In Telling Lies and Getting Paid, Michael Konik demonstrates that there's much more to gambling than winning. The celebrated writer entertains readers with compelling anecdotes and stories about gamblers from all walks of life in all sorts of unlikely situations. From the nun who compartmentalises her card playing to the practically insane casino patrons in Macau, China, Konik explores the emotional and often amusing side of gambling. Yet the book isn't limited to second-hand accounts. The author recounts his own personal failures in trying to make his way into the World Series of Poker several years in a row, but he'll also tell you how to run a great poker game at home.
Michael Konik is a gentleman who knows his casino games. Author of the gambling classic, The Man with the $100,000 Breasts continues his tales of winners, losers and heartache in Telling Lies and Getting Paid. As a renowned journalist, few would doubt Konik’s ability to take on the role of a gambling raconteur, but what’s most impressive about this Huntington Press title is how expertly Konik weaves together his separate casino-orientated stories. Beginning with an account of a bridge playing extraordinaire, whom Konik compares to Cary Grant’s character in "To Catch a Thief", to the exploits of a gambling nun who prefers not to get caught up in the morality issues surrounding her favourite past-time, the writer paints and perfects an incredible portrait of locations ranging from Las Vegas (of course), to Macau.
In reference to the latter, it’s perhaps surprising that Konik addresses the “new” gambling capital in his book. Unlike other gambling-focused authors, who prefer to sweep Macau’s insistence (and some would say, success) with regards to becoming the next Las Vegas under the carpet, Konik doesn’t shirk from discussing the casino experience in this Chinese province. In the aptly titled “Holy Macau!” chapter, Konik addresses how visitors to Macau “are stone-cold-out-of-their-minds crazy about gambling” and also elaborates on how the gameplay of these players may influence the future of US based casinos.
Konik is not only able to analyse the burgeoning gambling scene in Macau. The writer also offers critical advice on how to play Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The aforementioned chapter forms perhaps one of the most irreverent and entertaining sections of the book, as Konik details how even the most trivia-focused contestants will end up losing money because of their lack of gambling prowess. As Konik explains:
The very smart people who make it through the long-odds screening process and into the "hot seat" know infinitely more about otherwise useless trivia questions than about a few gambling concepts.
The writer suggests that there’s a “basic strategy” to the long-running, rarely-millionaire-making television show, proposing that contestants need to make accurate use of their lifelines to improve their success. Konik’s irreverence towards the game show is both charming and entertaining, but it’s in the closing sections of the book that the author’s excellence shines through. Sharing its name with the title of the book, Telling Lies and Getting Paid charts Konik’s three-year “Homeric odyssey” through various “satellite tournaments” at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). While write-ups of this historic yearly event tend to fail at capturing the spark of the games, Konik takes the reader by the hand and thrusts them into the hot seat – quite literally.
As Konik struggles, triumphs and heartbreakingly fails to make it to the main tournament for three years running, the reader is with him every step of the way. We’re present when he seeks advice from his mother, "a lifelong elementary-school teacher" who frowns upon gambling but wishes to help her son, as well as his actions at the table. Few books offer insight into the life of a poker player (as Konik explains, many have trouble articulating what the game means to them), but with Telling Lies and Getting Paid, we’re invited to enter Konik’s consciousness and discover what really runs through the mind of a gambler. As it soon becomes clear, when it comes to poker, Konik is no Doyle Brunson, but what he lacks in skill, he certainly makes up for in personality. Konik manages what few authors have ever been able to do, he’s humanised poker, one of the few games where lying, tricking others and celebrating silently are all part of the rules. We recommend Telling Lies and Getting Paid to anyone who wishes to find out about the emotional side of gambling.