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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death
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Published:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2014
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Description
From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys • “Whitehead proves a brilliant sociologist of the poker world.” —The Boston Globe

In 2011, Grantland magazine gave bestselling novelist Colson Whitehead $10,000 to play at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. It was the assignment of a lifetime, except for one hitch—he’d never played in a casino tournament before. With just six weeks to train, our humble narrator took the Greyhound to Atlantic City to learn the ways of high-stakes Texas Hold’em.
Poker culture, he discovered, is marked by joy, heartbreak, and grizzled veterans playing against teenage hotshots weaned on Internet gambling. Not to mention the not-to-be overlooked issue of coordinating Port Authority bus schedules with your kid’s drop-off and pickup at school. Finally arriving in Vegas for the multimillion-dollar tournament, Whitehead brilliantly details his progress, both literal and existential, through the event’s antes and turns, through its gritty moments of calculation, hope, and spectacle. Entertaining, ironic, and strangely profound, this epic search for meaning at the World Series of Poker is a sure bet.

Look for Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Crook Manifesto, coming soon!
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Street Date:
05/06/2014
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780385537063
ASIN:
B00GL3OJQQ
Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Colson Whitehead. (2014). The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Colson Whitehead. 2014. The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Colson Whitehead, The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Colson Whitehead. The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: COLSON WHITEHEAD is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Underground Railroad. His other works include The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and one collection of essays, The Colossus of New York. A National Book Award winner and a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, he lives in New York City.
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From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys • “Whitehead proves a brilliant sociologist of the poker world.” —The Boston Globe

In 2011, Grantland magazine gave bestselling novelist Colson Whitehead $10,000 to play at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. It was the assignment of a lifetime, except for one hitch—he’d never played in a casino tournament before. With just six weeks to train, our humble narrator took the Greyhound to Atlantic City to learn the ways of high-stakes Texas Hold’em.
Poker culture, he discovered, is marked by joy, heartbreak, and grizzled veterans playing against teenage hotshots weaned on Internet gambling. Not to mention the not-to-be overlooked issue of coordinating Port Authority bus schedules with your kid’s drop-off and pickup at school. Finally arriving in Vegas for the multimillion-dollar tournament, Whitehead brilliantly details his progress, both literal and existential, through the event’s antes and turns, through its gritty moments of calculation, hope, and spectacle. Entertaining, ironic, and strangely profound, this epic search for meaning at the World Series of Poker is a sure bet.

