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Review - ' Life on Tilt: confessions of a poker dad ' - John Blowers - from written by Jeffrey Prest

Review – ' Life on Tilt: confessions of a poker dad ' – John Blowers – from written by Jeffrey Prest

John Blowers' novel gives us Johnnoe Zandoken, a man in conflict.

By day a businessman with a wife and family, Zandoken is by night a poker player and one whose prowess compels him to aim a little higher with his game than most of us 'hobbyists'.

Zandoken doesn't see the time-drain that bonus-chasing so often entails in online poker: he goes for it anyway and clocks up those hours. He doesn't just talk about the World Series of Poker, he sets out to get there with a vengeance.
All this ignites the tension between gambling's allure and life's mundane responsibilities, around which the book revolves. His wife could give Sybil Fawlty a run for her money when it comes to resenting her husband enjoying himself, although her mood is hardly helped by Johnnoe's infatuation with another woman, arising from the ridiculously protracted palaver American companies apparently go through when recruiting new executives.

It's by no means a book that uses poker merely as a prop and if the hand analyses may limit the novel's appeal for anyone on the outside looking in, online poker players with a dream will warm to both the tactical tips and the account of a world they know only too well (computer crash during a tournament? You're not alone) particularly if they find Zandoken a surrogate for their own frustrated ambitions.

Assuming that the author is no stranger to Sin City, he has some perceptive observations on the unreality of life there and the quirks of its principal card game. Zandoken's calculation that Daniel Negreanu has just lost in two hands what a minimum-wage Nevadan would take 30 years to earn, achieves the neat trick of being simultaneously astonishing and unsurprising, while his disgust at the state of attire of certain WSOP qualifiers ("I'd much rather see…a dress code than a language code. They can edit out bad words but bad outfits are another story") confirms a certain 'online warrior' stereotype that will bring a smile to more faces than just mine.

The comment on The Flamingo as our hero's choice of home-from-home doesn't go unnoticed ("the venue that most represents Vegas to me") nor does a vicious con-trick perpetrated on a targeted prize-winner that, frighteningly, rings just as true as Blowers' pen pictures of the famous poker names whom Johnnoe encounters during the tournament.

Either by design or mishap, the lead character's dialogue, particularly in the presence of doe-eyed, unattached women, is excruciating but the author's characterisation generally is good. He presents people you believe in, a hero you care about and stays true to the game, revealing the grind behind poker's glitz as the plot progresses smoothly to an inevitable ultimatum.

Life on Tilt hasn't enough to succeed beyond the boundaries of its subject matter in the way Big Deal did but for poker players everywhere it is a highly enjoyable read.