The Women in Poker Hall of Fame was founded six years ago.
Attend each of the four official induction ceremonies held so far has been an honor, which celebrated so many of the wonderful women who have been an integral part of our game and who have helped poker to grow, especially among other ladies.
I’m also fortunate to have a vote in the election as to who gets inducted, a responsibility I take very seriously. The trouble is — all of the nominees which have been proposed this year are worthy of consideration. Perhaps over time, they will all receive the honor they rightly deserve.
My choice was a difficult one. I personally know 6 of the 7 ladies on this year’s ballot. All have my deepest respect.
However, this year I decided to cast my votes for two women, who I think are really special and the most deserving.
The winter of WSOP discontent, in 2004 just before the re-opening.
Writer’s Note: Ten years ago this week, the World Series of Poker was held for the last time in its entirety at Binion’s Horseshoe. What few people know is — the series almost didn’t happen that year. A few months after Chris Moneymaker’s victory ignited the poker boom, the casino was boarded up, padlocked by federal marshals, and eventually sold off to Harrah’s Entertainment. The shuttered building sat dark and vacant during the entire winter of 2004. Yet somehow, by April 23rd the casino was re-opened for business again was ready to host the 35th annual WSOP. This is the story of how that remarkable poker series came to be, against all odds.
Binion’s Horseshoe was a total fuckhouse.
Sure, it was a great place to work when I was there. And I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world. But not everyone saw it that way.
By the time the doors were nailed shut and boarded over with plywood in January of 2004, more than 800 former employees were flushed out into the streets looking for work. That might not seem like a big deal. People lose jobs all the time. But the vast majority of former Horseshoe workers had been around for years, like barnacles attached to a sunken ship. They weren’t just part of the local scene — they were the scene. They’d given their lives to the Binion Family and that grand old building so embarrassingly out-of-touch with the times. Now here they were — mostly older people with retirement plans now stripped away — having to hustle to find a job.
Being somewhere over the rainbow in years made things difficult enough. But then there was the baggage each carried on their backs. One by one we gradually came to realize how deep-rooted our outlaw reputations were within the casino industry. We weren’t black sheep. We were child molesters. No one wanted anything to do with us.
Being a former Horseshoe employee was like wearing The Scarlet Letter. Most former employees who I kept in touch with had serious difficulty finding work. After so much rejection, the explanation became painfully obvious. Why else were so many good people with multiple years of casino experience not getting hired anywhere else — especially on The Las Vegas Strip which at the time was going through a boom period?
As phone calls went unreturned and rejection letters piled up, rather than tout one’s experience as a laid-off Horseshoe employee, some of my former associates began doing what was unthinkable. They left blank spaces on their resumes. If some nosy interviewer in personnel somewhere got curious and asked where they’d been working the past three years, the applicant might as well respond with “serving time.” It was pretty much the same thing. Being associated with the Horseshoe was like getting out of a prison and looking for work while out on parole.
But I was far luckier than most.
In fact, I was probably the luckiest former Horseshoe employee of all.
It’s much longer than usual, running at 45 minutes. With ten books on the agenda, that’s about 4 to 5 minutes of discussion per book — hardly enough time given the depth and complexity of some of these master works.
Think of a low-budget (make that “no-budget”) Brian Lamb’s BOOK TV program on C-SPAN, which is a full one-hour discussion. That’s what I was going for with this video.
I’m frequently asked which are my favorite poker books.
Surprisingly, I get this question more often from non-players, than players. I think that’s because there’s still a fair amount of curiosity, even intrigue, when it comes to poker — especially among those who don’t play regularly and know little about the game, or the people in it.
That said, there’s a difference between the “best” poker books and those which have had the greatest impact on the game and how it’s widely perceived. Certainly, there’s some crossover too, but the most meaningful poker books are those rare few texts which broadened poker’s mass appeal and gave us a greater understanding of things we didn’t know before. A meaningful poker book challenges old assumptions we once held and reshapes our vision. This applies to the way others look at the game and they way we see ourselves. The best authors even took risks and made sacrifices in pursuit of new subject matter and came to unexpected conclusions.
Indeed, to make my list, the book had to represent a historical breakthrough. Yet, considering poker’s long and rich history which traces way back to the foundation of the republic, including all the colorful characters who have partaken in its enticement, it’s puzzling as to why an abundance of great non-fiction narratives about poker don’t exist. By “narrative,” I mean a book which chronicles events which actually happened.
After reviewing the many books I’ve read over the years (and I think I’ve covered all the major titles), here’s my list of the most important non-fiction books ever written about poker. I’ll proceed in reverse order, starting with the “honorable mention” category, ultimately leading up to my top choice.
Additional Note — I wish to emphasize these books are all narratives. Strategy books are not included and probably deserve a separate list. Moreover, works of fiction could be another category.