Popular Culture

‘MOLLY’S GAME’ – Why the entrepreneur in you must read this book .

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I teach Strategic Management ( Competitive Strategy in Poker ) at the Indian Institute of Management- Kozhikode.  I know, really cool. However, with so many grading assignments and other pending tasks, reading a book  has become a luxury.

Recently, I treated myself to a book that i had been wanting to read for quite some time. It is sort of a poker biography of poker entrepreneur and author, Molly Bloom – her introduction to the world of high stakes business folks, running high stakes cash games under the radar, and the inevitable fall from grace.

 Okay, this is not a book where hands would be discussed.

It is more about the business of LIVE poker. Molly’s reference to her talented brothers and how she felt she’d come up short was unexpected and kind of endearing. The folks in Bloom’s life, with the exception of one Hollywood star, are spoken about with fondness. Whether they are aggressive business folks, superstars, law enforcement or game staff, I finished the book coming to like these inhabitants of the poker world.

Bloom’s book gives us a sense of what makes for a high-society poker game – comforts, ease, action, proximity and glamour of every bit of the experience – from playing to collections. Just as she builds a unique poker experience and starts counting out her first big profits, the reader begins to wonder how long the good time would last. Bloom rolls with the punches, taking her game from coast to coast, somehow making an equally good show of it irrespective of the location. Be they Hollywood celebrities or Wall Street biggies, they co-occupy rarefied felts with the other rich and wealthy.

The business and competitive (not in poker, but the business of running a poker game) aspects that struck me are: first, how a rank outsider – Bloom – finds a niche for herself; second, how she goes about making this niche profitable; third, how or what defends this profitable spot; and finally, what might drive the heavy handedness of law enforcement. Let me elaborate.

How the astute business woman navigates the high testosterone world of the poker business is fascinating in itself. While men dominate this world, their alpha-male territory defense instincts and how all that testosterone overdose may be an entrepreneurial opportunity is fascinating to read. A powerful man bossing the game is nothing to be fearful of, just as far as you can find at least other power thirsty man – seems to be Bloom’s mantra. It made me wonder if I could use sections of the book as reading material for an entrepreneurship class.

Bloom’s CRM (customer relationship management) is fascinating. Fulfilling the silliest of customer desires goes a long way in the poker business, it appears. She recollects fascinating experiences that had her scurrying around so that the boss wouldn’t throw a fit. While painful in itself, in this helter-skelter she makes friends and gets a shot at love. Like a professional wrestler, she turns and throws the collections problem with the promise of the next, even better, even sexier, game.

Bloom’s careful documentation of her players and their needs creates a database which would take a potential rival many years to emulate. This gives her a shot at running this profitable business for a longer time. In her book lie fascinating secrets of how a poker business ticks. It takes 9 to have a game, but for Bloom any 9 wouldn’t just do. A careful selection of the 9 players is important for the experience to be fun, profitable, less of a collections headache, and a source of repeat business. Again, as you read the book, these poker business insights jump at you.

Notwithstanding the plethora of evidence of poker being a skill game, poker in general and live poker in particular, is exposed to the vicissitudes of the legal system and its enforcement. In the US, those like Bloom who run the game may sometimes find themselves in prison, a choice of cooperating or long prison sentences ahead of them.

Having taken the former way out, Bloom has had the opportunity to tell her story. It is a fascinating one. Not only poker lovers – anybody with interest in service businesses, entrepreneurship, or a woman navigating ‘a man’s world’ of poker would find this book good to read. 

Write to me in the comments below and we can discuss the book at length using the business management lens further.

-Deepak Dhayanithy, Assistant Professor, Straegic Management, Indian Institute of Management- Kozhikode

“Molly’s Game” – A Movie Review

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 I watched Molly’s Game, the movie a couple of days back, and believe me now, all I ever want to do is be Dolly, the Indian version of Molly Bloom, the woman who took the world of poker by storm.


Molly’s Game is the true story of Molly Bloom, former world class skier and ‘Poker Princess’.  Jessica Chasten of the Zero Dark Thirty fame is the actor that plays her, brilliantly, in this biopic. The film is based on the novel by the same name, written by Molly Bloom, herself.


*SPOILER ALERT*


When an accident destroys Molly’s sports career, she moves to LA to recuperate for a year before she starts law school.
She gets a waitressing job at a high end club where she meets her future boss, the obnoxious, “I don’t eat bagels from BlueBell because they are poor people bagels”, Dean (played by Jeremy Strong).