Look for Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Crook Manifesto, coming soon!
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
      • content: "Whitehead serves up an engrossing mix of casual yet astute reportage and hang-dog philosophizing, showing us that, for all of poker's intricate calculations and shrewd stratagems, everything still hangs on the turn of a card."
      • premium: False
      • source: -Kirkus Reviews
      • content: "As a novelist of considerable range, Whitehead consistently writes about more than he's ostensibly writing about...here writing a poker book that should strike a responsive literary chord with some who know nothing about the game...Engaging in its color and character."
      • premium: False
      • source: -The Wall Street Journal
      • content: "Colloquial, with many personal digressions and heavy on pop-culture references, it reads like a memoir crossed with a literary guide to the often bizarre world of casino-poker tournaments..."
      • premium: False
      • source: -The New Yorker
      • content: "[Whitehead's] reporting on the grimy glitz of casinos and competitive gambling has a funny, tragic, loser-chic sesibility."
      • premium: False
      • source: -The Washington Post
      • content: "...A witty, wandering book about poker...Tom Wolfe crossed with Tom Pynchon,"
      • premium: False
      • source: -The New York Times Book Review
      • content: "Whitehead goes to the table himself, and like a reporter on the front line of battle, he files stories as the action heats up...[Whitehead] uses poker to expand our sense of how human beings work."
      • premium: False
      • source: -The Chicago Tribune
      • content: "Whitehead was rarely lucky--and maybe that's what makes this crass, sardonic tour through America's wasteland of bright lights, overpriced all-you-can-eat menus and windowless banquet hall behemoths so funny."
      • premium: False
      • source: -The Economist
      • content: "Mordantly funny from the first sentence...Mr. Whitehead may not have gone home in the money, but he has a way with upstanding sentences."
      • premium: False
      • source: -The Miami Herald
      • content: "...Clever and entertaining, and Whitehead employs entertaining throw-away lines that make you think"
      • premium: False
      • source: - The Boston Globe
      • content: "Whitehead proves a brilliant sociologist of the poker world. He evokes the physical atmosphere vividly, 'the sleek whisper of laminated paper jetting across the table,' as the dealer shuffles. But he also conjures the human terrain, laying bare his own psychology and imagining his way into the minds of others. His book affirms what David Foster Wallace's best nonfiction pieces made so clear: It's a great idea... to turn a gifted novelist loose on an odd American subculture and see what riches are unearthed"
      • premium: False
      • source: -Flavorwire.com
      • content: "When a writer is good enough to blur the line between fiction and reality, that's a trick I like to see over and over again...The Noble Hustle is a book that says a lot about America without trying to make any grand sweeping statements; it works because Whitehead paid close attention to everything going on around him, and distilled it in his own unique way... The Noble Hustle, though, is just as great of a look at a real America as it is a book about poker, all seen through the eyes of a writer we know best through the very unreal world of fiction."
      • premium: False
      • source: -The San Francisco Chronicle
      • content: "Shares with [David Foster] Wallace's work the close attention of a wry, sharp intelligence to a populist pastime, a mix of casual and highfalutin diction, a self-deprecating voice that you're never sure is totally truthful in its deprecation, and a fondness for broad cultural pronouncements... Whitehead hips us to the popularity and atmosphere of the contemporary game, all without our having to endure a bus trip to Reno or have everything removed from our pockets but the lint."
      • premium: False
      • source: -Mother Jones
      • content: "The Noble Hustle, part love letter, part dark confessional, captures perfectly the mix of neurosis and narrative that makes gambling so appealing."
      • premium: False
      • source: -New York Daily News
      • content: "The Noble Hustle is fierce, funny and totally worth the buy-in."
      • premium: False
      • source: -Entertainment Weekly
      • content: "Whitehead captures the sketchy and zombielike nature of poker tournament play well enough to leave you wishing this book came with a free bottle of Purell."
      • premium: False
      • source: -Booklist (Starred Review)
      • content: "This is not one of those poker books about a gang of math whizzes from Harvard who go to Vegas and win a gazillion dollars... A self-described citizen of the Republic of Anhedonia, whose residents are unable to experience pleasure, Whitehead, author of Zone One and other novels, agress to enter the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and see how far his half-dead poker face and a $10,000 stake can take him... Whitehead's acc
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from February 10, 2014
        The eternal tension between good luck and remorseless odds animates this loose-limbed jaunt through the world of high-stakes poker. Novelist Whitehead (Zone One) was staked to a berth in the World Series of Poker by Grantland magazine, a mission for which he frankly declares himself unqualified, owing to his rather desultory pick-up games, haphazard training regimen featuring yoga lessons, deep and semi-baffled immersion in the arcana of poker-playing manuals, and bus trips to Atlantic City for seedy practice tournaments. His journey unfolds in a series of jazzy, jokey riffs on the cultural detritus of poker: the take-over of the game by young “Robotrons” honed by online gaming; Vegas’s “Leisure-Industrial Complex,” a terrain of soulful soullessness where “your true self is laid bare with all its hungers and flaws and grubby aspirations.” Along the way, poker emerges as the national sport of “the Republic of Anhedonia,” his habitually depressive, fatalistic State of mind that recognizes that “eventually, you will lose it all”—and that playing it safe is therefore the ultimate sucker’s strategy. Whitehead serves up an engrossing mix of casual yet astute reportage and hang-dog philosophizing, showing us that, for all of poker’s intricate calculations and shrewd stratagems, everything still hangs on the turn of a card.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        April 1, 2014
        An assignment to compete in the World Series of Poker allows the author to meditate on his identity, failings, writing, appetite for beef jerky and challenge to make the leap from decent house player to high-stakes pro gambler. As a novelist of considerable range, Whitehead consistently writes about more than he's ostensibly writing about, turning a futuristic zombie novel (Zone One, 2010, etc.) into a parable of contemporary New York and here writing a poker book that should strike a responsive literary chord with some who know nothing about the game, though for those who want to read a poker book, much of this contextual elaboration might feel like padding. It begins with a definition of "anhedonia: the inability to experience pleasure," preceding the first chapter, "The Republic of Anhedonia," of which the author proclaims himself a citizen and representative. The first sentence: "I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside." He also has an ex-wife, a young daughter, a weekly poker game and an assignment from Grantland to cover the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas as a participant. Even the assignment is something of a gamble--his freelance payment is the entrance fee, and whatever he wins (or, presumably generates in subsequent book royalties), he keeps. But if he loses, as odds are he will, he gets nothing but memories and experience for the article he must write. As he writes of warm-up sessions in Atlantic City, training with his "Coach," competing with more experienced players in Vegas, he sometimes seems to be trying too hard--"Pick your fights like you pick your nose: with complete awareness of where you are"--while drawing parallels between poker and writing ("We were all making up stories, weaving narratives"). Since his narrative doesn't proceed chronologically to a natural climax, he jumps around a bit with time. A minor work by a major novelist, a busman's holiday, but engaging in its color and character.

        COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from May 15, 2014
        This is not one of those poker books about a gang of math whizzes from Harvard who go to Vegas and win a gazillion dollars. About those guys, Whitehead says, The part of the brain they used for cards, I used to keep meticulous account of my regrets. And, yet, Whitehead has some personality quirks that make him a decent poker player: I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside. A self-described citizen of the Republic of Anhedonia, whose residents are unable to experience pleasure, Whitehead, author of Zone One (2011) and other novels, agrees to enter the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and see how far his half-dead poker face and a $10,000 stake can take him. Not very far, as it turns out, despite reading countless poker books and working with a coach and physical trainer. Yes, he learns a little, but in the end, people, as ever, are the problem. Specifically, those nine other people at the table, their weathered faces showing the underlying narrative of their decay. Yes, Whitehead's account may seem at first like just another sad story about a pair of Jacks, but it's really something very different, much sadder and much, much funnier. He calls his book Eat, Pray, Love for depressed shut-ins, and that pretty much says it, if you remember that the eating part is mostly about beef jerky and the praying is for aces. If you're looking for read-alikes, forget other poker books and pick up Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence (1998).(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        April 15, 2014
        In 2011, Whiting Writers' Award-winning author Whitehead ("Zone One") attended and participated in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas as part of an assignment for "Grantland" magazine. There was just one problem: he had never before played in a casino tournament. Having only six weeks to prepare, the author began to hone his skills in the casinos of Atlantic City while trying to maintain some semblance of a home life. Hilarity ensued. Whitehead quickly developed a rhythm of dropping off and picking up his kid from school; riding the Greyhound bus to New Jersey with the "day-trippers, day-workers, and hollow-eyed freaks"; gambling; and then returning home to sleep. The author's satirical descriptions and observations of his days spent preparing, filled with playing cards, eating at artery-clogging all-you-can-eat buffets, and his interactions with the people who haunt the casinos there are only prolog for the grand finale of the Leisure-Industrial Complex (LIC) of Vegas. VERDICT Entertaining and absorbing, Whitehead's look at the subculture of gambling and casino tournaments will appeal even to nongambling readers. Also recommended for those who enjoy memoir. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/13.]--Mark Manivong, Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        December 1, 2013

        Something different from always intriguing MacArthur Fellow Whitehead. A casual poker player, he had a game change when the online ESPN offshoot Grantland staked him $10,000 and asked him to play in the World Series of Poker. Not just about poker; fans brought on board by Whitehead's zombie hustle, Zone One, are expected to show interest.

        Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys • “Whitehead proves a brilliant sociologist of the poker world.” —The Boston Globe

In 2011, Grantland magazine gave bestselling novelist Colson Whitehead $10,000 to play at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. It was the assignment of a lifetime, except for one hitch—he’d never played in a casino tournament before. With just six weeks to train, our humble narrator took the Greyhound to Atlantic City to learn the ways of high-stakes Texas Hold’em.
Poker culture, he discovered, is marked by joy, heartbreak, and grizzled veterans playing against teenage hotshots weaned on Internet gambling. Not to mention the not-to-be overlooked issue of coordinating Port Authority bus schedules with your kid’s drop-off and pickup at school. Finally arriving in Vegas for the multimillion-dollar...
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