The best poker books you’ve never read

February 08, 2011 6:03 AM
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What did famous pool and poker hustlers Titanic Thompson, Puggy Pearson and Amarillo Slim have in common? As Pearson said when I interviewed him years ago, "I’ll play any man from any land any game that he can name for any amount that I can count," with the disclaimer "providing I like it" tacked onto the end of his sentence in insurance-policy-size type.

And now, cut from the same cloth, comes Robert "Cotton" LeBlanc, unwinding yarns from his 40 years on the road hustling pool in Confessions of a Pool Hustler (297 pgs, hardcover, $24.95). Toward the end of his adventures, he acted as technical advisor with a cameo role in the 2003 cult-hit movie Poolhall Junkies, starring Christopher Walken and Chazz Palminteri.

LeBlanc, a Memphis-born child prodigy at pool, landed in jail at age 14 for gambling at pool. "I was in with the bad guys and I liked it," he said. In Dallas years later, he plied his trade at the Cotton Bowling Palace where George McGann (a notorious gangster who used to play poker with T.J. Cloutier and Doyle Brunson) hung out and collected money for Titanic Thompson.

"Bobby Cotton," as Mad Max Eberle (three-time National 8-Ball Champion) calls him, "banks balls in like they have eyes!" And he shoots the table with great pool stories in this collection of true tales that take him from marrying a Tijuana stripper when he was 16 years old to conning a guy into wearing elevator heels in a "get-even" game of pool.

 If LeBlanc had played tournament pool, he probably would be a household name today, but instead he chose the well-worn path so many hustlers trod in search of riches and endless action. Don’t expect a polished, highly edited book – LeBlanc is not a professional writer – but do expect a highly entertaining account of the life of one of the sharpest pool sharps of all time, replete with gorgeous gals and mountains of money, mayhem and malice.

Departing the treacherous tracks of hustlers, Warwick Dunnett presents the best advice of mainstream tournament poker players in Poker Wizards (352 pgs, $19.95). It’s all about the "Cadillac of Poker," no-limit hold’em, in chapters written by eight guys and one gal who have won millions on the tournament trail. Dunnett accomplished the almost-impossible in hijacking these famous players from the green felt where they rake in more bucks in an hour of playing poker than they can make in a lifetime of writing books.

These are not Joe-Blow-from-Idaho players – they are the elite of the no-limit aficionados. Whiz kid Daniel Negreanu, world champions Dan Harrington and Chris Ferguson, TV commentator Mike Sexton, and Poker Hall of Famer T.J. Cloutier each wrote a chapter. And the gal? Kathy Liebert, arguably the best female no-limit hold’em player on the circuit, who wrote her first-ever advice for Dunnett’s one-of-a-kind book.

 This cache of top-notch advice may be one of the best poker books you’ve never read! It’s been drowned in the flood of how-to poker books for a while, but well worth digging from the mire. Picking the brains of nine of the finest, you may find yourself basking in their bailiwick at the top of the tournament poker ladder, the Big One at the World Series of Poker coming up this July.

These books and thousands of other titles are available at Gambler’s Book Club in Las Vegas. You can order them at www.gamblersbookclub.com, where you can view the store’s complete line of books, or by phone at 1-800-522-1777 or 702-382-7555 M-F 9-7 and Sat 10-6. Opened in 1964, GBC is located at 5473 S. Eastern between Tropicana and Russell, just a short drive from the Strip or the airport.