Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Johnny Hughes Book Review: Texas Poker Wisdom

By Pauly
Byron Bay, Australia

Matthew "Slick" O'Malley has been a Texas road gambler for fifty years. He wants to teach his nephew, Dylan, everything about poker: its strategy, culture, language, history, pitfalls, songs, movies, books, gambling joints, and web sites. "Did you ever want to be anything other than a gambler?" Dylan O'Malley asked his uncle... "There's no percentage in regrets, boy. To me, it's always been about time, not money. I found early on that I was up for about fifteen hours a week of hustling as a gambler. I have always watched everyone hurrying off to work. Not me." Dylan had saved $250,000 in poker winnings in two years. He said, "I love poker. I can't see going back to renting my life out by the hour. I can go anyplace I want all over the world and no-limit Texas Hold 'em will be there waiting for me. It's the purest form of freedom." - from the Inside Flap of Texas Poker Wisdom
Novels are tough to write. I've done it a few times and have a sense of respect for those scribes who complete a manuscript. Writing a poker novel is an even more difficult task. Not only does it have to be compelling, but also the poker scenes have to be accurate, believable, and exciting. I have thumbed through dozens of new poker novels over the last few years, but none of them stood out or held my attention long enough to read them.

That is until Texas Poker Wisdom came my way.

Johnny Hughes contacted me shortly before the WSOP. We had never met, but started a series of email exchanges. He was a fan of my work and often had complimentary things to say about me in various forums. He's always rushed to my defense when I got flamed on a 2+2 thread and offered me up plenty of advice. I guess you can say he had been sharing pearls of wisdom which he gained from being a Texas road gambler.

He also sent me stories which I would end up publishing in Truckin'. He had a knack for writing, and possessed the great gift of story telling.

Johnny Hughes eventually sent me a copy of his novel. I still have the doc file. It was cool that I got to read one of the final drafts before it went to the publisher. Although I was familiar with the material, I couldn't wait to dig into a real copy of the book. Hughes sent me the fifth overall copy, right out of the first box, and he even wrote a warm inscription to me. I was pleased that he included Truckin' as one of the numerous publications he had written for.

The book is a novel. I guess you can say it's a crime novel or a poker novel. There's a murder within the story and lots of poker. The protagonist, Matt, is a older gentleman from Lubbock, TX. He's a man of routine who has been living in and around the Lubbock for most of his life. He spends his mornings as a frequent caller into the local political themed talk radio show. Then he spends his afternoons looking for a good poker game at the various rooms and games around town..

One afternoon during a poker game, Matt comes across Dylan, a young hotshot and realizes that he's his long lost nephew. The first act of the book focuses on the reluctant relationship between Matt and Dylan. Matt's brother (aka Dylan's father) was murdered twenty years earlier, which remained unsolved. In a poignant scene, Matt takes Dylan to the location where he was shot and left for dead.

The second act is located in Las Vegas. The two embark on a trip to Sin City. While Matt prefers the seedier downtown, Dylan can't wait to play at the Bellagio. Dylan eventually gets backed by Matt and goes on a rush.

I won't go into specific details of the third act, because I don't want to ruin the ending, however Matt and Dylan get caught up into some big trouble and have to trust each other if the want to get out of a jam.

My only criticism was the last part of the book felt rushed since the first two thirds seemed to move at a much slower pace.

Aside from that, Texas Poker Wisdom is a fast read at 208 pages. I cranked it out during a cross country flight from NYC to Hollyweird. It's a great subway book or perfect to read on three-day weekend.

Johnny Hughes delivered a fascinating and entertaining novel with Texas Poker Wisdom. He accurately portrayed the underbelly and the shady side of the poker culture with his vivid characters and flavorful dialogue.

Oh and yes, my poker blog, Tao of Poker, is referenced by one of the characters. Pretty cool, eh?

Click here to buy Texas Poker Wisdom.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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