‘For Richer, For Poorer,’ Victoria Coren
After that last, mammoth blog, (thanks to all who read it, by the way, I hope you’ve all recovered now), I have decided to try to blog every time I finish a book, or as soon as possible thereafter if I am traveling/busy/too lazy to write straight away. Thus, my blog will be much easier to browse by book/author, (as I will make the book the title after this entry), and allow me to scribble various book- and reading-related ideas inbetween reviews, rather than being so exhausted after writing about the dozen books I’ve just finished that I don’t feel like it.
In the past couple of years I have got into the habit of reading one fiction book followed by one non-fiction, in order to keep myself as well-balanced as…ummm…struggling for an analogy here…as a balance with nothing on it? Looking for something non-fictiony and light to get through in the days before I leave for a month winter-evading trip to Israel, I settled on this account of how Victoria Coren, (daughter of one of my childhood heroes, Alan Coren, who wrote a series about a junior sleuth called Arthur, which I’d forgotten about until I just looked him up), went from lonely, single Londoner to lonely, single, international poker celebrity after winning nearly $1m in a high profile tournament after years of playing for fun.
I began playing poker with friends firstly in Berlin irregularly, and then very regularly in Japan with a Tuesday night group which soon became one of the highlights of my week. There was banter, tension, (even though we rarely played for particularly high stakes), camaraderie, and stories, and Coren manages to recreate this atmosphere of belonging to a group (of outcasts and misfits, as she is the first to admit), as she progresses from games at home, to games at a local, to sponsorship for the novelty of seeing a female player resulting in games at international tournaments.
There are plenty of characters, and cute stories, (I loved the friend who would sing ‘Happy Birthday’ every time there was a power cut and the lights went out, and the honesty of the friend who tells her:
“Everything I have achieved has been through brains and charms alone. I haven’t achieved very much…”)
and you get an insight into the evolution of the game from shady Western origins, through shady back street dens, to crisp, internet-driven phenomenon, (and the etiquette changes which accompany these changes).
But for me, I most enjoyed the way each chapter ended with a deconstruction of the hands she was dealt, one by one, in the European Poker Tour she won in 2006: I play cards mainly for the thrill I get every time I see a new hand, and I was speeding through chapters to get to the next hand and see how it played out. In fact, I was reading those pages with my hand blocking the lines ahead to stop myself jumping ahead and seeing the cards which came, or the bets that were made. This is a habit I also have when I don’t know the score of a football match and want to read how it went on bbc, when I know I will want to cheat and read ahead, one of the drawbacks of the written word compared to movies and TV.