The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King

Andy Beal is a wealthy Texas banker that started frequenting the Las Vegas card rooms in search of high-stakes poker games around the turn of the millennium. By 2001, Andy, who owns one of the most profitable banks in Texas, would go from a complete unknown to the man who initiated the richest game in history. His mission was clear: to challenge the best players in the world heads-up for higher stakes than were ever previously wagered. The stakes were so rich that all of the pros involved would pool their bankrolls together to accommodate Mr. Beal’s insatiable appetite for action.

Spearheaded by Doyle Brunson, a respected team of players including Howard Lederer, Chip Reese and Ted Forest would collectively accept his challenge. Over the next few years, Beal would travel back and forth between Las Vegas and his Dallas home whenever he could spare the time. Lasting through 2004, the games would range in stakes from 10k-20k, all the way up to 100k-200k. The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King was one man’s depiction of the events leading up to and through the richest game ever played. Michael Craig did a fantastic job of uncovering the many secretive events that went on during that three year period of time.

The book does jump a round a lot, and it is very easy to overlook important things, like the rehashing of a past event, or an undisclosed gap in time. Other than televised tournaments and public card rooms, poker is a game of secrets as much as it is a game of skill. Private cash games, such as those that take place in this book, are almost impossible to research. It is amazing that Craig was able to get as much information as he did, and he does a great job piecing together fragments to create a well written documentary. With no source of reference other than the words of the people involved, the greatest concern of the book is whether Craig can separate historical fact from rumors and speculation surrounding the game. While it is possible that parts of the story were exaggerated for effect, Craig does a good job citing sections that are absolute truth and suggesting where fabrications may exist.

The book offers no real strategy, and it was written mainly for entertainment purposes. With the rise of poker and the recent popularity of its all-stars, the market has started to become saturated in documentary and biographical type books. This is not the case at all with The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King. Inspired by actual events, Craig takes this remarkable story and turns it into an epic tale, and a must-have for any true fan of the game.

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