Lee Robert Schreiber proves that America's new de facto national pastime is a metaphor for life itself. Yet card players on the other side of the Atlantic will have no trouble relating to this whimsical take on poker. The gripping book deals with psychology, human nature, measured aggression, self-esteem, and so much more. You don't have to play poker to appreciate the author's 101 life lessons, but you might just be compelled to sample a few hands before putting a dent in this witty take on everybody's favourite game and life itself.
Before penning Poker as Life: 101 Lessons From the World’s Greatest Game, Lee Robert Schreiber was (and still is) a regular contributor to titles such as Esquire, GQ, Men’s Fitness, and The New York Times. Poker as Life, the author’s first book on poker, humorously discusses the relationship between poker and life, shrewdly observing that everyday experiences often mimic the highs and lows of America’s favourite card game. The book also offers a variety of lessons which could benefit both pro and amateur poker players, the next time they take their seat at a poker table.
Beginning with an analysis of the success of online poker in recent years, Esquire Editor-in-Chief David Granger suggests that just as baseball and golf were the cultural zeitgeists of the 1980s and 1990s respectively, poker is the “new national pastime” of the noughties. Describing Schreiber as “a writer who truly understands” poker’s “mysteries and wonders”, Granger proposes that Poker as Life is “palpable proof that poker is not only a lot like life, it is life”.
After Granger’s praise, it’s clear that Schreiber and his book have a lot to live up to, but thankfully neither disappoint. Schreiber seamlessly weaves together poker terminology (known as “pokerese”) with examples of real life gameplay and allusions to the inherent similarities between poker and life. Early on in Poker as Life, Schreiber alludes to the how “poker is primarily about psychology” and throughout the title he refers to the instinct and grasp on human nature that players need in order to succeed. In lesson no.3, Schreiber suggests how “poker rewards the exemplars of controlled aggression” and later on in the book, discusses the importance of breaking habits. The “self” in poker forms an essential focus of the book, although Schreiber steers clear of any self-help textual connotations, as suggested in lesson no.15, “Love yourself”:
Huh? New-Age platitudes in a book about metaphorical killing field? Uh-no. Under-the-table self-gratification? Ugh, no.
As Schreiber goes on to note, the emphasis on the “self” refers to your “essential self” and your level of self-esteem. It’s no surprise that to succeed in poker, you should be sure of yourself and your opponents (you need only look at players such as Phil Hellmuth to gather such an insight), but Schreiber is one of the few poker authors to dedicate time to the importance of improving confidence in your gameplay. Schreiber suggests the ability to play cards is a “gift” that not everyone is born with, as, after all:
It don’t take a genius to figure out that shit ain’t shitnola and book-smart ain’t necessarily card-smart. And: If you lack intuition, you can’t win at poker
While Schreiber may appear blunt, the advice he offers throughout Poker as Life is not only to the point, it’s also incredibly useful. Players looking for a step-by-step pat-on-the-back approach to learning poker probably won’t enjoy Schreiber’s book, but those who want to know what poker is really like will find it enlightening and enjoyable read. Unfortunately, whilst researching Schreiber’s contribution to the poker titles, we found that the author had decided to “walk away from poker” because “there is nothing romantic about getting beaten at cards.” Here’s hoping Schreiber changes his mind, as the poker and gambling world will no doubt sorely miss him.