Poker – my best friend, my love, my downfall. There are some great novels out there that feature poker – here’s a sample!
1) The Prodigal by Alexander J Allison
“Martin is twenty-one, an age not worth lying about. He’s been happily doing nothing, claiming to be a professional online Poker player. But now, he’s facing a life away from the corrupting influence of overwhelming privilege.
In lean, distinct prose, punctuated with unpredictable typography, Alexander J. Allison’s first novel is a humorous, sharp and fresh look at the things that make living better than dying. Or not, whatever.”
2) Rich in Small Things by Helen J Beal
This is the one about me. Well, mainly about me.
“What do you do when you owe the Ukrainian mafia a huge amount of money that you don’t have? Drive a twenty-year old ambulance ten thousand kilometers from London to the remotest country in the world, of course. Not to run away, you understand, but to bag your share of a million pound cash prize.”
3) The Big Blind by Louise Wener
“Audrey Unger hasn’t seen her father since she was a child. A professional poker player and compulsive gambler, he left home when she was eleven years old and disappeared from her life for good. Now in her early thirties and poised on the edge of her own mid-life crisis, she makes the decision to try and find him. To discover what it was that made him gamble. To discover what drove him to give her up. Big Louie is the key to her father’s world.An agoraphobic, card playing, Hans Christian Anderson sized giant, who hasn’t left his flat in over three years.”
4) The Cincinnati Kid by Richard Jessup
A 1963 classic made into a film in 1965 starring the legend that is Steve McQueen.
“Poker’s not just a game to the fellow they call the Cincinnati Kid. It’s what gives his life meaning. Now the time has come for him to make his play for the big time and take on the best stud player in the business, the one they call “The Man”.
Watch the trailer for the film here.
5) Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
“From the celebrated author of The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost comes a remarkable, intimate novel of intersecting lives that ranges across continents and time. In the 1970s in Northern California a father and his teenage daughters, Anna and Claire, work their farm with the help of Coop, an enigmatic young man who makes his home with them. Theirs is a makeshift family, until it is shattered by an incident of violence that sets fire to the rest of their lives. Divisadero takes us from San Francisco to the raucous backrooms of Nevada’s casinos and eventually to the landscape of southern France. As the narrative moves back and forth through time and place, we find each of the characters trying to find some foothold in a present shadowed by the past.”
6) The Rogue’s Game by Milton T Burton
Released in 2005, set in 1947:
“An enigmatic man driving a fine Lincoln convertible and accompanied by a beautiful blonde, comes to a small West Texas town. Ostensibly, his purpose is to get into a poker game that had been going at the infamous Weilbach Hotel. But as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that he has a darker motive, one that centers on a sinister local banker named Clifton Robillard. Aided by an old-time hood named Chicken Little, the protagonist maneuvers Robillard toward a shattering climax in which we discover that nothing is what it seems to be. With its wildcatting spirit, The Rogues’ Game is a high stakes novel and an exquisite quest for revenge.”
7) Tap City by Ron Abell
“The players came to Reno from all over–Honolulu, Las Vegas, New Orleans, New York–to take part in Stretch Jackson’s Seven-Card Stud Poker Classic. The stakes were high, but the risks were immeasurable. Stretch, six-and-half-feet tall if he ever straightened up, wearing eight-hundred dollar boots and a diamond ring he could have swapped across the board for a Rolls Royce, could have told them that: he knew that the game had nothing to do with cards – it had to do with people. They are all here in Tap City: the deadly old pros and the young up-and-comers.”
8) Stone Junction by Jim Dodge
“Starting with his mother’s ’roundhouse’ right to a nun’s jaw, Stone Junction is a modern odyssey of one man’s quest for knowledge and understanding in a world where revenge, betrayal, revolution, mind-bending chemicals, magic and murder are the norm. With jaw-dropping scope, a stiletto-sharp wit and an array of utterly bizarre characters, Jim Dodge has woven a mesmerising and age-defining tale. Like a river constantly changing direction, Stone Junction is both stomach-clutching hilarious and heart-rendingly sad – but always utterly compelling. Prepare to step into a world where nothing is ever as it seems.”
9) The Prop by Pete Hautman
“Peeky Kane is a prop player at an Arizona casino owned by the Santa Cruz tribe. Her job is to play poker. She makes a handsome living off the suckers who populate the card room. Life is sweet.
But something’s not right at Casino Santa Cruz. When Peeky inadvertently finds herself in a fixed game and comes away a couple thousand dollars richer, she finds herself drawn unwittingly toward the dark side of professional poker. Peeky has always thought of herself as a straight shooter, but now things aren’t so clear. And they’re about to get a lot murkier.”
What are your favourite novels featuring poker? Please add them in the comments section if they are not listed here!
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