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Poker Nation: A High-Stakes, Low-Life Adventure – Book Review

7.5 Total Score

Poker Nation, a nonfiction poker book by Andy Bellin, is a travelogue about poker’s exotic world. The author takes his readers on an exciting poker journey. Andy Bellin is himself a journalist and poker fanatic, and his book Poker Nation is a classic addition to the series of poker literature. This book weaves many tangled threads of enthusiastic poker game…

7User's score
Relevance today
Author’s authority
Writing style
  • Easy, understandable, and funny writing style.
  • Interesting stories that keep the readers glued to the book.
  • Relevant and interesting historical facts.
  • Statistics presented in an accessible and digestible manner.
  • Less informative in the aspect of poker strategies.
  • Lack of dynamic plotline.
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It is not just a strategy book guiding readers through poker tips and tricks, but it also shows a poker pro’s real-life experience. From action and thrill to brain rigor, this book is an overall exciting piece. It explores the history of poker, its theory, mathematics, bluffing, tells, cheating, legal and not-so-legal poker rooms in a way that it becomes an overall pleasure for readers. The book provides a deeper understanding of each aspect of poker.



Andy Bellin has tried to capture the spirit of poker within the pages of this book. The story begins with the author’s introduction engaged in an illegal poker club in New York, where he plays with different players from all walks of life. Andy describes poker as a game of trickery and wit, where crossing the wrong person might leave you harmed for quite long.

Some poker players play for an actual living, while others have a permanent day job but feel the desire to drive into the red-light district for a good poker game. The book beautifully narrates multiple legends of bad beats and great poker triumphs. Different poker strategies intertwined with excellent stories keep the reader glued to the book.

Poker Nation is not a typical strategy book; instead, it beautifully tells the readers about the author’s experience in the poker world. The cool images and the way Andy connects the poker stories with strategies make it entertaining to read. Each successive story in the book is as engaging and exciting as the previous one.

Andy Bellin has presented, in detail, many of his close friends and people he met. He keeps the readers in the game with his amazing portraits of colorful players, gamblers, and visionaries who have populated poker culture.

The sections where he humorously describes crazy poker stories are appealing. For example, when a player gets a good hand Andy illustrates it the following way:

‘his eyes open wide like a kid being handed a lollipop. When he gets a bad card, he flinches like he just stepped on a tack.’

Bellin also describes his own poker story when he mistakenly overbets $10,000 of tournament chips into a $40 pot. Next, a friend sitting beside Bellin congratulates him when he hits a flush.



It’s remarkable how Bellin portrays the residents of his favorite New York poker clubs while distributing bits and pieces of poker advice.

The book looks at the professional poker world from the perspective of an insider. It will surely be a delight for the regular poker players and far-off poker fans who get fascinated by the poker world they see on television.

Although Bellin presents the book as an entertaining poker memoir, it also gives the readers an excellent lesson on “How to be a better poker player?”

In general, Poker Nation is a fun and pleasant read.

On the downside, it is quite short and lacks a dynamic plotline. But overall, this exciting collection of anecdotes could improve your poker game.



It is certainly worth reading. On one hand, it provides an insight into various aspects of poker for avid gambling readers. On the other hand, for non-gamblers, the short stories can be fascinating and enjoyable. The information Bellin provided through his own life experiences is quite interesting. He has a gift for clear expositions!

About The Author

Authority 67%

Andy Bellin lives in New York, where he plays poker in underground clubs. After a math teacher invited him to the poker room of Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, Andy felt in love with the game. He left graduate school at age twenty-two to play poker semi-professionally and learn journalism.
His work has appeared in such magazines as Esquire, Details and Maxim; he is also an editor at Paris Review.
You can follow Andy Bellin on Twitter @AndyBellin.


 ‘A typical night at my club is unlike a typical night anywhere else. These people are true originals. As the old adage goes: The only thing stranger than a poker player is the person sitting next to him.’

In relation opponent’s reaction when dealt a big hand: ”his eyes open wide like a kid being handed a lollipop. When he gets a bad card, he flinches like he just stepped on a tack.”

What Do The Pros And Famous Say

“An insider’s wonderfully entertaining and instructive guide to high–level poker and its Runyonesque characters—a cautionary tale in that it makes you wish you played the game more skillfully and at the same time, sigh with relief that you don’t. Quite simply, a royal flush of a book!”
George Plimpton
“Poker players and writers are by their nature very competitive people: so understand that as someone who fancies himself adept at both it causes me a measure of pain to tell you that Andy Bellin has written a good—oh hell make that great—book. Mixing history, strategy, mathematics, and autobiography, Bellin entertains, educates, and illuminates. For fans of poker and good writing this is the stone–cold nuts.”
Peter Alson
Author of Confessions of an Ivy League Bookie
“Most books on poker aren’t worth a busted flush, but Andy Bellin is one guy who knows his way around the table. Whether he’s counting cards, reading an opponent’s ‘tell,’ or regaling you with tales of larger–than–life cardslingers, he’s always at the top of his game.”
Phil Helmuth
No introduction needed

Table Of Content

  • Epigraph
  • Author’s Note
  • The Rank of Hands—from Lowest to Highest—in Poker
  • It’s My Deal
  • Theoretical Poker
  • Probability, Statistics, and Religion
  • Benny Binion and the World Series of Poker
  • I Think That Guy Is Full of @*!#
  • Tells
  • Want to Bet on It?
  • Taking It Like a Man About the Author
  • Cheating Praise
  • Big-Time Pros Copyright
  • Small-Time Pros About the Publisher
  • What Card Did You Fold at the Beginning of the Game?
  • Sex, Lies, and a Deck of Cards
  • The House of Cards
  • I Call

Book Details

Number of Pages: 288
Game: Entertaining poker, High Stakes
Live/Online: Live
Required Skill Level: Beginners
Format Available: Kindle, Paperback
Free with Kindle Unlimited: No
Free with Audible: N/A
Publication date: February, 2003
Reprinted: Yes
Special Features: Tables, Charts, Hand pictures
Languages: English
Publisher: HarperCollins


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