Arguably the most successful poker crew of all time, they took advantage of the online poker boom to win tens of millions of dollars before most of them were old enough to set foot inside a casino. Then they did what any red-blooded teenagers with mountains of cash and no responsibilities would do: They partied like rock stars, transforming themselves from Internet nerds with zero life skills into legends, at least in their own minds. In this excerpt from Ship It Holla Ballas! Online poker rooms host around-the-clock satellites and super-satellites -- inexpensive tournaments whose winners gain admission into tournaments with much bigger entry fees. The swell of new entrants inflates the prize pool, which in turn attracts even more attention from amateurs hoping to become the next Moneymaker.

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Shelves: biography-memoir This kind of book is right up my alley. I love learning about other people doing fascinating things. Quite frankly, I was unsure if I was going to like it for some of the same reasons I was curious it. I was unhip and culturally oblivious enough to have no idea that the poker boom was happening, but I do have some memories of that time period: Namely, that it was an awful cultural wasteland full of cargo shorts and McMansions, and that teenage nerds were terrible and teenage boys were especially terrible, also LiveJournal was still a thing.

Full disclosure: My memories of that period may be influenced by the fact that I was at the time a bored angry Goth with clinical depression.

But I was quite curious about what these other teenage nerds were doing while I was learning to read Tarot cards, a hobby I have never even tried to monetize although perhaps I should. I had also heard one anecdote from this book referenced a few times, I think once on the Thinking Poker podcast. It was the one where Tom Dwan dares some one to jump into a pool full of sharks for five thousand dollars. At first a teenage girl whose mother had inexplicably left her with them volunteered; then she chickened out, so one of the other dudes did it.

I thought this anecdote was amusing, so I figured there might be other like it. I also did the usual "What would I have done in that situation? The book is not about me. The book starts just before the poker boom really blows up and starts following a few guys who are a little bit older, by online poker standards--guys who had already completed college and were starting their professional lives, guys in their late twenties or early thirties.

These guys are not really the focus of most of the book but they provide an entertaining viewpoint to get comfortable with before their scene is roundly crashed by a bunch of high school and early college kids. Like, these kids went and bought a mansion in Vegas and they At all. It is viscerally awful. Apparently I was the only person who came of age in the s whose parents made sure she knew what a circuit breaker was before leaving home.

The descriptions of the Balla mansion were like all my worst bad roommate memories on steroids. All the stupid shit about The Game and pickup artistry was also unfortunately familiar.

That shit gave me traumatic flashbacks. Dudes who think women are video games are legion, they are almost never subtle about it, and I spent ten years being mistaken for a video game before I managed to structure my life to avoid these people; what am I doing to myself going and reading about them?

It took chapters before I could give a fuck about this character again at all, and then he goes and fucks it up again at the end of the book by noting in a tone of surprise that some of the techniques he has since learned for talking to women also help him talk to people in general.

I wonder what talking to women and talking to people have in common? Everyone knows women are the opposite of people. The stuff about the transition from online to live poker and the generational warfare between the storied old guard and the "these Internet kids! Tom Dwan may have been my favorite person in the book, probably because he came off the least bro-y and the most like a space alien. One thing about this book that is kind of weird is that all the online players are referred to by their screennames instead of their real names, throughout the entire thing.

Some of these screennames I could match with players already and some I could not; it was also fun playing Spot the Screenname I Actually Recognize when other members of the online poker community were mentioned. Another upside of this dedication to screen names is that "durrrr" is consistently spelled right throughout the entire book, which is apparently not standard among poker publications.

This is all very important material to understanding the rise and fall of online poker in the U. Ship It Holla Ballas was a fun, fast, insightful, surprisingly grounded read about a bunch of idiot boy geniuses in a very unique, bizarre time and place.


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'Ship It Holla Ballas!' ... Tracing The Rise And Fall Of Internet Poker And Its Most Unlikely Stars


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