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Poker Faces: The Life and Work of Professional Card Players

David Hayano is a cultural anthropologist by profession. He studies people and the societies that they form. David Hayano is also a poker player. During the 1970s he was a “regular” at the Gardena poker clubs in Los Angeles County. As he spent more time playing poker in public card rooms, he couldn’t help but consider the people he met as a society. After considerable interest in some preliminary reporting he had done about this poker society, Hayano got to work on a systematic exploration of that culture. The result is the book Poker Faces: The Life and Work of Professional Card Players.

Poker Faces is unlike any other poker book I’ve ever read. This is neither a guide on how to win at the tables, nor is it a collection of stories or examination of the colorful characters that inhabit the places where poker is played. This is a scholarly work, exploring the types of people who regularly inhabit California card rooms. While it does not require an advanced degree in the social sciences to understand this book, it is not light reading either. Poker Faces is aimed at a narrower audience than the average “How to Win Huge at Poker” treatise.

While the book is focused on “professional” poker players, it is difficult to objectively judge who fits this categorization and who doesn’t. This is a pitfall the author understands well, but the classification of professional in this book is largely one of self-selection, and perhaps “card room regular” would be a more appropriate appellation.

The author presents quite a bit of information about the sorts of people who categorize themselves as poker professionals. Poker Faces describes their work habits, attitudes, and lifestyles, although not in quite as much detail as I might have expected. Also, I believe that the author’s personal propensity for very long poker sessions, and his attitudes about the part luck plays in the poker professional’s life influences his outlook on this society. However, influencing research with one’s own biases is a risk that is common in immersive anthropological research, and one that both the field and the author understands.

Much has changed in the poker world since this Slot Gacor book was published, and I believe that the society that surrounds the card room has changed as well, although many elements remain very familiar. Despite the fact that the research done is now 20 years old, this is still a landmark work in gambling literature, and nothing else has come along like it, much less to supersede it. This is unfortunate, as I believe this society is deserving of more and deeper study.

Sadly, this book is not only out of print, but is a candidate for the most difficult gambling book title to find on the used market. If the idea of a systematic understanding of the poker playing society written by someone who is both an insider and a professional anthropologist is interesting, then don’t pass up any chance to read this work. It’s one of the most interesting gambling books that I’ve read.

Capsule:

This out of print classic is a systematic exploration of the society surrounding the people who regularly inhabit the poker clubs of Los Angeles County. The author is qualified to perform this exploration both due to his professional credentials and as a member of this society. The book is more scholarly than the typical gambling reader is probably used to, and in some places it doesn’t go as far as I’d like in exploring the details of this culture, but it is a landmark work and one of the most interesting gambling books I have ever read.