During the down times in the action at this year's World Series of Poker, I had the fortunate opportunity to work alongside and get to know many of the journalists that covered the event and the world of poker. One of them was Steve Rosenbloom, the longtime poker columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also provides much of the poker writing on ESPN.com. We were able to talk about the game quite a bit, in the halls of the Rio, and it was there that I learned about "The Best Hand I Ever Played".
What "The Best Hand I Ever Played" was, as Steve put it, "a little book I put together. Maybe it will be something." What Steve has come up with is a unique and intriguing book that is well worth the relatively inexpensive price of $14.95.
Put out by ESPN Books and available September 1st in the major bookstores, Rosenbloom has come up with might be considered the first hybrid poker book. While at first look it may be viewed as simply a biography book, it is only after picking it up and reading it thoroughly that its true value comes through.
Most strategy books simply point out the logical way to play the game of poker. Other books, featuring player profiles and biographies, seldom look into the mind of a champion and see exactly what makes them tick. With "The Best Hand I Ever Played", Rosenbloom seems to have merged the best of the two worlds into a hybrid, an excellent learning guide and a solid historical reference.
Rosenbloom used his access to players to find out what were, in fact, the best hands they felt they ever played. There are fifty two players featured in the tome, and each comes with a thorough background in the history of the player and what impact they have had in the game. Where the hybrid part of the book comes in is in the players recounting their finest moments.
Each player (and in startling detail, in most cases) recounts, street by street and chip by chip, what was their shining moment. While in most cases, those hands were winning ones, there are some very interesting looks at hands where the player either came out on the losing end of it or wasn't even involved in the hand at all (having folded pre-flop).
WPT announcer Mike Sexton is able to recount a hand that led to his first bracelet in the World Series and why laying it down was the best move. WPT Champion Phil Gordon has similar remarks regarding letting go pocket Kings at the final two tables of the Main Event in 1998 against Phil Hellmuth. The mistakes made by dealers are also recounted (most notably by the legendary T. J. Cloutier, when a dealer mistake allowed him to draw to a winning hand) that allowed them to take pots.
What makes the book special is the commentary and analysis of the hands after each player's story called "The Rake". In that area, many players will find the exceptional poker information and learn more about their game and the games of the top professionals. It is an excellent tutorial for people to learn about many aspects of the game, from bluffing to slow-playing and everything in between.
While there are a couple of typos in the book, these are things that can be overlooked. It can also be pushed aside the red highlighting of poker terms and the side boxes defining such, which can be a little bit of a distraction. What has to be applauded is the poker strategy that comes through in "The Rake" sections for each player and hearing those stories straight from the people themselves.
Steve Rosenbloom is a highly respected poker writer, and with "The Best Hand I Ever Played", has come up with a book that should be an aide to any poker player, regardless of skill level. At the minimum, he has brought us an excellent historical book of the best plays by those at the highest level of the game and their backgrounds. Rosenbloom should be proud of his achievement and "The Best Hand I Ever Played" should be readily accepted into the poker library of any fan, player or historian.
Ed Note: The best hand you ever played is waiting for you at Pacific Poker