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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America’s Worst Poker Players

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Jay Greenspan loaded up the car, his bankroll and the advance from his publisher and set off in Jim McManus's literary, if not literal, footsteps. Following McManus's legendary trail of documenting his poker experience (McManus turned his experience at the 2000 World Series of Poker Main Event into the classic poker book Positively Fifth Street) and tracking his personal growth while looking for success as a player, Greenspan took a three-month trek across the US looking for games he could beat.

Greenspan starts his trek in his home state of New York, travels down the East Coast, over to the Gulf Coast riverboat casinos, up the Mississippi to Tunica, across the great state of Texas, then pausing in Las Vegas for a bit before finally landing at his personal "big game" destination, the $10/20 No Limit Hold ‘Em game at the Commerce Casino in California, where a strong player can actually make enough to support a family if he or she starts with the proper bankroll. Along the way Greenspan plays in casinos, living rooms, back rooms, hotel rooms and even a topless bar in search of good games for good stakes where he can grow his bankroll to a point where he feels comfortable sitting down with the thousands required to compete at serious big-bet poker.

Hunting Fish is a great read, a quick read and an entertaining look into poker the way most of the United States plays it - illegally. Many of the games Greenspan visits are underground games that would be frowned upon by local law enforcement if they were aware of them, and most of them require an invitation or outright accompaniment by a known participant in the game. Greenspan paints a light-hearted picture of these games, but does note a few times when he is met with suspicion and at least one game where he thinks better of parking his car quite so far away from the building. He also relates an email he receives a few months after playing in one particularly well-run game telling about the indefinite closure of the game after the police raided several other games in the area.

Greenspan's journey is about more than looking for good games and having a good time though. Jay starts his trip with a plan in mind, to build enough of a bankroll to play against the big boys at the Commerce, to see if he has the skill and the mettle to play poker for a living. His bankroll runs up and down with bad beats delivered and received, opponents more and less skilled, but his confidence seldom wavers. From Atlantic City to the World Poker Tour stop in Tunica, MS, Greenspan tests his mettle against the best and the worst players that the poker world has to offer, and finds in himself the ability to play with the best, exploit the worst, and more importantly, tell a gripping story about it all.

Hunting Fish, like all great poker books, is more about the story than about the games. Readers are brought along the emotional highs and lows of Greenspan's journey without becoming bored with the inevitable bad beat stories that must follow any three-month poker odyssey. Like his predecessor McManus, Greenspan uses his poker play as a tool for self-examination, learning far more about himself as a person and a future husband than he does about the "fish" he spends the book looking for. By the time he reaches the end of his quest at the Commerce, Greenspan is a better poker player, a better storyteller, and has realized what role in his life poker can and should play.

A thoroughly entertaining read, Hunting Fish belongs on the shelf right next to classics like Shut Up and Deal and Positively Fifth Street, a great addition to the wealth of poker literature and memoirs available now. Greenspan tells a great story, full of vibrant characters, exciting games and tales from the road.

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