Friday, December 01, 2006

Book Review: Hunting Fish

Every time Jay Greenspan entered the media room at the 2006 WSOP, I ordered every person inside to give him a raucous standing ovation.

"Can I get your attention please! Jay Greenspan, everybody!"

And the room would erupt into applause as Greenspan would wave and we'd carry on our business. There was one time during the main event when we got "shushed." Yeah, I was in shock.

After I yelled out, "Jay Greenspan, everybody!" someone in the back, a wide-eye fresh-faced media rep (who had know idea what pot odds were and had just gotten in a day or two earlier) had the audacity to yell, "Shhhhhhhhhh!" back at us.

I turned to Wheaton who sat two seats down from me. We both shook our heads and muttered, "Fuckin' rookies."

"That's no way to treat a Big Shot," I screamed back.

In the past I've referred to Jay Greenspan in my blogs as "Big Shot." Part of that was in jest but part of that was a true assessment of him as writer. Jay got a gig we all wanted... he would travel America playing poker and write about his experiences for a book.

The result of his journey was Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America's Worst Poker Players (St. Martin's Press, Aug. 2006). In his book, Greenspan eloquently describes his search for poker games while trying to pad his bankroll $20,000 so he can play in high stakes cash games in at Commerce Casino during the LA Poker Classic. That would be the last stop on his trip as he drove from NYC up to Foxwoods, Atlantic City, DC/Virginia, South Carolina, Atlanta, Tunica, Texas, Las Vegas and eventually to several stops in California. At the same time, he's struggling internally with the decision if he should become a full-time poker player while worrying about how his poker pursuits affected his family, friends, and his fiancee.

Greenspan is a writer and a damn good one at that. He has the most flavorful vocabulary out of any poker writer I met. He once described John Bonetti as "the saltiest character in all of poker." After a stint in comedy writing in Hollyweird, Greenspan flourished as a technical writer for many years before focusing on poker. He started up a site called Poker Savvy before he sold it last year and had been earning a living as a poker journalist. He covered the WSOP the last two years for Full Tilt. We officially met at the 2005 WSOP.

Greenspan is a lanky 30-something New Yorker. With salt and pepper colored hair, he has been stopped on numerous occasions for an autograph because he resembles American Idol star Taylor Hicks.

I spent many long and tedious hours in the trenches at media row sitting next to Greenspan (and BJ, Otis, Michalski, Flipchip, and the Poker Wire girls) during dozens of final tables at the 2005 WSOP. Poker tournaments are very boring affairs and there's a lot of down time. Getting stuck next to someone for hundreds of hours during the WSOP allows you to get to know someone pretty well. Greenspan and I have seen each other on our best and worst days. I was fortunate that Greenspan was a cool dude and we riffed on a multitude of topics including sharing plenty of dirty secrets and soul-crushing gossip.

Residing in Brooklyn, Greenspan has played numerous hours in the different underground clubs in New York City and several of his stories appear in Hunting Fish. Greenspan happened to play poker in many of the same areas that I've played, so the book has a little extra special meaning for me.

He aptly describes playing with rocks at Foxwoods, crazy gypsies at Play Station and the Russians who colluded by speaking Sputnik to one another in the NYC card rooms, the grumpy old folks in AC, racists and anti-Semites in the South, cowboy-fish in Tunica, loose Asians in the California casinos, and the overweight track-suit wearing professional grinders at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

He also has a couple of hilarious stories about bluffing Mike Matusow out of a pot in a tournament and the time he went to the Lodge in Dallas to play in Michalski's Sunday night tournament where the dealers were strippers who dealt the cards topless.

Greenspan also weaves in discussions with his psychiatrist along with colorful hand histories of the games he's playing. Along the way, you're pulling for Greenspan to do well in every game he crashes so he can win enough money to play in a big game in LA or win enough money to buy his fiancee a really nice ring.

The pacing of the book is quick and you can easily read it all on a long airplane flight or over a weekend. It's a fun, entertaining, and educational at the same time. I wish that I read Hunting Fish before last June's blogger trip because then I would have not let Greenspan steal so many of my blinds. Bastard!

And contrary to internet rumors (that I started)... Jay Greenspan does not get paid in hookers and blow. At least, that's what he wants us to think.

If you don't have a copy of Hunting Fish, you can order one.... here.

No comments:

Post a Comment