Victoria Coren is not your standard poker player. For starters, she's a woman, which immediately sets her apart from the majority, and she's quite posh, but most importantly she's also successful, having lifetime winnings in excess of $1.5m. And while she's now a recognisable face as host of various poker-related TV shows, she could never be described as some kind of Johnny Come Lately to the table.
Having become hooked on poker in her teens, she learned the game in the school of hard knocks, frequenting the kind of smoky, dark casinos and associating with the kind of smoking, shady characters that a posh girl would be expected to avoid. This book serves as a handy history of the game, something which Coren is uniquely positioned to deliver, having surfed the wave of poker's popularity boom but also been around long enough to be nostalgic for the old days, long before anyone ever dreamed there could be such things as internet poker millionaires.
But this is really a funny and moving memoir from a woman whose entire life is wrapped up in poker, with the game itself sometimes causing problems and sometimes serving as a handy distraction from real life.
It's packed with colourful eccentrics and hilarious anecdotes but doesn't hide from the dark side of the game. Coren describes the giddy joy of a winning streak with the kind of élan that makes you want to rush out and put the rent money on red, but she's equally good at conveying the helplessness of losing, of digging a hole deeper simply by being unable to stand up and walk away from the table.
This book won't convert non-fans, but if you've ever stopped on a late-night TV game to see if the pocket threes can outrace the AQ suited, this is the nuts.