for, it's really about the author. Which could have been fine, if he'd been a little more scrappy, a little more relatable, a little less, well, self-pitying. As it is, I was left thinking that the poker part was pretty good, but that the other, say 70%, about the author, was significantly less enjoyable.

As a side note, the timeline was handled exceptionally badly. The author knew it, too, since he begged the indulgence of the reader. (Assumed and begged, interestingly.) Just prior to finding out how he actually did at the Main Event, we're shunted off to later that year, where we're told, with zero satisfying resolution, what the outcome was. Then he goes on to talk, at length, about things that happened much later. It was dissatisfying and poorly handled. Even a modestly talented writer would have been intelligent enough to just make an overlong epilogue, with all of that material in it.

As a final thought, I'm starting to think that the people who had out MacArthur's for literature might just be as bad at giving awards as the Nobel committee. Which is to say, awful.

2.5 stars, which rounds to 3.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lmercer
I wanted to like this book. Topically It is right up my alley. However, I just couldn't get around Colson Witehead writing style. It felt like sensationalized news article style writing to me. The story itself was interesting, but I just couldn't get away from the fact that I didn't like the "voice" the book was written in. If you don't have an issue with over the top descriptions, you'll likely feel very comfortable with this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sharleen
I have to start this off by saying that I am a Whitehead fan. I love his writing style. It speaks to something inside of me. That being said, it took a minute to get used to his nonfiction. Once I transitioned, the book was pretty amazing. Whitehead chronicles his preparation and participation in the WSOP. All this is intermingled with his history and the history of the WSOP in a way that makes this book a very enjoyable read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
beth sanders
I don't read non-fiction at all ,but this book intrigued me enough to cut loose and gamble that I'd like it. I loved it. I admit to being an ex-amateur poker player ,have lived in Vegas, and still like to play and watch for fun. The author's experiences and musings about going to the WSOP are droll and delightful. I finished this book in record time. Entertaining, informative and well written, I highly recommend it.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kaora
Crummy. Hey seriously now, this man is obviously well regarded writer, but my God is he full of himself. Plus, this book stinks. And should be marketed towards people with ZERO background in poker. He literally knows nothing, teaches nothing, and imparts nothing. Andy Bloch should have had any wsop of his cardplayer works turned into a book. This thing is high brow lousy-ness. What the snowflakes might call: "why hillary lost". This dude smells his own farts and loves it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
regina kwit
This is one of my favorite reads in the last few years. The writing is poetic and spectacular, a guerilla philosopher's commentary on fate and the addictive pratfalls familiar to anyone in pursuit of mastery.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
erin cox
Colson Whitehead is a superb literary novelist. In THE NOBLE HUSTLE, he is fronted by Grantland Magazine to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The book tells about his time developing his poker skills and some of the players he comes in contact with. I do not play poker and have little interest in the game. What drew me to this book is that it is named one of the best spring books of the year by the the store staff. I expected a description of the game with a literary bent and perhaps really good characterizations of some of the people the author came into contact with. In other words, I expected much more than just a description of playing poker. I wasn't getting that and gave up after reading two thirds of the book. Therefore, if you play poker, you will probably enjoy this book. If you watch the World Series of Poker, you would understand what the author is talking about. If you do not ,like myself, play cards then this book has little to offer you.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
nigel watts
Awful. I love poker, have read a number of good books on the subject, etc. Figured ifthe guy was MacArthur material and had written for the New Yorker, Granta, etc., it had a good chance of being a good read. It's not. It's lame and labored, laced with self-preoccupation and narcissism, as well as repeated hackneyed descriptions. Whiny. One of the author's own sentences pretty well sums it up: "...poker book advice can be hard to follow. The esoteric slang - the situations you have to experience first-hand in order to appreciate, the crappy writing." I would have to classify this as crappy writing. Quite a disappointment.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cynthia anne mcleod
I don't really have any interest in poker, but The Noble Hustle was well-written and very funny. It is hard to expect anything less from the author of Sag Harbor and John Henry Days. Perfect summer reading.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mark krueger
I loved this book and read it twice. I didn't know Colson's work. This book has everything and nothing to do with poker. It's a gorgeous exploration of depression and gambling and love and children and dread and the pursuit of happiness (don't we all pursue that?) and our perennial disappointments (don't we all feel those?). Colson is a genius with language and metaphor. I refused to read the last page for an hour. I didn't want to leave his world and promptly read the book again. His writerly eye can make Port Authority vomit lyrical. He's a master. Treat your heart and soul.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
meredith rose
