For Richer, for Poorer

14 Nov

For Richer, for Poorer: A Million-Dollar Love Affair with Poker, by Victoria Coren 2009

Jan flat calls. I know at once he has a small pair … The flop comes 9♠ 10♥ 10. If I move all-in and Jan calls with his pair of fives – this is what I’m putting him on – I am in reasonable shape with two overcards. I can hit a jack or an ace, the board could pair again, plus there is the glimmer of a backdoor straight draw.

When I first started For Richer, for Poorer, this kind of passage made almost no sense to me. And when I’d finished the book, I still had little idea of what the hell it all meant. Poker for Dummies this ain’t.

So what is For Richer, for Poorer? Well, it’s an entertaining memoir of a poker player climbing the ranks, and a short history of poker in the past couple of decades in England. It also looks at what it’s like to be a female player, starting with the time the author was one of only two female visitors to the local mini casino, to the dawn of poker TV shows where she was the token girl player, and on to her eventual win at an international tournament.

Yes, there are descriptions of poker games that go for pages and pages – and I was so worried I’d miss a vital plot point that I read them all (spoiler: I really could have skipped them). But the book also features some fantastic characterisation – Victoria Cohen has a great eye for the quirky people that populate the all-night games in back rooms and casino dens, the celebs who got in on the action early, and the big superstars (including Australia’s own Joe Hachem, winner of the 2005 World Series of Poker).

But the book isn’t just all poker, all the time. When Victoria’s father falls ill she’s very honest about her feelings, leading to some very emotional scenes, and when a major relationship fails she touches on her resulting depression. Being a Female of a Certain Age, she also writes about the idea of starting a family – or not:

I’m still free from domestic responsibility. I have no idea whether I haven’t got round to starting a family because I play poker all the time, or whether I play poker all the time because I haven’t got round to starting a family. But I do and I haven’t.

Among all this, there were some things that didn’t quite work for me. The most grating was the repeated use of Alice in Wonderland imagery as Victoria paints herself as Alice down the rabbithole. Yes, she’s a fish out of water as she plays poker with dodgy old men in the early hours of the morning, but I didn’t need the repeated analogy. There was enough in the story without it.

Overall though, For Richer, for Poorer was an interesting read. I may still know very little about how to play the game itself, but I met some very interesting characters along the way – including a pretty cool chick who kicked some male poker ass along the way. Good for her.

This was the last book in my MS Novel Challenge… I just took forever to review it.

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4 Responses to “For Richer, for Poorer”

  1. M.J. Hearle November 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    I think authors should be banned from using ‘Alice’ imagery. It’s lazy shorthand for the ‘wide-eyed innocent exploring a strange new world’ theme.

  2. aims November 17, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Hmm would consider reading it if it gave insight into how to play. Maybe I should just get poker for dummies though …

    Did she have an epiphany regarding having a family by the end?

    • literatechicken November 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

      Nope, no epiphany. Damn these real-life stories and their unresolved endings 😉

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