PokerNews Book Review: Poker Tilt by Three-Time Bracelet Winner Dutch Boyd
In the new book The Moneymaker Effect, which was recently reviewed here on PokerNews, author Eric Raskin highlights the rise of Dutch Boyd during the 2003 World Series of Poker. He was considered one of the game's brightest up and comers, but since then Boyd has ventured in and out of the poker spotlight, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for bad.
Now, Boyd documents his life in a new book, Poker Tilt, which was created after a successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2013. The new book is primarily a biography, but also offers up various pieces of strategy and life lessons. I had the opportunity to read Poker Tilt during the 2014 WSOP, where Boyd unexpectedly won his third gold bracelet. The timing couldn’t have been better as it coincided with the release of his book — plus it allowed him to take care of that court order against him and pay Mason Malmuth the money owed (unfortunately none of this is in the book).
Poker Tilt got off to a rough start. Boyd is a solid writer, but he doesn’t have the experience and talent of Jim McManus and Nolan Dalla. As such, the writing is a little rough around the edges and unpolished, much like Boyd is himself. The book also starts off a bit unstructured, as if it had been haphazardly thrown together, though that ultimately proved not to be the case.
It quickly became apparent that Poker Tilt had a lot to offer in the way of poker history. Love him or hate him, Boyd is a character that’s been around the poker block for more than a decade, and he shares the ups and downs he’s experienced — such as explaining what led to the downfall of his online site Pokerspot and being brutally honest about his bipolar illness — and offers up some amusing stories. Phil Laak smoking pot? That’s in there.
Poker chews up and spits out players on a consistent basis, but few have spent as much time in the game's jaws as Boyd. In Poker Tilt, you can share in his journey, which should serve as a cautionary tale for those looking to make poker their profession. At times I laughed, sympathized, and chastised, but in the end I closed the book feeling refreshed and entertained. That's what makes Poker Tilt a solid read and a fine addition to any poker bookshelf.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Boyd and talk to him a bit more about Poker Tilt.
PokerNews: What’s been the reaction to the book thus far?
Boyd: So far it’s been overwhelmingly positive. Every few days I’ll get another review on Amazon from someone saying that they enjoyed the read. Right now there are 18 reviews on the site, with 17 of them being five-star reviews and the lone exception being a four-star review.
When I was writing the book, I felt like it was good. There were a lot of lines in there where I couldn’t help but laugh out loud after I wrote them. Some of the stories and phrasing have different levels, and every once in awhile I’d write something that I really liked. But at the same time, I feel like we are all our own worst critics and I definitely expected the reaction to the book to largely be negative, and it hasn’t been. It’s been really positive.
What inspired you to write the book?
The book was primarily written out of necessity to pay rent, honestly. I had moved to Seattle to try and get a real job outside of poker, and had just run into wall after wall. A 12-year gap on my résumé — 1999 to Present: Professional Gambler — it just wasn’t leading to a ton of interest in employers.
I had scraped by for a few months giving poker lessons on PokerClinic.com, a site which I’m putting a new face to over the next few weeks. These were super cheap, like $30 per hour. One of the guys I had been giving lessons to had written a couple of books about real estate. He kept encouraging me to write a book. He said he’d help, so eventually I broke down and agreed.
We spent a few hundred man hours together on the format and came up with a table of contents and a few sample chapters. Then we launched a Kickstarter campaign to see if it would pick up some interest. It funded, and there were a hundred or so Kickstarters who had all paid for a book that hadn’t been written yet. If I was to point to one thing that inspired the completion of Poker Tilt, the Kickstarters would be it. Without that campaign funding I don’t think it would have ever happened. I also owe a lot to Michele, my girlfriend, who was cracking the whip for months telling me to write.
Some would say your approximately 10 years in the poker world isn’t enough to warrant a biography. What would you say to those critics?
I would correct them and say it has been 15 years in the poker world [laughs], but in all seriousness, I think it’s a valid criticism. I’ve been in the trenches for a long time now. Professional poker is a transient profession. Most pros last a few years and then just disappear, like ghosts.
I’ve had a front-row seat to this drama for all of my adult life, and have somehow come up with three bracelets in the process. So I think I’m qualified. If not me, then who is? Besides, some of my favorite poker books were written by guys just diving in for a year, books like Hold’em Nation by Andy Bellin and Positively Fifth Street by James McManus.
What was it like to write a poker book on your life? Was the process easier or harder than you expected?
It was so much harder than I thought it would be. I really thought it was going to be super easy. I’ve been blogging for years, and it’s not hard for me to whip out 2,500 words in a blog post. I used to procrastinate and do 20- or 30-page term papers the night before they were due back in school.
So when I was pacing it in my head, I figured it would take a month, maybe six weeks tops, but it was so much harder than I expected. Sometimes I’d spend days just looking at the same paragraph, trying to sort through all the baggage I’ve been carrying around with me. Trying to figure out what’s worth locking into ink and what’s worth just forgetting about.
In the end, I wrote close to 300 pages and edited out probably 20 percent of fluff. It took more than a year from the time when I started actually writing to the day where I was holding a paperback book in my hands with my name on the cover.
Is there anything that isn’t in the book that you wish now you’d have included?
I don’t think I would really change much. I’m fairly happy with the end product, both with what’s included and what’s left out. Between you and me and your readers, though, I’m working on a follow-up book with just strategy. Finishing this one has given me the confidence to know that I can actually finish something.
In the book there is quite a bit of drug use, and oftentimes you mention poker players by name. Has there been any blowback for doing so?
So far, I haven’t had much blowback, and the only instances I can point to had nothing to do with the drug use portions of Poker Tilt. Instead, they were blowback for benign stories that I wouldn’t have ever thought anyone could have taken offense to. You never can tell how someone is going to react to what you write about them.
I really try in the book not to demonize anybody. I’ve tried to paint a fair and honest portrait of the larger-than-life characters I’ve come across in the poker world. These are our game’s future legends, and I don’t think Poker Tilt takes away from that legacy. Hopefully it adds to it.
Similarly, what has been the reaction from those in “The Crew?”
The only "Crew" guys who I know have read it are Brett Jungblut, Tony Lazar, and my brother, Bobby. All of them said they loved it. I gave Joey a copy, and he promises to read it soon. I think people like reading about themselves. It’s comforting to know that even when we’re gone, there is going to be this written record that keeps our memory alive.
In the book you also talk about the touchy subject of Pokerspot. Was it hard to put such things to paper?
Pokerspot and my battle with bipolar disorder were the two toughest things to write about in the book, for sure.
Now that your rise and fall in the poker world from the start up until last year has been documented, what do you hope the future holds for you both on and off the felt?
I just hope that I keep on putting up solid results in the WSOP, proving every year that I’m a relevant player in today’s game. I hope that I’m able to keep carving out a little niche for myself in this world where I can take care of myself and my girlfriend. It’s hard to make it in this world, and if I can keep moving forward without ever having to pawn off a bracelet to make rent, I’ll call it a win.
For more on Boyd, check out his winner interview from the 2014 WSOP: