Poker Nation [NOOK Book]


Journalist and poker fanatic Andy Bellin takes readers on a raucous journey into the shut-up-and-deal world of professional poker. From basement games to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, you'll look over his shoulder as he learns to count cards, read a legendary player's body language, hang in there when the chips are down, and take his beatings like a man. Even if you don't know the difference between a flop and a river card, Bellin keeps you in the game with his portraits of the colorful players, ...

See more details below
Poker Nation

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$8.99 price


Journalist and poker fanatic Andy Bellin takes readers on a raucous journey into the shut-up-and-deal world of professional poker. From basement games to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, you'll look over his shoulder as he learns to count cards, read a legendary player's body language, hang in there when the chips are down, and take his beatings like a man. Even if you don't know the difference between a flop and a river card, Bellin keeps you in the game with his portraits of the colorful players, dreamers, hustlers, and eccentrics who populate this strange subculture. Along with learning what goes on behind the scenes in illegal poker clubs, you'll get great advice on how to play Texas Hold'em, today's game of choice for big-money players.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
If Frank Sinatra had a prep school education he probably would have sounded a lot like writer and poker player Andy Bellin. When Sinatra crooned, it was a sure bet: He always got the girl -- all the girls. Bellin has but one object of desire, and he pursues her relentlessly. No, not Lady Luck. He knows she is a fickle, unreliable lover. Bellin sings of the virtues of mathematical probabilities and analytical reasoning, and his mistress is the game of poker.

Smart, smarmy, and seductive, with just enough self-deprecating humor to keep it from being too cocky, Poker Nation allows us a long, slow glimpse into the dusky world of high-stakes poker and professional gambling. It provides an insider's view most of us won't see outside of an old movie. Bellin leads us into the smoke-filled rooms and underground clubs, offering us a seat at the green felt tables where he spends much of his time. A five-nights-a-week poker player, Bellin gets plenty of practice perfecting his craft.

After ten years as a serious player he's learned quite a bit, and he shares the pot with the reader. Part exposé, part poker primer, and full of the history and folklore surrounding the game, Poker Nation imparts the tricks of the trade from a uniquely intimate perspective. This book is a great read for anyone looking to improve their game, as it offers chapters on everything from the theory of probability (Bellin pursued a graduate degree in astrophysics) to betting strategy ("the worst hand in poker is the second-best one at the table") to reading your opponents "tells" -- unconscious twitches and quirks that can give away a bluff. "Don't watch the cards while they are being dealt," Bellin advises, "watch the faces of the players watching the cards being dealt."

Hobby? Compulsion? Obsession? Addiction? If you liked Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis but crave a little more danger, Poker Nation is the sexy new game in town. Luck be a Royal Flush tonight. (Ann Kashickey)

The New York Times
More effective chapters offer tips on how to assess the competition and deploy probability, and show how the ideas of Fermat and Pascal lead directly to Brunson and Sklansky. Borrowing charts from other books, Bellin walks the reader through basic rules and tactics. (The numerous pages devoted to roulette and blackjack are simply unwelcome distractions.) Benny Binion, the man who invented tournament poker, makes an energetic appearance as Bellin rehearses the lore of Texas Hold 'Em and cheating, including his own. (He claims to be cured of this habit but neglects to mention how cameras and nonplaying dealers have all but eliminated it from casinos, where most high-stakes poker is played.) Another strong chapter explains how John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern's game theory undergirds warfare and poker. ''There is no such thing as an unsuccessful bluff,'' Bellin says, annotating a principle that may seem counterintuitive to novices; ''if you win as many times as you get caught, you may not make money specifically by bluffing, but you will increase the number of players that call you when you … catch a full house.… That's where you're going to make your money.'' — James McManus
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061842429
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 445,784
  • File size: 738 KB

Meet the Author

On his way to a master's degree in astrophysics, Andy Bellin made the fatal mistake of falling in love with poker. Leaving graduate school at age twenty-two, he has played semipro poker for ten years. His writing has appeared in such publications as Esquire, Details and Maxim, and he is an editor at the Paris Review. Bellin lives in New York City, where there are no fewer than four underground poker clubs within a mile of his apartment. You can find him at one on almost any given night.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It's My Deal

If you look around the table and you can't tell who the sucker is, it's you.
'Paul Scofield,
playing the role of Mark Van Doren in Quiz Show

I am an excellent poker player. If I had to be more specific, my guess would be that I'm in the top .01 percentile in the world. That's a fancy statistic if you're talking about SATs or something like archery, but when it comes to poker, it can create an enormous problem. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 135 million people across the planet who play the game, a little eighth-grade math will tell you that there are about 135,000 people shuffling cards at this very moment who are better than me.

A bigger problem is that three or four of those individuals are usually seated at my card table on any given night. My home club, the Winchester'where I have spent around three thousand hours playing over the past three years'is in the heart of New York City, where poker is technically illegal. That's kind of a sexy fact if you are one of those people who likes life a little dirty (which I do), but it also means that every individual in my club is the genuine article. There is no tourist/insurance salesman who just got lucky at the craps table wandering into my game like in Vegas or Atlantic City. We've got no sheep who bet into your flush with a straight thinking their hand is the winner.

At those casino tables, I'm a huge favorite to win. Almost any semiconscious human being is. An average casino game of Texas Hold'em poker is played with nine or ten people. If you're in a $500 buy-in game, and you'vegot two sheep at the table, that's $1,000 for the other six or seven of us to chop up. I just made 22 percent on my money, and I haven't even started to play. God bless America. But that's why my home club is so tough'no sheep.