Dean introduces Molly to the poker world and has her set up a poker game which has a 10000 dollar buy in. The guest list of that game includes Hollywood stars, directors, business tycoons, politicians and the who’s who of America.


By the time the evening ends, Molly, the ever sharp, astute observer has learnt more than just the basics of the poker life, has earned a 3000 dollar tip and has hobnobbed with LA’s poshest glitterati. Molly is hooked.


She slowly builds a rapport with one Hollywood star at these games called Player X played by Michael Cera ( it is said that it is depiction of Toby Mcguire). He is a skilled poker player. Molly continues being Dean’s assistant till he kicks her out. But she only moves on to set a higher stake game where she is now the house, with the support of Player X.

Her games have a rolling of millions of dollars. (Yours truly, Dolly, would be happy with a few lakhs and SRK.) 


The movie takes you to the kinds of players there are, the kinds of hands there are and the kinds of drugs there are. There is enough poker vocabulary to keep the poker enthusiasts well entertained –nuts, fourth street, tilt, flop, full boat, etc…. As the movie unfolds, she becomes the Poker Princess and moves from LA to NYC where she holds the highest stake games in the world. 


She does this for 12 years, earns millions of dollars without playing herself, till the FBI arrests and indicts her for conducting illegal gambling. She is defended by the dishy hunk Idris Elba (of the Luther fame) who plays her lawyer Charlie Jaffey.  The portrayal of the case left a lot to be desired. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay could have been fine tuned to include some entertaining courtroom scenes that this script so demands. What makes up for it though, are the scenes between Jessica and Elba, where you get a peek into her inherent decency and his deepening respect for her. 


Aaron Sorkin does good justification to the poker hands and on his hands is a good directorial debut. It is a must watch for poker enthusiasts if only to realize how much it is a game of skill and not so much a game of luck. Of course Dolly’s main take away was, don’t let your epitaph say you died trying to recover. Watch it to know why! 


It’s not yet out on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Google Play but here’s the IMDB link. It has a 7.6 rating. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4209788/


Love, 
Rittwieller
 

King of a Small World - A Poker Lover’s Take

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King of a Small World is poker player Rick Bennett’s debut novel, written specifically for  a small audience of poker enthusiasts. That being said, the novel masterfully sucks you right in, at the very first page, into its world. It doesn’t matter then, if the only thing you know about Poker is it begins with a ‘P’.

Set in southern Maryland-Washington, D.C., an area known for its love of Poker, King of A Small World is an unsentimental evocation of the enigma that is the world of professional poker.

It is a smart and gritty, coming-of-age-novel about self assured narrator and ace card- player, Joe Moore. In his mid twenties, Joe is easily the best stud poker pro in Maryland and is content about remaining the best in the small world of Maryland. He also frowns upon friends and colleagues who are salaried and are ‘ tied to their jobs like slaves’.

He is forced to rethink his destiny and values that shaped his outlook all these years when he is offered a very high paying  job as a casino boss, begins a brand new love affair and discovers simultaneously, that he is going to be a father, by way of an old girlfriend. The novel follows his trajectory of trying to juggle between change of responsibilities, family, love, money and his zeal to create the perfect environment for his new non traditional family, all the while trying to stay true to himself and the things he enjoys doing.

There are several instances where Joe draws parallels between poker  and ‘the other games people play, away from the tables’. There are times where Joe also espouses poker themes commentaries about human behaviour and the ever shifting landscape of personal identity and existence.
For example, when Joe makes a trip to Vegas, drowning in the waves of WSOP fever, he shares his impression of the urgency and the unceasing drama of being human being played out all around him in the casinos.
There is a quote he makes that captures the essence of what it means to be a poker player.
"This is how gambling works — it fills the senses," Joe explains. "Close your eyes and listen. In a casino, you'll hear the sounds of jingling, clinking, clanging, clicking. Open your eyes and you'll see the myriad colors of lighting and carpeting and walls and uniforms, shining and bright. Taste? Free drinks and meals to any decent-sized bettor. Free drinks and cheap meals to everyone. Touch, too, is thought of. Plush carpeting, brass rails, leather chairs, polished wood. And maybe in the air, with the smoke, is sweat.
But it is the sixth sense that casinos most seek to arouse,"
Joe continues. "The sense of life itself. Of drama. Of story. Of passion. Of love and fear. Of power and sex. Of a moment frozen, of existence beyond the mundane, of escape from all other problems because right now your attention is focused on the money you have on the line. If time is money and life is time, then money is life. And you're gambling for it."

