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Book Review: Deal Me In

Twenty Leading Poker Players Detail the Ups and Downs of their Careers Makes for Riveting Read


In the five years I’ve been writing about and working in the poker industry I’ve heard a lot of stories. Indeed, when Deal Me In fell through my letter box I casually assumed I’d be more than familiar with the stories contained therein.

How wrong I was.

The new book from, takes 20 of the world’s most recognizable poker names and cleverly and simply gives them the space to tell their stories of how they got to where they are in professional poker.

Writers Stephen John and Marvin Karlins tease these tales of triumph and despair from players such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Howard Lederer, Allen Cunningham, Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, and Chris Ferguson.

I decided to dip in with the featured European players — Carlos Mortensen, [p:David Ulliott]], Annette Obrestad, and Peter Eastgate.

Afforded time and space to flesh out their backgrounds, we glean a wealth of biographical information from the characters. From Mortensen’s wanderlust to Ulliott’s helter-skelter lifestyle, Obrestad’s almost innocent teenage fumblings with online poker to Eastgate’s confident yet humble attitude.

Ulliott is funny, of course. A natural comedian. But his humour is born out of his rough-and-ready background in Hull — his time as a safe cracker, his stints in prison, and his ultimate redemption through professional poker.

One paragraph in the introduction to his tale startlingly illustrates what poker has given him:

“During the interview for this book, Devilfish rummaged through his wallet and came upon a check stub for $1.4 million. He said that he had been walking around with the live check for over a year and had just gotten round to depositing it. When he went to the bank, he handed the check to one of the tellers, who was shocked at the condition and age of the un-cashed check. Devilfish said of the teller’s reaction, “I’m not sure but I think she may have shat herself.”

However, when he begins to recount his tale of misspent youth seedy backroom games you see just how far he had to journey to get to where he is now and how raw that story is.
Carlos Mortensen’s story is one of a man searching for something. Most likely, perfection, while he wandered from his native Ecuador to Spain and his early poker trips around Europe and the U.S. While Obrestad and Eastgate, despite not having travelled so far on their respective journeys have a well rounded and matter-of-fact attitude to the millions of dollars they have accrued.

Phil Ivey is often perceived in the media as quite inscrutable. His account of his humble, family-oriented beginnings, his early telemarketing career and how often he went broke and had to return to his sales job to build his bankroll back up seem at odds with his persona while Tom Dwan’s desire to do something else outside of poker reveals how the game and what it means differs for everyone.

However, common themes emerge – drive, passion, focus, – but each tale offers the reader a unique perspective on the players and it comes highly recommended for both the cynical old-hands among us or the virgin player dipping their toes in the poker water for the first time.

Everyone has to start somewhere and these stories, which detail how each player got their first bankrolls off the ground, will no doubt inspire someone who, one day, will be asked to tell the story of their successes. Exactly like these players have.

Check out an exclusive extract from Scotty Nguyen’s story.