In the year 2000, the gambling community lost one its pre-eminent authors and characters in David Spanier. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Spanier, everyone I’ve talked to has described him as one of the most delightful people they’ve ever met. Perhaps more importantly, though, he is survived by his writing, much of which is of the highest caliber the gambling literary corpus knows, including such classics as Welcome to the Pleasuredome and Inside the Gambler’s Mind, although at the time of this writing, both are sadly out of print.
Spanier also has the distinction of having the first (perhaps only?) regular poker column in a daily newspaper, in London’s Indpendent. The Little Book of Poker is a collection of these columns discussing poker strategy and giving a glimpse into the poker world which was edited for publication in England in 1999. Huntington Press picked up the US publication rights, Americanized the text somewhat, and published this book just a few months before the author’s passing.
As is customary in a book of essays, Spanier splits his columns into eleven topical sections, with such headings as “Action Venues”, “Poker Folk”, “Weird Things Happen”, “World Series of Poker”, etc.. Many columns are devoted to specific hands or events that come up in various games, and often these occur in various clubs or home games in which the author has personally participated. In all cases, Spanier makes the characters really come alive for the reader with the insight and knowledge that only someone who is both a skilled writer and an inveterate poker player has.
On the down side, for American readers, most of the ligaz11 games written about are pot limit, as is most commonly the case in Europe, and some are about games that will be unfamiliar to American readers, like London Lowball. However, anyone who has played a few games, and especially anyone who has played in a few home games, will easily be able to pick up the gist of the game in question. Also, Spanier, while being a very skilled writer and knowledgeable about poker, is not, in my opinion, in the same league as a player as many of the great poker players who write books. While his articles are always entertaining, I think he gets some of his analyses of hands a bit wrong, for example, when examining the classic hand at the end of the movie The Cincinnati Kid in his essay titled, “Risky Business”.
Consequently, the serious poker student isn’t going to improve their play much from reading this book, but that’s not its purpose. It is a very well written diversion about poker, an entertaining read about the game we love, not a treatise on proper play, although there is some good advice in the book as well. While not as good as his master works mentioned earlier, The Little Book of Poker is an enjoyable book worth the cost of admission, and serves as a reminder to all of us of the spirit of a great human being who loved the game and will be missed by our community.
The Little Book of Poker is an entertaining final work by one of poker’s most skilled writers. One shouldn’t read it expecting to pick up many pointers, but instead for the sheer enjoyment of it. While it may not measure up to Spanier’s classics like Welcome to the Pleasuredome, it is certainly worth the time and money that would be spent on it.