So why play there? There was a big-time Wild West gambler named “Canada Bill” Jones. Asked once why he voluntarily played in a small-town game he knew to be crooked, Bill replied, “Because it's the only game in town.” There's your answer.

The club is basically a low-rent glorified basement. On any given night you can find a hundred strippers, chiropractors, tax attorneys, and cabdrivers huddled around fifteen tables, stacking chips, shuffling cards, and watching sports. Some people even find time to eat their dinner there. That's the worst part'grown men shoveling forkfuls of food into their mouths at a panicked pace, trying not to miss a hand. Three burritos in four minutes can't be good for the digestion.

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.

“Jesus Christ, Morty! Deal the cards.” Amy has no patience at a poker table. She is a beautiful, petite Filipino woman in her early forties who has a metabolism that could power the Vegas strip for two weeks straight. She's always moving, always doing something, talking, smoking, shuffling, and when she does sit still, she has a look in her eyes like she's going to combust at any moment. “Deal, or I'll cut your balls off!” Like I said, she's got no patience.

Morty, on the other hand, has all the time in the world. Slow by nature, he goes through moments of total disorientation and detachment, as if the minute dust particle floating by his face has taken complete control of his consciousness. These episodes could last forever if it were not for the caring attention his fellow cardplayers give to him. From under the table comes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a switchblade knife opening. Amy leans toward Morty, her hands out of sight, and says very slowly and deliberately into his ear, “Get the cards in the air, old man.” Morty's back from the ethereal plane now. He deals.

Everybody thinks Morty'a garmento from Manhattan's Lower East Side in his late fifties'is losing his mind. In poker, when you “put” somebody on a hand, that means you're making an assumption about what they are holding. “I put that guy on two pair” means that's what you think he's got. Most people at the club put Morty on the early stages of Alzheimer's.

But I know what's really going on with him. Covered head to toe in silver American Indian jewelry, always well tanned from a week in Jamaica, Morty should be bronzed in the Natural History Museum as the last living semi-functional hippie. My read . . . I put him on burnout. When that tiny dust particle carries him off into his private little world, he's not trying to remember his girlfriend's name, or where he was born; he's back at Woodstock contemplating whether one or two hits of LSD is necessary to get him off just right for the upcoming Santana set. And remember this: Morty is a good cardplayer. He wouldn't be at the club if he wasn't. So most of the time, when he's daydreaming, he's doing it to piss everybody else off. Poker players play much worse when they're pissed. It's called being “on tilt.” And Morty can tilt anybody. That's his gift.

He finally gets the cards in the air. We're playing no-limit Texas Hold'em. It's the perfect gambling game. Each player (there can be up to ten at a time) is dealt two cards down, called pocket cards...

Poker Nation. Copyright © by Andy Bellin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

Field Trip: High-Rolling Author Andy Bellin Takes Our Writer on a Tour of Manhattan's Underground Poker Clubs
From the May/June 2002 issue of Book magazine.

The game of the night was a style of poker known as pot-limit Texas hold 'em. Andy Bellin, whose witty and instructive first book, Poker Nation: A High-Stakes, Low-Life Adventure into the Heart of a Gambling Country, was published in March, did most of the playing. I just watched: I wasn't about to sit down at a table with a $500 buy-in and go toe-to-toe with a guy who has spent most of the last decade or so taking money off of marks like me. But since I had never ventured into any of the private poker clubs that add a wrinkle of character to the face of New York City, Bellin agreed to introduce me to the sorts of places that form the stage for the wry adventures in his book.

After warning me not to take out my notebook or tell anyone that I'm a journalist -- "unless," Bellin explained, "you want to get kneecapped" -- he led me, much to my surprise, through a nondescript doorway not far from my apartment in Greenwich Village, into a "football club" named after an Italian city.

"None of these guys went to high school," Bellin muttered as we entered a small, deteriorating room with smoke-stained wood paneling. It was early still, and the club's two tables had only about ten people distributed between them. At one, a group of older, heavyset, Italian-looking men held their cards in grim silence; at the other, four Asian guys waited for a game to begin. To play at the football club, you pay the house only $5 for every half hour at the table, but this seemed too low-rolling for Bellin. He decided to lead me over to another, seemingly less-seedy joint up in Midtown, the one with the $500 buy-in and two more tables than the downtown club.

Getting into the nameless midtown spot, reputedly run by an infamous New York crime family, was a bit more difficult. Bellin stood before a two-way mirror on the second floor of a nondescript office building and pushed a buzzer. After a moment, somebody opened the door, and there we stood, in a converted office space more suitable for a nonprofit organization than a poker joint.

Usually voluble, Bellin assumed an almost completely different personality at the table. He was quiet, concentrating. After folding a few hands, Bellin went on a short winning streak. Then, with four queens, ace high, he won a fairly large pot, going up some $1,200. That's when I really began to get nervous. How long would this last? How long would I have to sit there? By 2 a.m., though, he was up about $200, and, wanting to exit with some money in his pocket, he folded, said goodnight, and led me out. "You've got to know when to walk," he said with a smile. (Daniel Kunitz)

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2005

    what a read

    this book takes you into the american culture of has tips on improving your game and is a fantastic read to have around the house. you learn the aspects of poker that you can use in the world series of poker or in a game with the guys and girls. after reading this book i noticed an improvement in my game. this book really brings the high stakes game of poker from the poker table to you. this book takes you on the high-stakes adventure were you live and die with the river.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2003

    Excellent read - highly recommend

    Nice blend of real life experience, history of some of the legends of the game, and poker strategy. You pick up strategy without even realizing it - I had a hard time putting this book down to go play a couple games.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)