Award Winning Author Nam Le Balances Writing, Poker

Nam Le

There aren’t many poker players who have written award-winning books.

Sure, plenty have written strategy books and one or two have even written fiction books.

But genuine literature that is regarded around the world is not generally something poker players have accomplished.

Australian Nam Le, however, has done just that.

Le is the author of The Boat, a 2008 collection of short stories that is renowned in literary circles around the world.

The book won numerous awards and was praised by two Pulitzer-prize winning writers.

Sharing Time Between Two Loves

Nam Le's book 'The Boat'

Not to be confused with the US-based player with the same name of WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star fame, Le is a Vietnamese-born Melbournian who considers himself part poker pro, part author.

“I’m definitely a writer first and foremost. I write full time, that’s my main job,” Le said during a break at the 2014 WSOP APAC.

“If I had to put a number on it, I would say I spend a third of my time as a professional poker player and probably derive a third of my income from poker.”

The most prestigious award that was bestowed upon Le for his book was the well-regarded Dylan Thomas Prize which is open to writers under the age of 30.

The critical claim and personal satisfaction was likely the most important aspect of receiving this award, but Le did also receive £30,000 ($46,000) for the honour.

Le certainly started his career as a writer with a bang, but as he would soon find out, it’s hard to make a good living as a writer in the modern era.

“As an Australian it’s almost impossible to make money as a writer because the market is so small, so you need an international profile.”

Le has an international profile and yet still gravitated towards poker and the opportunities to make money it provided.

The Solitary Pursuit of Writing & Poker


“I won my first tournament and thought I was great, but then was just totally killed. I eventually started seeing some results though by talking to friends, talking hand histories, watching training videos.”

“It got to a point where last year I got lucky and finished 1st and 2nd in two $550 events at the WSOP APAC and I started realizing there is a bit of money in this if you run good and play good.”

The two results Le is referring to equated to just over $50,000 and made up a fair chunk of the almost $200,000 in tournament results he has posted over the last two years.

Le would have to win a lot of literary prizes to cash for that kind of money, though obviously writing doesn’t have a buy-in fee.

The practice of writing does, however, bare some similarities to playing poker.

“You do play live poker with other people, but it’s a solitary pursuit in a sense, just like writing. Poker uses a different muscle in that it’s more numerical and analytical than writing, but they both require you to beat your head against the wall. Just in a different way.”

Just because Le has experienced monetary success in poker over a relatively short time span doesn’t mean he thinks making money from playing poker is easy.

In fact, he realizes it’s just as hard to make money as writing and that’s why he is happy to balance his life between the two pursuits.

Tough To Make a Living Writing

“It’s really hard to make a living as a writer. It’s similar to poker in that way. I have poker dreams and I want to get better and run good and bink a big tournament, but I always feel as though writing is going to be my number one.”

Nam Le

“If it got to a point where poker was encroaching in a way that is detrimental to the writing than I would definitely take a break.”

Le is currently several years into writing his second book and insists poker isn’t the reason it has taken so long to finish his much-anticipated sophomore effort.

“Writing just takes as long as it takes. In some ways it’s like the bubble in poker. It just happens when it happens. I used to feel a lot of pressure for the second book, but because I blew all my deadlines I feel it a lot less now."

"There is no point in capitalizing on the first one anymore because that’s ancient history. So now I’m just trying to make the second one as good as it can be."

Le didn’t tell us what the second novel was about, but we do know it’s not based in the poker world. Though, that’s something Le would love to see.

“I really hope someone writes the great poker fiction book! I’ve been thinking about how to marry poker to drama, because poker is so full of drama, it’s so full of characters. Maybe one day it will be me who writes it.

“Writing about poker is probably the only way I can get revenge on some of these players crushing me at the table!”


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