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Review from Edition of Boom Magazine By Madelyn Thorn

Review from Edition of Boom Magazine By Madelyn Thorn

There are a few reasons you should purchase a copy of “Life on Tilt, Confessions of a Poker Dad.”

  1. Poker is hot and it might be nice to find out what everyone is talking about.
  2. It could solve your Father’s Day gift dilemma.
  3. Ten percent of the proceeds will benefit Junior Achievement of Northeastern New York (www.janeny.org).
  4. It’s a really good book.
  5. John Blowers is a local, first time author who tells us a story that is clever, well written and takes us down some paths we might not otherwise travel.

When does a passion become an addiction? When do your desires outweigh your responsibilities? After working the job, mowing the lawn and taking care of your family, don’t you deserve a little fun, a little time of your own? So starts the downfall of Johnnoe Zandoken, husband, father, corporate employee as he becomes consumed by the thrills of poker.

The dialog feels real, particularly the conversations between Johnnoe and his concerned and confused wife, Rachel. Since I’m not a poker player, I have to put my faith in Blowers’ depiction of that world. It certainly seemed realistic to me. To be honest, the only thing I know about the game is what I catch as I channel surf with the remote. Yet I very much enjoyed Tilt, finding Blowers’ introduction into this world to be interesting, fun, even a bit of a page-turner. So please don’t walk by this book simply because you aren’t a card player. Blowers has a nice way of explaining the intricacies of the game clearly without breaking up the narrative. He includes line drawings of card hands to help the uninitiated understand the action and a small glossary to explain poker terminology. Never having been to Las Vegas or at a casino card table, I had to, once again, put my faith in Blowers, but I believe the foreword written by famed poker champion, “Cowboy” Kenna James, attests to the authenticity of those scenes. 

“Life on Tilt” is exactly that — a study of a man’s life as it spirals out of control, as Johnnoe makes decision after decision that tears apart not only his life, but also the lives of everyone that loves him. He’s living a middle class life in mid-management with a wife and two kids. It’s all fine, but it’s not enough. His marriage isn’t working as well as he’d like, so he starts to look for a little something to spice things up. Poker seems to offer the challenge he needs and he seems to have a gift for the game. He didn’t set out to be a selfish or thoughtless man; he wants to be a good husband, a good father, but the competition, the adrenaline rush, the camaraderie of the tables keep calling him away. 

The author lives and works locally and like the work of Richard Russo, “Tilt” is a character driven story told from the male point of view and uses surroundings familiar to most of us in the Capital Region as the settings for Zandoken’s family and work, which always gives me a kick. He also includes fictionalized scenes with apparently well-known poker players — those we’ve seen staring at their cards on ESPN — which also helps with realism of “Tilt.” Blowers took some impressive risks with his characters and storyline, and managed to surprise me with the twist and turns of Zandoken’s journey, which is one of the best gifts an author can extend to their readers.