Ben Mezrich’s new book infuriates poker community
If you want to see a poker player’s head nearly explode all you have to do is say nice things about Russ Hamilton and the Ultimate Bet crew, or like Ben Mezrich decided to do for his latest book, talk up the Absolute Poker crowd of Scott Tom, Hilt Tatum, et al. While Mezrich has had the Midas Touch in the literary world beginning with his fanciful retelling of the MIT Blackjack card-counting teams in “Bringing Down the House”, followed by his expose on the founding of Facebook in “The Accidental Millionaires”, his latest project (which is sure to be a smash hit as well) has raised a number of eyebrows, especially in the poker world.
In “Straight Flush” Mezrich tells the story of Absolute Poker from the point of view of its founders, but his loose and fast interpretation of the facts has sent a number of people in the poker world into a tizzy, considering the men Mezrich is trying to sell as fallen heroes are pariahs in the poker world, and despite the general perception of the poker world and poker players, we don’t have much tolerance for BS. Mezrich’s portrayal of the “Frat Boys” as victims is a slap in the face to the players who were victimized by Absolute Poker and people are letting him hear about it.
At the center of the anti-Mezrich movement is Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet investigator Haley Hintze, who is half-way through a scathing 10-part critique of Mezrich’s book. Hintze has been following the Absolute Poker story since the first allegations of Super-Using appeared and has compiled a list of evidence and contacts the FBI would be envious of. So when Mezrich falsifies a piece of information, omits certain details, or otherwise misrepresents what truly happened (through ignorance, being fed bad information, or simply to tell a better story) Hintze has been there to set the record straight.
Haley isn’t the only person who has been critical of the new book. Joining in is best-selling author and sometimes poker player James McManus, who wrote a scornful review of his own for the Wall Street Journal. McManus takes Mezrich to task for his “rewriting” of poker history, but also for his writing style, which is saturated with clichés, and for telling the story through a male-dominant Eurocentric lens.
Normally I like to play Devil’s Advocate in these situations –looking at the story from the other side’s perspective– but in this instance the other side is simply regurgitating the lies and half-truths of the perpetrators. Mezrich is essentially trying to argue a court case without letting the prosecution cross-examine his witnesses. While this might make for “a good story”, when the story involves a company involved in a multi-million-dollar theft the story should relay the facts as we know them. Turning the Absolute Poker SAE Frat Boys into tragic heroes capable of selling books and most likely a movie deal is doing a disservice to the real victims, and I’m happy to see the poker world is pushing back against Mezrich’s claims.
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