Tony Korfman’s Poker Book
Tony Korfman’s poker book has been sitting on the bottom shelf of my office library for almost five years, gathering dust.
Make that Korfman’s two books. For some reason, two copies were sent to me — unsolicited. He either really, really wanted me to write a book review. Or, his agent is a royal screw up.
Wait, Tony Korfman has an agent?
For those who don’t know Korfman, how shall I describe him? His bio page says he was “born in New York, raised by seagulls in San Francisco, and now lives in Las Vegas.” These days, he’s usually camped out in some dumpy poker room, wearing a leather logo-laden NASCAR bomber jacket that has to be hot as blazes during the summertime. I mean who wears a leather bomber jacket when its 115 degrees outside?
Tony Korfman! That’s who!
I have no idea what compelled me to crack open his book a few days ago following such a long hibernation. Like a forgotten classic Montrachet, it’s been there in the book cellar aging forever, aching to be opened for all the floral splendor to be enjoyed.
Here’s a little more about Korfman.
He’s 70, going on 17. For many years, the Las Vegas poker scene has produced a joyous stream of “Korfman sightings.” Towering at well over 6-feet tall, he’s easy to spot. Sit in any game long enough and Korfman eventually will surface. He’s like Jaws. The stealthy beast just pops up out of nowhere with mouth and jaws snipping and snapping full blast, bred from birth to rip into flesh. No one knows how much or how many of Korfman’s stories are actually true. I suspect all of them, because you can’t make this shit up. It’s doesn’t really matter. They’re usually funny as hell.
Korfman is one of those no-nonsense old pricks who both irritates and gets irritated by anyone who’s younger than him, which means just about everybody who plays poker nowadays. He’s chicken-necked 22-year-old punks right out of their seats and has even taken swings at people. You gotta’ love that. Yet, he’s never been banned so far as I know. Now, that’s skill. Korfman’s antics might not appeal to everyone, and might even be shocking at times, but he’s usually doing what the rest of us all want to do. At the table, he takes no prisoners. He’s poker’s prize pit bull. If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, Korfman will return in another life as a rooster in a cockfight.
Consder the following fact. Right now, there’s a 62-page thread exclusively dedicated to Korfman on TwoPlusTwo (2+2), which makes him damned-near a legend. I mean, who in the hell generates 62 pages of posts at TwoPlusTwo?
Answer: Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, and….Tony Korfman!
Korfman’s book written some five years ago is called Texas Hold’em: Tournaments, Cash Games, and Embarrassing Social Gas. That appalling title pretty much sums up what you’d expect, which shock-jock humor and a long-winded narrative that pulls no punches. He’s an equal-opportunity jackass.
The book worked for me. Totally. But then I love provocation. For me, what made this a compelling read was the authenticity, the brutal honesty — laughing out loud at just about everyone, but most of all himself. No one in Korfman’s life gets off easy, including Korfman who bears his soul between the covers.
That said, this book is a mess. It bounces around from subject to subject and zig-zags like a deranged man hooked on steriods. But that’s the appeal, too. This is train wreck poker at its finest. Poker’s Howard Stern Show. And, if you don’t like the topic you’re reading, then turn the page where he shoots off onto another tangent. It’s more unpredictable than mid-March weather.
Korfman also happens to be a pretty good writer, his skills undoubtedly enhanced by being a gifted storyteller. I like that all of his material has a point to it. Rather than merely self-indulgent, there’s usually a higher purpose to the lunacy. Perhaps the biggest shocker is this: There’s actually lots of good poker advice, that is, if you can stop laughing long enough to take it in. What’s particularly helpful are his thoughts on low buy-in tournaments, which has become Korfman’s fortay. At 388 pages, the book reads faster than you’d expect.
Of course, Korfman’s off-beat brand of in-your-face humor won’t appeal to everyone. There’s plenty here to offend lot of people. But behind his growl and bite, there’s a gentler man who cares enough that he’s willing to share what he knows, which I think merits some curiousity.
Can one person be both a hero and villian at the same time? Yes, indeed. In his book, Tony Korfman wears both masks convincingly.
Note: This is actually Korfman’s seventh gambling-related book, following a series of primers on craps, slots, and other games. No, I haven’t actually read his other books, most of which were published back in the 1980’s. Unless there are two Tony Korfman’s in this world writing about casino games, then I presume he’s the one guilty of penning “Slots: Playing to Win, a Humorous and Informative Gaming Guide.” Come to think of it, that book sounds so laughingly bad, it might actually be pretty good. Its on order. Review to come.