Review of Life's a Gamble by Roy Brindley

Roy Brindley
"It is more about life than about the game itself."

Another book review. Gag! I guess I've officially reneged on that vow that I wouldn't use this column for reviews.

But I have a justification, admittedly pathetic. I've decided it's okay if the books I review are poker books that are really about life. We say stuff like, "hey, man, poker is life." Right?

So far I've got two books in this 'poker = life' category: Tony G, one of poker's most notorious trash talkers.

For someone who spent so much of his life in betting shops, at race tracks, casinos and poker rooms, he can be astonishing naïve.

Antanas 'Tony G' Guoga
Brindley's mom thinks Tony G is a bad influence on her Roy.

At Binion's for the WSOP, he spots a single-deck blackjack table, a card-counter's wet dream. He starts betting $2 a hand, wins consistently, boosts his bets way up and then is astonished and appalled when he gets that fatal tap on the shoulder from a large gentleman telling him his action is no longer welcome.

How this can be a surprise to someone who developed his own card counting system (apparently never having read or even heard of Thorpe, Uston or Snyder) and was so successful that he got barred from every casino in England, is beyond me.

He is also proud that he has survived this life without ever doing drugs. He seems not to realize that alcohol is a drug. He drinks copiously, explaining in a painfully defensive way, that he likes to drink while playing poker, especially tournaments, that it calms him and allows him to focus.

The tale of winning a tournament so plastered that he couldn't make out the cards and then passed out, leaving the loyal Meg to bag up the prize money, should be a warning. It appears not to be.

He ends upbeat, believing he has vanquished his demons, mended his ways, conquered his insecurities and doubts. I hope he has. I really do.

A note: The book is written for a British audience. The old line rings true about the US and the UK: 'two great lands separated by a common language.' Many passages will be cryptic to a North American reader and many words will be strange. But that's okay. Just plow through; they'll start feeling familiar after a while.

Author Bio:

Arthur Reber has been a poker player and serious handicapper of thoroughbred horses for four decades. He is the author of The New Gambler's Bible and coauthor of Gambling for Dummies. Formerly a regular columnist for Poker Pro Magazine and Fun 'N' Games magazine, he has also contributed to Card Player (with Lou Krieger), Poker Digest, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Titan Poker. He outlined a new framework for evaluating the ethical and moral issues that emerge in gambling for an invited address to the International Conference of Gaming and Risk Taking.

Until recently he was the Broeklundian Professor of Psychology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Among his various visiting professorships was a Fulbright fellowship at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Now semiretired, Reber is a visiting scholar at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

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