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Deal Me In -- Allen Cunningham

An Exclusive Excerpt from Phil Hellmuth's New Book


Allen CunninghamIn its pages are never-before-revealed details of the lives of some of the biggest names in poker. Phil Hellmuth’s new book profiles 20 of the biggest poker players in the world, giving the reader an intimate look at the game’s biggest celebrities.

Deal Me In, a collection of autobiographical accounts from many of poker’s elite, is now available to order online exclusively at The book highlights the struggles, obstacles, and tragedies that 20 of the greatest poker pros have overcome in their journeys to the top. is providing exclusive excerpts from the book each Sunday. This week’s passage focuses on Allen Cunningham, who talks about his days playing at Indian casinos while attending UCLA:

“My parents were peripherally aware that I was playing, but they really had no idea how focused I had become, and how unfocused in class. I began screwing up in school, but still continued to play each week. There were several times when I seriously questioned myself — what was I doing? Every time I lost, I replayed the whole scenario in my head while driving back to school. I reflected on what I had done wrong and what I would do next. But the following weekend, I’d be off to the casino and, more often than not, losing money again. I felt awful about it, but that didn’t stop me from playing.

“On one of those soul-searching drives, I zoned out behind the wheel of my car. I ended up running a red light and rear-ending a little old lady in the car in front of me. I felt horrible as I watched this poor, elderly woman stumble out of her car. Someone nearby called the police. Although the woman wasn’t physically hurt, it was obvious that she was a little shaken, and she started dramatizing the event to anyone who would listen. Everyone was looking at me as if I were some degenerate, bullying a frail little woman who was probably delivering cookies to the nearby orphanage, for all I knew. And as if the situation wasn’t humiliating enough, when the officer asked me what had happened, I began to describe the accident in an animated fashion, pointing out the position of the cars, the directions we were heading, and that sort of thing. Near the end of my diatribe, I turned to point out some inconsequential fact and ended up stabbing the poor woman in the eye with my finger.

“This was not one of my better days. Fortunately, the woman lived and even kept her eyesight — well, as far as I know, anyway. And I had survived a very embarrassing situation. But that brief lapse of concentration did not deter me from my quest to learn more and more about poker. In fact, it taught me a lot about the important role that concentration plays at the table, and how even a momentary lapse could derail me. I also learned that I should stay away from little old ladies.”

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