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This is a wild and stormy trip into the booming casino industry of the 1990s, told by Mickey, an obsessed young poker pro. His is a world in which the anarchy of chance comes into cold, harsh focus.'
The vignettes in Shut Up and Deal are a bizarre mingling of Damon Runyon and David Mamet. Mickey, the book's narrator, is always playing cards with people who have monikers such as Uptown Raoul, Hot Mama Earl, Johnny World, and Vinnie the Greek, and he himself generally wears at these card games something like "yellow pants and a green double-breasted jacket from the seventies and a green and yellow flowered shirt with dark sunglasses" in order to sucker the unsuspecting mark into maybe thinking that he is not such a good poker player and that his money can be easily won, which it usually cannot. Yet the dialogue, reflecting life on the professional poker circuit, is stark and brutal, as in Mickey's advice to a dilettante who is considering following in his footsteps: "All I can tell you is that it's lonely out there, real fuckin' lonely, and your play doesn't matter so much as how tough you are and whether or not you fall apart."
The plot, like poker itself, is a transitory affair. "I been playing for over six years now," says Mickey, the narrator of Shut Up and Deal, "and I still try and start each day as a new day, pick myself off the floor and get focused." This works fine when you're sitting at the poker table, where no given hand means anything in the context of any other given hand, but readers who enjoy traditional narrative, where events have a causal relationship to the events immediately preceding, will face a stiff challenge in the unrelenting cycle of hands won and lost with no visible grander scheme of things in which player--and reader-- might take solace