Michael Konik has written numerous articles about the colorful characters and events that have shaped Las Vegas and other gambling scenes. Early in 1999, Huntington Press published a collection of his work titled, The Man With the $100,000 Breasts. Late that year it was reprinted as a paperback with the same name by Broadway Books.
The book contains a total of 26 stories broken up into six sections. The sectional division isn’t really very important, it’s merely there to break up the book a bit. Many of these stories originally appeared in other magazines such as Sport, Maxim, and Cigar Aficionado. They’re all expertly written and provide some interesting insight into their own special world. Some are better than others, but I didn’t feel there were any true duds.
Some of the stories, like those about poker legend Johnny Slot Gacor Moss, the meteoric rise and fall of craps legend Archie Karas, and the history of race handicapping legend Andrew Beyer are fairly well known, often even outside of gambling circles. Others, like the stories of the “Cold-Deck Crew” or SCA Promotions are likely not nearly as widely known. There is something here for just about anyone with a sports, gambling, or Las Vegas interest.
I’ve read a lot of books that are collections of gambling stories, and The Man With the $100,000 Breasts is one of the better ones. While I wouldn’t rate it quite as highly as, say, Alvarez’ The Biggest Game in Town, it does score well above the median. It’s well worth reading by those with an interest in the topic, but I recommend purchasing the paperback version.
Yet another collection of gambling stories, The Man With the $100,000 Breasts ranks above average in this category.
Review of Serious Poker
At the time I write this, Dan Kimberg is probably my biggest competitor for the title of “Most Influential Gambling Book Reviewer on the Internet”. Kimberg’s web site, at http://www.kimberg.com/poker/, contains a large collection of poker book reviews written by many people, including the author of Serious Poker. One can assume from this that Kimberg has spent some time thinking about poker. But, as I’m well aware, there is a difference between critiquing someone else’s work, and coming up with enough original thoughts of one’s own to fill a book. The question is, are the thoughts that he transcribes in these pages worth reading?
The beginning of Serious Poker is obviously aimed at relative novices. Kimberg first addresses the rules to commonly spread poker games, and provides a general guide to getting around a public card room. In my opinion, navigating a poker room for the first time can be a daunting experience, and I’m glad to see any advice that beginners might read which may help alleviate that. He then moves on to basic strategy advice. The information he presents here is usually sound as far as it goes, but it’s really too limited to be useful as a general-purpose strategy guide. I could raise some objections with some of his phrases, but they would be pretty trivial objections at this level of detail. Of course, a complete novice may find some of this information useful, but even then a more thorough strategy guide, such as Harroch and Krieger’s Poker for Dummies or Lee Jones’ Winning Low Limit Hold’em will serve the reader better.
Kimberg then talks about “Taking Poker Seriously”, where he discusses issues like luck, variance, game selection, self reflection, and how to study the game. I believe this to be his best section. Some of these ideas are very important, and while most of this information has been discussed elsewhere in the poker literature, very little of that has been aimed at beginning players. There are places where Kimberg’s irrelevant footnotes get a bit distracting, a phenomenon that’s not totally unexpected in a self-published book, but the writing is generally clear. The author is quite adept at getting his message across.
The next section covers miscellaneous topics, including tournaments, cheating and angle shooting, tells, and more. Again, my biggest criticism, with this section and with the book in general, is that these topics are all covered rather superficially. For example, Kimberg laments that while at least one good book and many articles talk about detecting tells in others, there’s very little in print about how someone could go about limiting tells in one’s own play. Kimberg provides five suggestions on this topic, but I can easily think of several more, plus there’s little discussion on techniques for actually practicing the methods that do get mentioned. I’m just not sure that the information that is contained in these pages is likely to really assist anyone.
Toward the end of the book, the author provides some more detailed mathematics, including an explanation of poker simulations, a brief introduction to combinatorics, and bankroll calculations. For those who don’t understand the basic probability and statistics terminology and methods used in many advanced poker books, this is a pretty good introduction. Also, several good formulae are presented here, including risk of ruin, fluctuation calculations, and suggestions on how to determine what constitutes a sufficient bankroll for various games. The book concludes with a brief section with some recommended reading, a list of the author’s on-line resources, and a print copy of the author’s on-line poker glossary. The glossary is likely to be helpful to the inexperienced poker player, even though I disagree with the author’s definitions of some of the terms.
This book contains some good suggestions, but because a lot of the topics are covered rather narrowly, there are few sections that are likely to appeal to even the intermediate poker player. Much of the book reads like an expanded version of Malmuth and Loomis’ Fundamentals of Poker, so if that sounds appealing, then this book is probably worth reading. For those intermediate players who want to ease in to understanding poker math or want to receive a pep talk on not relying on luck, parts of this book can be helpful. In this case, I’d suggest starting at Chapter 8 and proceeding from there. Advanced students of the game can safely pass up Serious Poker.
Finally, I’d like to say that I do admire Dan Kimberg as a reviewer who has “put his money where his mouth is” and written (and published!) a book himself, which is no mean feat. Perhaps some day, I’ll take the plunge myself, and Mr. Kimberg will have the opportunity to be equally critical of my thoughts.
Serious Poker contains mostly good suggestions about approaching the game, but many topics are covered in a very superficial manner, and almost every topic has been covered in some depth in other works. Therefore, while beginners are likely to obtain worthwhile information from this work, and there will probably be some parts that will appeal to intermediate students, more advanced poker players and those who are fairly broadly read on the topic of poker can almost certainly afford to pass this one up. There are some good ideas here, but overall I’d have to say I was only moderately satisfied with Serious Poker.