Getting Lucky: The Education of a Mad Poker Player
by Richard Sparks

Disclaimer: If you haven’t read Richard Sparks first poker-themed book, Diary of a Mad Poker Player, in which Richard attempts to become the next Chris Moneymaker by qualifying online for the Main Event at the World Series of Poker, you probably will not enjoy his second book quite as much as you could. There will also be some spoilers in this review which may effect your enjoyment of his first book. You may also want to check out our review of Diary of a Mad Poker Player and subsequent interview with Richard.

With a title like Getting Lucky you might think the book is a "how to" guide to picking up women . Not quite, It is the further adventures of the Mad Poker Player, Richard Sparks...Mad meaning crazy not angry; he's English. When we last heard from Richard at the end of Diary of a Mad Poker Player he had failed in his dream to qualify online for the WSOP Main Event and become the next Chris Moneymaker or Greg Raymer. Due to AceAusage and IronGoddess’ (Richard and his wife Jenny’s online poker playing alter egos) draining of their online poker and bank accounts in these attempts at the big one, Richard and Jenny have given up online poker. However, a serendipitous incident involving a highly strung horse at a Wyoming dude ranch leads to the poker juices once again flowing in Richard as he and Jenny exit the ranch in a quest for some Montana poker.

After their foray into Montana, Jenny is on a business trip in Australia and Richard can’t fight the urge to play and decides what harm can come from playing a little online, after all what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her…or him. Needless to say, Richard gets caught by Jenny (she sees the Neteller transaction), but Richard plays pretty well and realized he could have done better in his attempt to make the Main Event last time. Richard comes to the conclusion that he needs some coaching to take his game to the next level.

Richard’s criteria for a coach included players who: A. Have won the WSOP main event (may as well be taught by the best), B. Can Teach, C. Are close enough to Richard’s home town of LA, and D. Are actually willing to teach him after reading his first book. He goes over the list of players that qualify and decides upon Tom McEvoy as the perfect choice. Tom has written several best selling poker books, has won the big one (in 1983), and is located in Las Vegas which is pretty close to Los Angeles. Surprisingly, most of all to Richard, Tom readily agrees to be Richard’s coach. Tom’s first lessons for Richard are not sugar coated in the least when he tells Richard that he is too impatient and pushes the panic button much too soon. He also has some unflattering commentary for the way Richard played in Diary of a Mad Poker Player. He watches Richard play some online tournaments and offers advice on Richard’s play. Richard takes Tom’s advice and breaks it down into 6 key points that he uses to “right the ship” and reflect upon during key tournament hands. If you are a beginning tournament player, you will definitely be able to see some of your weaknesses in Richard’s 6 points. Richard takes Tom’s lessons to heart…sometimes, a certain 10-8 offsuit hand comes to mind. Whether Tom’s teachings lead to Richard’s realization of his poker dream to play in the Main Event, I’ll leave to you to find out.

We follow Richard as he goes swashbuckling on the high seas to play on the WPT's Millions cruise and various other WPT tourneys. While at the tournaments he interviews several of the biggest names in poker (including Raymer, Greenstein, Arieh, Berman, Ferguson, and more) to get their opinions on the current poker boom. He also interviews several no-name players, some successful and some not so successful. There are several triumphant stories (Michael Gracz) and some cautionary tales (Scott the self proclaimed degenerate) at each tournament.

However, the book isn’t really about the interviews, at it's heart is Richard’s quest to become a better player and realize a lifelong dream, Getting Lucky is at it’s best when Richard is describing in often hilarious detail the hands he’s playing and people he is playing against. When he refers to players as Dragonbitch, Cocktail, and Wannabe Pro we smile and know exactly who he’s talking about. When he takes a brutal bad-beat or makes a tournament saving suckout we can feel his disappointment and jubilation since we have all been there. I guarantee every poker player will immediately identify with Richard and be able to visualize every nuance of the table.

Overall, Getting Lucky is a very fast and enjoyable read. There is also a lot to learn from the book but it doesn’t come across as learning, it just feels like fun.

Review by Donald Key.

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