I knew that the month of June was going to be a huge month for poker books. With the start of the WSOP at the end of June, it seems that there has been a rush to the bookshelves of your local stores by authors and publishers attempting to provide those last minute thoughts and strategies to help players before the Big One starts. While "How To Win The World Series of Poker (Or Not)" by Pat Walsh isn't one of those books, it will provide some help for your game by giving you something that is extremely necessary: a moment of levity and a chance to laugh a bit at the game of poker.
"How To Win The World Series of Poker (Or Not)" (published by Plume Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Publishing, and available now in bookstores and on Amazon.com for $13 American/$17 Canadian) is Walsh's journal of his own self admitted 'half assed' attempt to reach the pinnacle of the poker world by winning the World Series of Poker $10,000 Championship Event. He journeys through the local card rooms of northern California, improving his game, and also regales the reader with his sojourns into the private game world, with his family and some other very colorful characters. It wraps with his eventual trek to the Mount Olympus of poker, his participation in the 2005 Championship Event of the World Series.
The book could be best stated as the "yang" to the "yin" presented by Jim McManus' seminal poker work "Positively Fifth Street". Whereas McManus' journey ended with his triumphant run to the final table of the 2000 tournament, Walsh's trip ends much less spectacularly in the 2005 event. In this journey, however, Walsh presents every turn of the card with an almost "this is the way it was supposed to go" thought in his brain and seemingly has a joke to soothe his troubled mind.
What I liked about the book was the factor that there wasn't any strategy, diagrams, hand histories or such. It was an opportunity to sit back and laugh along with Walsh as he attempted to achieve the dream that it seems everyone in the poker world has. One thing that sometimes is lacking in poker is those moments of frivolity that allow a reader to simply laugh and enjoy this game. With his book, Walsh has provided a chance for poker fans to laugh at not only his efforts but also to think about when they have been in the same situation and, while possibly painful then, laugh about it now.
One thing that was slightly disappointing was the length of the book. At only 147 pages (counting the glossary, done with a nod to the "Naked Gun" movies tradition of putting irrelevant information in the credits), it could potentially have been a longer look at his struggles. Walsh does pack plenty of information on his journey (liberally spiced with expletives along the way), though, including his realization that potentially his wife was the poker player in the family and not himself. A longer book may have started to stretch the attention span of some readers, however, so it is possibly a good thing that it is only as long as it is. It can be read in an afternoon and is definitely an enjoyable way to spend the time.
"How To Win The World Series of Poker (Or Not)" isn't going to present a radical new approach to the game of poker. It isn't going to suddenly "show the light" to success at the tables. But it will give you a chance to enjoy the trials and tribulations as a person goes to compete in the event with little experience in the poker world. For giving us a chance to enjoy, laugh about and commiserate with him on his trip, Pat Walsh has to be commended. The book is well worth a read to get back to the spot where we all started at in poker…enjoying the game.
Ed Note: The last three guys who have won the WSOP play on Poker Stars sign up today, and find out why