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Howard Schwartz

Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

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Aces and Kings by Kaplan; Poker as Life -- Smooth Reading

28 Apr 2005

By Howard Schwartz
They keep on coming, new and interesting books about poker the game, the people who play it and for those who can't get enough new information. The two newest arrivals at Gambler's Book Shop are Aces and Kings by Michael Kaplan and Brad Reagan (281 pages, hardbound, $24.95) and Poker as Life (101 Lessons From The World's Greatest Game) by Lee Schreiber (239 pages, hardbound, $14.95).

Kaplan a regular contributor to Cigar Aficionado and Sports Illustrated magazines and Reagan, who contributes to The Wall Street Journal and Maxim magazines, gained the confidence of some of the world's top poker players and got to them to talk about the challenges of the game and their offbeat, high-energy lifestyle with what they call an "all-cash existence." From old pros to the new generation TV superstars of the game, the two authors trace beginnings to highs and lows, and with a colorful, breezy style, offer a glimpse into a world of pressure, decisions and big paydays.

There are fifteen chapters (with photos of the players featured) to this easy read. Those interviewed are Puggy Pearson, Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson, each in their own way, part of poker history; followed by Chip Reese, the late Stu Ungar; Erik Seidel, Phil Hellmuth; Men Nguyen; Howard Lederer; David Ulliott; Annie Duke; Chris Ferguson and Barry Greenstein.

There's a section on online poker; a look at new arrivals and future champions like Daniel Negreanu; Phil Ivey and Erick Lindgren.

There's good how-to stuff, along with a look at how the game has gained popularity; how each individual approaches the game and tools they bring to the table; a look at the different type of table "image" each reflects when they play; along with the "dues" each paid to reach heights of "world-class player."

The authors truly have a feel for the game -- they played, observed, listened, absorbed the feeling and attitude these top players have for the game. They understand the language and offer up each profile with colorful incidents, key hands, turning points in the lives of many.

This is a fine addition to a gaming library; a nice item to have while on summer vacation for recreational reading or one to help prepare yourself for the pressure-cooker world of high stakes poker.

Poker as Life by Schreiber is both a reference guide to the game, packed with wit and wisdom and a quick read. It's packed with advice, trivia, quotes about the game from the famous and not-so-famous, but there's a lot that makes sense and these "quick bites" of advice will probably help you become a more disciplined player and have a better understanding of the game.

There's a section on good and bad luck signs; the best and worst poker movies -- according to the author (here I don't agree that The Cincinnati Kid ranks 10th), but that's what makes life interesting--diversity of opinion.

A good theme for the book might be that poker the game, often reflects the realities of life -- the dangers, the moves our competitors in business or some other area, may test us with. It's about bluffing, out-lasting, being wary, making smart moves, doing our homework and avoiding the hidden dangers we may encounter.

Copyright Gambler's Book Shop. All books reviewed in this article are available from Gambler's Book Shop (Gambler's Book Club), located at 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101 and online at

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