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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and…
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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death

by Colson Whitehead

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There are many better Poker books out there, and this is barely a poker book anyway - more of a transcript from a visit to a shrinks couch. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
Full disclosure: I only read this book because I wanted to read something by Whitehead, who's been on my wishlist forever. Neither Zone One nor Underground Railroad were available at the library, so I snagged this one, which is a memoirish account of his experience playing in the World Series of Poker a few years ago. It was my first Whitehead, but it won't be my last. I learned that he is a marvelous writer, dexterous with language in ways that are both witty and thoughtful. The book and subject are rather slight and not really my bag, since I have never played a hand of poker in my life, but I still enjoyed his tale and look forward to reading another of his books with a little more meat on its bones. ( )
1 vote rosalita | Aug 29, 2016 |
The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead is a very highly recommended, humorous and informative account of the author's foray into the world of high stakes poker games.

The premise seems simple: Whitehead was staked by a magazine to see how far he could get in the World Series of poker. But, as the title implies, The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death is much more than the story of one man playing some poker games and reading some manuals to prepare himself for the big time. He discusses all sorts of other related or vaguely related topics while telling the story of his poker-playing career.

Whitehead defines "anhedonia: the inability to experience pleasure," and explains that he is a citizen of "The Republic of Anhedonia." He says, "I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside. My particular combo of slack features, negligible affect, and soulless gaze has helped my game ever since I started playing twenty years ago, when I was ignorant of pot odds and M-theory and four-betting, and it gave me a boost as I collected my trove of lore, game by game, hand by hand. It has not helped me human relationships–wise over the years, but surely I’m not alone here." (Location 47)

Whitehead really seems to be having a great time writing this book. I truly hope it was as enjoyable to write as it is to read because this book is engrossing and funny. He points out that "In one of the fiction-writing manuals, it says that there are only two stories: a hero goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town. I don’t know. This being life, and not literature, we’ll have to make do with this: A middle-aged man, already bowing and half broken under his psychic burdens, decides to take on the stress of being one of the most unqualified players in the history of the Big Game. A hapless loser goes on a journey, a strange man comes to gamble." (Location 79)

Although he's not a man who is generally interested in competitive sports, "Sure, now and then I mixed it up in a Who Had the Most Withholding Father contest with chums, but that’s as far as it went for me competitive sports–wise. (Location 234) he had..."been playing penny poker since college. College kids counting out chips into even stacks, opening a case of brew, busting out real-man cigars—these were the sacred props of manhood, and we were chronically low on proof."( Location 251)

This is an incredibly well-written, astute account of what players go through, or at least what he went through, in the various poker tournaments along the way, and is full of many insightful observations about poker - and life.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.




( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
It's really more like a 4.5 out of 5 (a couple pacing quibbles, etc) but honestly? When a book is this much of a joy to read, what else matters? I laughed perhaps more consistently in this book than I maybe ever have at a book not written by a guy with the last name Pratchett. Seriously, it was like every 1.5 pages, there was something that made me want to laugh out loud. Anyway, plenty of people who never play poker will read this book - and plenty who would never have otherwise read Colson Whitehead will, in a vice-versa sort of thing - do the same. It's a pleasure to know that they're going to come away with a newfound understanding/respect/pleasure, regardless of how they came into it. I just hope that some of that entertainment gets back to Colson somehow, makes him (heavens no) feel good. May you always have a big M, sir - because as long as you're at the table, we at least know we're in for a damn good night.

More at RB: http://ragingbiblioholism.com/2014/03/07/the-noble-hustle/ ( )
  drewsof | Sep 30, 2015 |
It's really more like a 4.5 out of 5 (a couple pacing quibbles, etc) but honestly? When a book is this much of a joy to read, what else matters? I laughed perhaps more consistently in this book than I maybe ever have at a book not written by a guy with the last name Pratchett. Seriously, it was like every 1.5 pages, there was something that made me want to laugh out loud. Anyway, plenty of people who never play poker will read this book - and plenty who would never have otherwise read Colson Whitehead will, in a vice-versa sort of thing - do the same. It's a pleasure to know that they're going to come away with a newfound understanding/respect/pleasure, regardless of how they came into it. I just hope that some of that entertainment gets back to Colson somehow, makes him (heavens no) feel good. May you always have a big M, sir - because as long as you're at the table, we at least know we're in for a damn good night.

More at RB: http://ragingbiblioholism.com/2014/03/07/the-noble-hustle/ ( )
  drewsof | Sep 30, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385537050, Hardcover)

“I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside.” So begins the hilarious and unexpectedly moving adventures of an amateur player who lucked into a seat at the biggest card game in town—the World Series of Poker.

In 2011 Grantland magazine sent award-winning novelist Colson Whitehead to brave the harrowing, seven-day gauntlet of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. It was the assignment of a lifetime, except for one hitch—he’d never played in a casino tournament before.

With just six weeks to train, our humble narrator plunged into the gritty subculture of high-stakes Texas Hold’em. There’s poker here, sure, which means joy and heartbreak, grizzled cowboys from the game’s golden age, and teenage hotshots weaned on internet gambling. Not to mention the overlooked problem of coordinating Atlantic City bus schedules with your kid’s drop-off and pick-up at school.

And then there’s Vegas.

In a world full of long shots and short odds, The Noble Hustle is a sure bet, a raucously funny social satire whose main target is the author himself. Whether you’ve been playing cards your whole life or have never picked up a hand, you’re sure to agree that this book contains some of the best writing about beef jerky ever put to paper.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:36 -0400)

"In THE NOBLE HUSTLE Colson Whitehead does for participatory journalism what he did for zombie novels in ZONE ONE: Take one literary genius, add $10,000 and a seat at the World Series of Poker, and stir. On one level, Colson Whitehead's THE NOBLE HUSTLE is a familiar species of participatory journalism - a longtime neighborhood poker player, Colson was given a $10,000 stake and an assignment from the online ESPN offshoot Grantland to see how far he could get in the World Series of Poker. But since it stems from the astonishing mind of Colson Whitehead (MacArthur Award-endorsed!), the book is a brilliant, hilarious, weirdly profound and ultimately moving portrayal of - yes, it sounds overblown and ridiculous, but really! - the human condition"--… (more)

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