Shut Up and Deal

Jesse May, Author
Jesse May, Author Anchor Books $15 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-48940-9
Reviewed on: 04/13/1998
Release date: 04/01/1998
Open Ebook - 109 pages - 978-0-307-76654-0
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1098-0
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May's speedy, coming-of-age debut unfolds in the insular, all-male world of high-stakes professional poker, where staying in the action is everything and money is just a way of keeping score. Narrator Mickey, who joins the pro circuit at the age of 21, is surrounded by a large cast of eccentrics with stereotypical nicknames like Vinnie the Greek, Fresca Kid and Uptown Raoul. They're all constantly searching for the next ""big game,"" moving like nomads across America as if it were no more than a barren desert speckled with casino oases like the Mirage in Las Vegas, Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and Foxwoods in Connecticut. In a world where you are who you pretend to be, image, bluff and reputation are as important as talent and luck: Mickey opts for sunglasses and garish Salvation Army clothes, makes a place for himself on the circuit during the early 1990s and then feels it slipping away. As he reels off one tale after another about hitting it big or going broke, Mickey's voice rings true, his obsession, insecurity and self-delusion barely hidden beneath a thin mask of bravado. Yet the price for accuracy is a lot of jargon: rudimentary knowledge of poker is not enough to understand the repetitive, blow-by-blow accounts of games like 10-20 Hold 'em, Pot Limit Omaha and Seven Stud Hilo. ""There is no reality away from the poker table,"" Mickey says. He may be right, but that exclusionary attitude will keep most readers standing ""on the rail,"" watching the play without anteing a stake of their own. (May)
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