james walsh / https://unsplash.com/@jimmy_jazz


Every time I come up against a decent poker player I think, ‘Now they’d give Columbo a good run for his money.’ Then when I watch my hard earned chips pushed in their direction I fantasise about them incriminating themselves in frustration after a deliciously meandering tangent. ‘That’ll show them,’ I smile as I slip on my jacket and head out into the cold, several pounds lighter.

Poker is a fascinating game. Try playing chess against eight other players at once, whilst not being able to see some of their pieces and then, despite playing perfectly, still getting unlucky and losing. That’s poker, and it’s as infuriating as it is intellectually satisfying.

This volume examines poker on a human level – no mind-bending strategy or anxiety inducing maths. We look at the characters behind the cards and dive into the secretive underbelly of high-stakes poker.

Shuffle up and deal.


01 / A Poker Game / Stephen Crane / The Literature Network

“The higher the stakes the more quiet the scene; this is a law that applies everywhere save on the stage.”

02 / Tells / Andy Bellin / The Atlantic / 2002

“The fine art of losing at poker”

03 / Annie Duke Will Beat You at Your Own Game / Alice Gregory / The New Yorker / 2018

“I wrote to the retired professional poker player about the possibility of profiling her. We spent the next few weeks engaged in a polite game of psychological warfare.”

04 / When We Held Kings / Eric Raskin / Grantland / 2013

“The oral history of the 2003 World Series of Poker, in which an amateur named Moneymaker turned $39 into $2.5 million and the poker boom was born”

05 / VIDEO: Final Hand of WSOP 2003 / slynslyn / YouTube / 2008

Chris Moneymaker vs Sam Farha

06 / Full House / Erin Hanusa / Slate / 2006

“Raising a family on poker.”

07 / Bust / Brad Willis / The Bitter Southerner / 2015

“Twelve years ago, an amateur poker player from Tennessee won the main event at the World Series of Poker, and suddenly, the entire world wanted to play Texas Hold ’em. The craze spawned countless underground poker rooms. Greenville, S.C., was one of the South’s hottest underground poker towns — until the whole thing went sideways in a hail of gunfire.”

08 / Casinos gamble on their credibility / Victoria Coren Mitchell / The Guardian / 2017

“If you’re too smart for gaming houses they’ll find a way to stop you – but more fool them”

09 / How the world’s biggest bookie was snared at last year’s WSOP — and walked a free man / Brett Forrest / ESPN / 2015

“’Not guilty, your honor,’ Phua says, his voice a whisper. But anyone who has joined him at a World Series of Poker (WSOP) table would recognize his expression of quiet confidence.”

10 / Hollywood hold ’em / Chris Ayres / GQ Magazine / 2012

“A gathering of movie stars, socialites and high-rolling hedge funders happy to bet hundreds of thousands of dollars, ‘Poker Club’ was LA’s most exclusive evening in. Then a mysterious gambler joined and seemingly pulled off the ultimate bluff – until he broke the bank and brought the whole house of cards crashing down with him…”

11 / Manhattan Fold ’Em / Robert Kolker / New York / 2013

“A high-stakes game that started off at Tobey Maguire’s house launched the career of Molly Bloom, poker hostess. Now the government, on the trail of a vast gambling ring involving the Russian mob and Carlyle Hotel gallerists, wants to end it.”

12 / 5 Gruesome Gambling Murders Motivated By Debt, Greed, And Power / Sophie Jackson / Thought Catalog / 2015

“A casino employee went out to investigate, soon tracing the source of the horrific smell to the boot of a dark vehicle. Police arrived at the scene. No one was sure what to expect when the boot was opened.”

13 / VIDEO: The Devilfish / partypoker LIVE and Dusk Till Dawn / YouTube / 2019

“The Devilfish Documentary brought to you by partypoker LIVE and Dusk Till Dawn.”