Written as a satire, and extremely so, this book is supposed to be about the game of poker, and the reporting of one of the biggest events in the game of Texas Hold'em, the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. From the moment I started reading this book I could tell it was going to be heavy on the satire, and much less on the actual reporting of the event and the intricacies of the game. Found myself laughing in many occasions at the comments and writing of the author, Mr. Colson Whitehead. After a while I realized that the book was going to be a lot more than a straightforward report on the World Series of Poker, and more on the insights and points of view of the author regarding life in general, which by the way, seemed a little pessimistic without excluding the possibility that it was done mostly for the laughs.
In no time I was pushing hard to keep the attention span in place, for so many metaphors and sarcastic views can, in some cases, take away from the overall appreciation of the work. I will not deny that the author possesses a definite sense of humor, mostly dealing with the ups and downs of life, mostly the down bits that for some reason always elicit healthy laughs, for everyone can relate to this state of things as the author begins his preparations for the big event. Many comments on the game itself are right on the money, specially one as he wisely describes the differences between a high end game, where there is no limits to be won or lost, all the way down to the set 1/2 dollar games, which also have a definite demographic participation, but where no real financial disasters are anticipated. Funnily perceptive, the moments he is actually in real time with the aspects of competition, playing, rules of the game, it is highly entertaining. I wanted more of the actual playing time, observations of this highly competitive world, where the sky if the limit. Sadly, the few moments of actual dealing with the competition, are few and far in between.
One of the things the author very wisely points out is, that at the end of the day, all the knowledge, bluffing, purse,etc, are all dependent on the on the turn of a friendly card. I found the book a little congested with the wisecracks found along the way, which simply started taking away the desire to enjoy the book, with the self pity and inability to experience joy to top it all. Some of the characters along the way to this tournament are interesting enough at times, his narrative seemed a little erratic as to time and space, present and future, but never the less the humor is the guiding force of this book, and at that Mr. Colson Whitehead does excel most of the times. the store gets a thank you for delivering The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death, right to my doorsteps into what turned out to be a little more about everything concerning the game, with a dose of parenthood responsibilities thrown in the mix, and plenty of beef jerky amid the whole journey to the event. 3.5 Stars.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
todd doolittle
Snore
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
molly ferguson
A funky collection of observations.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kendel
Witty as hell, poignant (one wishes there was more about his back story, which is why I gave it 4 not 5 stars). I learned and laughed, and really appreciated the amazing writing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
harman
A lot of fun to read. Whitehead is a great travel companion in lost city of Vegas. All in, man.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
halah rahmam
A sometimes hilarious miasma of self-loathing minus the pity. Colson Whitehead may be dead inside but his words still drip with wry life.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
anika
The phrase "The Noble Hustle" must refer to what Colson Whitehead thinks about writing, not about poker. He strings a bunch of somewhat clever but meaningless sentences together, creates a completely meaningless subtitle ("Poker, Beef Jerky and Death") and cons the public into thinking he has written a book about poker, or a book about anything at all. He hasn't. The book is filler, from beginning to end. I've read many books about poker, some of them good, some bad, but none as disappointing as this. At least the other authors tried to write about poker, even if they did not do it well. Colson Whitehead barely discusses poker, or beef jerky or death for that matter, and he doesn't even do that particularly well - skipping back and forth in time for the sole purpose of filling the pages with meaningless anecdotes before he tells you how he busted out of the World Series of Poker. Read Alverez's The Biggest Game In Town or McManus's Positively Fifth Street, excellent writers who care about and truly understand the game. Skip this sorry excuse for a book. Play poker with your money instead, or light it on fire - the resulting pretty flames will be more entertaining than "The Noble Hustle".
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
alan parkinson
I guess this is what passes as writing a book today among the hip set . . . . .page after page of self-indulgent, self-referential cultural references piled and piled and piled onto of each other. No real emotion, no real insight, no truth, just sort of a can you top all the cultural references I can pull out of my ... head. Really maddening to try to read. I was hoping for real insight on Poker and casinos in general, and I came away was the desire to make sure I never sit next to this guy at a poker table. maybe this is what they teach now in college writing. No substance, just an attempt at style.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lex huckabay
Very entertaining although the writer sometimes uses card jargon that he does not fully explain.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
richard subber
I am not a poker player, nor do I watch it on ESPN. (I don't know WHY it's on ESPN, but that's another essay for another day.) My inexperienced state primed me for a fun maiden voyage into that 5-studded world. Judging from other reviews, Mr. Whitehead's writing style seems a bit polarizing - you'll love him or leave him. He meanders off topic into asides frequently and I can see how that would rub some the wrong way, but I found the diversions enjoyable for the most part. I would have liked him to spend more time narrating his experiance at the World Series of Poker and a little less about his anhedonia. Some might even argue this book isn't so much about poker as it is about the author simply experiencing something new.

