The Noble Hustle falls somewhere in the middle between a book about poker and a book about the author's permanently blue soul, as well as, his experiences in and around Las Vegas. Speaking of the latter, at times it's a little much. The reader is journeying inside Colson's head, and that's a decidedly unsettling place to be most of the time. Occasionally I could relate. I think relation is key here. Those who don't care about poker won't like this book. Those who aren't the slightest bit depressed, existentially weird, or misanthropic won't care for it, either.
I wish there had been a little more on the poker coaching at the beginning and a little less about his younger self going to Vegas somewhere around the book's middle - that just seemed like filler. Did I get a sense of what the WSOP Main Event is like? Yes, I think so. It lacked certain Texas Hold'em details I was hoping for, but oh well.
All in all, I was pleased with The Noble Hustle. Will you...
Colson Whitehead does a great job of taking you inside the dreams of the normal, and more often, the abnormal, poker-playing American. I read the book because I heard the NPR segment about it, and my brother was headed to WSOP. It was a great crash course book to see how one person figured out what it does/doesn't take to get there and I saw many of the same tactics employed by my brother (consulting books/cheat sheets, supplementing 'the' game with other sit n' gos, etc). Overall, I liked Whitehead's snarky, sarcastic attitude, and I know I laughed out loud at a few times, but sometimes the writing style left me trailing off the book and thinking about other things or skimming ahead. Maybe it is a testament to him doing the same as he tackled this subject...trailing off, taking an aside, going back/forth in time. I do wish he had talked a bit more about his actual experience at WSOP and not the leading up to it and the afterward.
Mom always said profanity is evidence of a limited vocabulary which may be why I am sensitive to it. Not that it does not have a place in writing and in life, but Whitehead, like many Millennial writers tends to use it as casual adverbs and adjectives and this overuse becomes wearing as you move through the pages. The book itself seems a bit forced. I found out that it is an "expansion" of a magazine article and feels like it. A title that would have worked is "But I digress ..." since he leads us down so many side streets. Some of the poker stuff is interesting but it is a thin veneer on the workings of the pro circuit.
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