Poker Book Review: ‘Deal Me In’ by Stephen John and Marvin Karlins

In this highly enjoyable poker book, Stephen John and Marvin Karlins, set out in “Deal Me In,” to tell the story of 20 of the games top pros from their humble beginnings to becoming full time professional players.
The book is more or less organised as a series of interviews with the answers reworked as continuous stories and although not an instructional poker book it is, however, inspirational.
Each chapter devotes between 12 to 20 pages to the individual players and colourfully describes the highs and lows experienced by poker legends such as Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, Tom Dwan, Carlos Mortensen, Eric Seidel and David “Devilfish” Ulliot. We also find out how they managed to build their bankrolls and endure crippling downswings on the way to becoming formidable well rounded pros.
David “Devilfish” Ulliot, we learn, was a safe cracker who was in and out of prison before he was saved through professional poker while Chau Giang and Scotty Nguyen both arrived in America from war-torn Vietnam and, despite becoming highly successful poker players had to wrestle with gambling addictions stemming from their love of other casino games.
One theme that does stand out while reading their moving tales is the sense of comradery and support players give to each other and how essential these have been in keeping them firmly on the path to poker success. Annie Duke recounts the importance of her brother Howard Lederer’s guidance in her early career, Harman and Flack highlight the importance Daniel Negreanu’s friendship has meant to their poker careers, and even the enigmatic Phil Ivey even confesses “I’m not really as private a person as I am portrayed.”
“Deal Me In” is a fascinating read giving a rare insight into the background and character of some of the players at the very pinnacle of the game, and although not a strategy book per se, it does however, poignantly highlight to the reader those other attributes necessary to becoming a top poker professional i.e. passion, focus and drive.

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