Shut up and Deal

Shut up and Deal

3.0 1
by Jesse May

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In 1987, there was legalized poker in Nevada and in one county of California. Author Jesse May was seventeen years old and already hooked. By 1996, poker could be legally played in casinos in over twenty states of the union and five countries in Europe. Legalization changed the face of poker, and as the game came of age, so did May, who by 1989 had dropped out of


In 1987, there was legalized poker in Nevada and in one county of California. Author Jesse May was seventeen years old and already hooked. By 1996, poker could be legally played in casinos in over twenty states of the union and five countries in Europe. Legalization changed the face of poker, and as the game came of age, so did May, who by 1989 had dropped out of the University of Chicago after one year due to irreconcilable differences between Tuesday- and Thursday-morning classes and Monday- and Wednesday-night poker games.

Based on his experiences in the strange world of poker, May's debut novel Shut Up and Deal is the story of a nontraditional '90s slacker, a dropout with an incurable obsession and incredible stamina, who makes a career in a profession where the only goals are to stay in action and to not go broke. In Shut Up and Deal, a professional poker player takes readers along on his adventures over several years in and out of casinos and card rooms in locales such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Amsterdam.

Told in a catching, likeable voice, this story offers up one rip-roaring poker-table drama after another, with narrator Mickey ultimately finding himself in a spot that jeopardizes his entire bankroll and calls into question his morals, such as they are. In rhythmic, high-octane prose that is as addictive as the game it describes, Shut Up and Deal zooms in on the swirling, feverish microcosm of the contemporary poker world from its very first line and never cuts away.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
May's speedy, coming-of-age debut unfolds in the insular, all-male world of high-stakes professional poker, where staying in the action is everything and money is just a way of keeping score. Narrator Mickey, who joins the pro circuit at the age of 21, is surrounded by a large cast of eccentrics with stereotypical nicknames like Vinnie the Greek, Fresca Kid and Uptown Raoul. They're all constantly searching for the next "big game," moving like nomads across America as if it were no more than a barren desert speckled with casino oases like the Mirage in Las Vegas, Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and Foxwoods in Connecticut. In a world where you are who you pretend to be, image, bluff and reputation are as important as talent and luck: Mickey opts for sunglasses and garish Salvation Army clothes, makes a place for himself on the circuit during the early 1990s and then feels it slipping away. As he reels off one tale after another about hitting it big or going broke, Mickey's voice rings true, his obsession, insecurity and self-delusion barely hidden beneath a thin mask of bravado. Yet the price for accuracy is a lot of jargon: rudimentary knowledge of poker is not enough to understand the repetitive, blow-by-blow accounts of games like 10-20 Hold 'em, Pot Limit Omaha and Seven Stud Hilo. "There is no reality away from the poker table," Mickey says. He may be right, but that exclusionary attitude will keep most readers standing "on the rail," watching the play without anteing a stake of their own. (May)
Library Journal
This first novel is a rambling look at the world of poker as seen through the eyes of Mickey, a young professional gambler. As Mickey travels from casino to casino, tournament to tournament, Atlantic City to Las Vegas, poker game to poker game, he describes the people he's playing against, the type of poker he plays, and how much money he and the rest of the guys win or lose. Self-indulgent to a fault, Mickey is no Paul Newman of the poker world, and this is no Hustler. Presumably, this novel is aimed at poker players who enjoy reading books about their pastime or profession. Large public libraries in Atlantic City and Las Vegas might consider purchasing, but others can safely skip this.Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Kirkus Reviews
Thinly fictionalized memoir of a grueling six-year spree as a professional poker player, told in a motormouthed vernacular so mesmerizingþfor better or worseþthat the pages seem to reek of cigarette smoke, stale clothes, and cheap booze. Mayþs first effort is less novel than plotless collection of gritty gambling anecdotes posing as street wisdom. Mickey, the narrator, likes to talk tough and act cool behind his $100 sunglasses and triumphantly tacky thrift-shop wardrobe, but he can't escape the notion that the marathon games he sits in on (they can last for days with no one eating or sleeping), the hapless moments when he plays perfectly but still loses, and the colorful, unsavory characters he competes against are all just grinding him down. Mickey doesn't tell us how to win or even how to cheat, grumbles when he's asked to make loans to people he doesn't trust, and has nothing to show for his efforts beyond a few thousand dollars that don't stay in his pocket for long. Claiming that poker is a blend of luck and skill, and that þluck is philosophy, and there are some people who are never going to fake it," he repeatedly contradicts these and other lofty assertions, finally concluding that "People always want to know what's going on and what's going on is people are going broke." Though he visits many poker rooms across the US and Europe, and frequently wins enough money to live for months in comfort, Mickey eschews the good life, smokes too much marijuana, has no romantic attachments, and hangs out with untrustworthy, colorfully nicknamed buddies whoþstupid and downright malevolent as they often areþget a buzz from the game but never seem to haveany fun. A wildly uneven, slang-filled road trip that glories in every pothole in its path. Amateur cardsharps and casino denizens will find themselves, writ small, in these pages.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Anchor Books Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)

What People are saying about this

Mickey Finn
A marvelous read, easily the best narrative I've ever read on poker. Through his characters, their language, astonishingly insightful and engrossing anecdotes, Jesse May has opened a window for the outside world to see, through a sunglass clearly, into the incredibly exciting, gut-wrenching, roller coaster ride of the silver platter life of the modern professional poker player.
Frederick Barthelme
This book is quick and tough and stinks of the poker room, the casino, the hotel's a gambler's book.

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Shut up and Deal 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What is this book about?