Mr. Whitehead is a talented writer. His colorful prose and abstract way of expressing a thought can be both snarky and humorous even as he's describing his miserable state. For a guy who supposedly suffers from anhedonia, he sure enjoys a bit of beef jerky.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
heather campbell
This is the worst book I've ever read about poker. As a writer Whitehead is pretentious, dull, and untalented. I'm not surprised he fits in well at the New York Lies, but this text has practically no substance whatsoever. Most of the pages are filled with over-description, constant attempts at being cute, and a profound lack of intellect. If he has a good story to tell he still hasn't told it. He is very ignorant about poker and the book matches well his ambitions to live in "The Republic of Anhedonia."
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
v ctor
I was disappointed. I have enjoyed very occasional poker playing and poker books but this was not one of them. Maybe just way too self-reflective and not enough story.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jorge
The author suffers from a condition that he says prevents him from experiencing pleasure. Unfortunately, there are times this condition will affect the reader in this book as well. Colson has moments of absolute brilliance where the experience of preparing for the World Series of Poker in Vegas is brought to life with interesting characters he nicknames and lucky hands that take the pot. At other times, he seems almost bored with his writing and some of the experience seems it could have easily been edited out but it was needed for content to make the book thicker. Overall, if you have any interest in what would happen if you as an amateur decided to try your hand at a pro tournament, it's a fairly good introduction to the experience.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
jennifer filardo
Well the book is 234 pages long, and I am on page 143. He has not seen a flop or even been seated. If you are looking for a good poker story, WALK AWAY FROM THIS BOOK.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
hemant puthli
I’ve read Whitehead’s work before and have enjoyed other work more than this offering. I learned little about poker and laughed little at his antics. I was disappointed -- too much rambling about nothing -- I closed the book wishing I could reclaim the time I lost.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
yazmin
Sorry to say that for me Mr. Whitehead's sense of humor left me utterly bored! That he is an award winning writer leaves much to be admired, but not by me!

I love poker and I love Vegas and almost every page of this little book left me totally bored! Sorry to be repetitive, but I didn't care for anything about the book. The characters weren't terribly interesting and there was nobody to root for at any time. In almost every chapter I did something I never do when reading a book--I skipped whole paragraphs, skimmed over them a tiny bit, only to get on with trying to get to the end of the book!

It finally ended and I didn't feel rewarded in any way by taking the time to read it. I love to read and I think I have a fairly good sense of humor, but I felt a total lose with this one.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kate boisseau
Whitehead attempts to mask his dearth of material with clever wordplay and attempts at morose wit. Reads a bit like an undergrad essay. Pass.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
joe hansen
Trying too hard to tell a story that has been told too many times before. If you've watched ESPN, you know the story and if you haven't, you won't get this anyway. Stick to his other works.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
cuprum
Boring book from a wise a@@ little punk. Who needs it!!!!!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
terry drake
My gut feeling is that whoever is doing the picking, is taking profitability into account, probably more into account, than quality.
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