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

The first book to appear from Phil Hellmuth, Jr.’s latest commercial venture, Phil’s House Publishing, Deal Me In by Stephen John and Marvin Karlins, is a highly-readable, engaging collection of stories about 20 of poker’s most famous and well regarded players.

  illustrated with over 150 photographs, the book not only chronicles several of the major events of each of the players’ lives, but also collectively presents a more general overview of poker’s rise into cultural prominence during the last few decades.

Giang and Scotty Nguyen both describe how they emerged from war-torn Vietnam, made their way to America, and the struggles they faced before rising to prominence in poker. Nguyen’s story is especially moving, and perhaps might surprise some readers with its emotional depth.

 Layne Flack’s self-deprecating tale of his battles with drug addiction and self-destructive behavior is similarly stirring, although Flack successfully manages to avoid becoming too maudlin by the use of humor.

Certain common themes do emerge from chapter to chapter,

 however. Both Doyle Brunson and Chad Brown talk at length about their athletic careers, and how poker ultimately satisfied for both the desire for competition that sports had previously satiated.

 Several share details of how their families took to their chosen careers, with some players’ experiences -- such as those of Jennifer Harman and Hellmuth -- proving more difficult than others’.

Some also discuss their battles with problem gambling, with a few, including Johnny Chan and Chau Giang, telling of how they had suffered from the serious leak of losing their poker winnings in other casino games.

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