“For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair With Poker” by Victoria Coren

Date finished: 28th April 2011

I first remember coming across Victoria in Balderdash And Piffle a BBC2 series about the Oxford dictionary and the history of words, and loved her sense of humour, and also her knowing style of presenting when she hosts the BBC4 quiz, Only Connect. She’s the daughter of the late journalist and broadcaster, Alan Coren and brother of Giles Coren, who some may know from the programmes he’s made with Sue Perkins about food and food history. I follow her on twitter, so I knew she played poker, but I had no idea how much of an impact it had had on her life until I read this memoir. It was so, so, so funny, and I have to admit that while I don’t play, I do have a fond affection for watching some poker competitions on television. Her story reveals not only her history with poker, but also the development of the game, and how the initial televised tournament has spawned a whole industry, both of big money tournaments and online poker. Some of the people I knew from watching the programmes, but others were new to me, and the variety of stories and characters allowed her to mine a rich vein of poker history to tell us her story.

I can’t say for definite if it would appeal to people who don’t know anything about poker (or have no interest in it), and although there is some recounting of how she won a $1 million game, with the details of the cards and the betting, it’s much more about the various characters and how they approach the game, their style of gambling and the thought process she went through playing each hand. But more than that, it’s the story of a woman who feels the call of the game from her family history, the importance of family, and how friends and family as well as circumstance help form the shape and direction of your life. Very enjoyable.

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