Monday, June 06, 2011

New book from Tommy Angelo

I loved Tommy Angelo's first book, Elements of Poker (EOP), as you might have guessed from the number of snippets from it that I posted here. It's wise, pithy, insightful, memorable, unique, with the most inventive and clever use of language ever put into a poker book.

I was therefore excited recently when Angelo contacted me and asked if he could send me, gratis, a copy of his newest work, A Rubber Band Story and Other Poker Tales. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, you may. I finished reading it last week.

As advertised, it's a collection of 55 stories, all but six of them nonfictional, most or all of which have been published in various print or online venues over the last ten years. I had read maybe three of them before, but the rest were new to me. A couple are quite well known, such as his adventure in folding aces before the flop for no reason other than to prove to himself that he could do it, and his celebration of the beauty of the buy-the-button rule.

The tone ranges from grumpy (rant about the stupid "I want to see that hand" rule) to whimsical (stories of animals playing poker) to affectionate (those about his wife, Kay, and his best friend, Alex). Several made me laugh out loud--especially the punchline to a story in which he managed to make Alex positively apoplectic over how Angelo played a tournament hand. Some of them celebrate his best ideas and plays, while in others he pokes fun at his own foibles, such as acting out of turn because he was busy revising an article on the importance of paying attention.

The tales make for light reading--but if you're not careful, he'll slip in a lesson that might help your game, one about strategy or mindset or bankroll management.

I'll list here the handful of flaws I noticed, even though it's nitpicky of me to do so. Once a copy editor, always a copy editor. Besides, I know that Angelo values getting these things right.
  • There is a missing quotation mark on page 22, and another on page 90.
  • "BBPH," which can stand for several different things depending on context, is an abbreviation or an initialism, not an acronym (page 44), though, to be fair, there is some disagreement on these labels (see here, e.g.).
  • On page 104, a question mark should be after the quotation mark, rather than before it.
  • Pages 105 and 106 are reversed in order.
That's a pretty small list of pretty minor quibbles, compared to most of the badly edited stuff I read.

A Rubber Band Story is a fun, interesting read, full of amusing stories and unforgettable characters, told in Angelo's distinctive style. If you expect it to be EOP 2 you'll be disappointed. It's not. But accept it for what it is, and I think you'll have a rollicking good time reading it. (Available from here.)

To give you a sample of the tone, I'm going to close this post with some excerpts from my favorite chapter, titled, simply, "Folding," written in 2006:
I played poker for ten years before I discovered folding in 1984. That's when I met Bobby. He had a big belly, a big beard, and a big laugh. Bobby was like Santa Claus, minus the giving. He just kept throwing his hand away, and he didn't seem to mind. Then he would carry the money away, and the players didn't seem to mind.

So I started folding more often, to see what would happen.... It was so new, so exciting. I was high from it, like an explorer.... But it didn't stop there. Oh no. Before long I got hooked on the hard stuff, like folding on the river when I had a good hand.

Soon I went to Vegas. After a week in the desert, I felt like Charles Darwin must have felt on the Galapagos Islands, having traveled to an isolated land, where he found strange new ecosystems populated by bizarre species. What I discovered on Las Vegas Island was that in the poker ecosystem, at the top of the food chain, sat the folders....

I couldn't get over how comfortable the folders were, with all of it, with the folding, with the comments [about their tight play], and they'd just sit there, behind their tall stacks and long smiles, and muck, one more time.

I was like, okay, I see how this works now. It's like a club. The folders club. Well, whatever it was, I wanted in.

After my first taste of big-time folding, I felt that if I could get really good at it, I could quit my job....

By 1990 I was folding enough to support my food and rent habit. This freed up lots of time for more folding....

My path became a gentle incline that coaxed me up to a sunny ledge where I stopped, and sat, and I looked around in wonder, for I could see the top of the mountain far away and high above, and I could see the bottom, waiting for me, should I neglect my folding.


Mike said...

When is it going to be published and available to regular customers like me?

Rakewell said...

Available now. I just added a link to the post for amazon purchase.

Tommy Angelo said...

"Besides, I know that Angelo values getting these things right."

Oh he surely does! And thanks to the wonders of on-demand printing, I'll be able fix the problems you found so that future readers who happen to be copy editors won't get tripped up. :-)


Big-O said...

Thanx for not correcting my comments to you G-Man. I hope my arrangement of words don't never bother you.