Such detail brings about a certain kind of  immediacy in response to the scene, especially so for readers who've been inside such places. 

Bennett is a poker player, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when the game fuels both the plot of the book and contributes heavily to its various themes, with Bennet drawing connections between the game and Joey's complicated life full of conflicts and relationships.

Rick Bennett’s easy knowledge of poker customs and the values that shape the poker player’s environment and psyche, make for an engaging narrative which climaxes with brisk bits of domestic and professional melodrama. An extremely enjoyable read, we at 9stacks urge you to pick up this exciting page turner, right now!

Have you read the book? Let’s begin a discussion in the comments below!

Cheers,

Team 9stacks

 6 Poker movies to binge watch this weekend

Now that Game of Thrones, This is Us and Narcos 3 have been watched and dissected over and over again satisfactorily, we can all return back to our first love, Poker.  If, during the last weekend you discovered you had suffered bad beats and had begun to tilt, watching some poker movies would be a much needed relief. We promise. We've listed 6 very special movies on poker that are must be watched by every poker enthusiast.

 

Rounders:

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Released in 1998, Rounders quickly became a cult classic because it not only introduced a lot of people to the world of Poker, but it also accurately captured the tension and the energy of the game.
Another reason why it is up on our list is because the movie firmly established Poker as a fascinating mindsport and a game of skill, in popular culture.
Catch a glimpse here : 

Bet Raise Fold : The  Story of Online Poker

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This documentary follows the lives of 3 professional online poker players, Tony Bond18” Dunst, Danielle “dmoongirl” Andersen and Martin “AlexeiMartov” Bradstreet and in the process gives us a through grounding of the online Poker community and what Black Friday means for them.

Nose Bleed:

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This award winning French documentary by director and well known poker player, Victor Saumont has been hailed as the most accurate and incisive account of a Poker player’s life as an individual and as part of a growing and thriving community. The movie looks deep into the high stakes involved in online poker. It follows the highs and lows in the lives of Alex “alexmoon” Luneau and Sebastien „Seb86“ Sabic. Saumont filmed them playing online and joined their journey to the WSOP.

A Kid’s Game : The Story of Online Poker

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Another excellent documentary featuring high stakes players, Di “Urindanger” and Hac “Trex313” Dang,- two of the most successful online players of all time, winning more than 10 million dollars on Full Tilt alone. The brothers offer a lot of insight into how poker can be used responsibly as a very lucrative way of making a living. Because these are players who started from humble beginnings, it is refreshing to see their take on life as millionaire poker pros.

The Cincinnati Kid :

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Touted to have one of the finest and tautest finales, this movie is a top notch watch and should be on the list of all poker enthusiasts’ must watch movies. 
Eric Stoner(The Kid) is a hugely successful, upcoming Poker player in New Orleans who takes on a long time Poker legend , Lancely Howard (The Man) in a poker game and become ‘The Man’ himself.
Stoner’s friend, Shooter, an estwhile Poker maestro warns him about Howard’s “gutting” style that usually destroys the confidence of many opponents.
Eric Stoner, nicknamed "The Kid," is an up-and-coming poker player in New Orleans. He hears that Lancey Howard, a longtime master of the game nicknamed "The Man," is in town, and sees it as his chance to finally become the Man himself. The Kid's friend Shooter cautions him, reminding the Kid how he thought he was the best five-card stud player in the world, until Howard "gutted" him when they played.
A game with Howard is  soon scheduled. However, Stoner discovers the game is being fixed against Howard by Slade (Rip Torn) out of revenge for a bad loss he suffered to Howard. Stoner objects because he feels he can take the match on his own merits.

Does he finally best ‘The Man’? 

The movie is unpredictable and keeps all poker players and non poker players at the edge of their seats, especially throughout the finale. 

Considered a classic, The Cincinnati Kid is one of the finest movies to make it to the  top 3 Poker movies to watch.

 Maverick (1994)

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Fast, funny, full of straight-ahead action and tongue-in-cheek jokes, Maverick is a hilarious parody of sorts of the straight up old Westerns of Hollywood. Maverick, a high stakes poker pro, running away from goons hired to prevent him from entering the game. On the way he meets a semi efficient con woman and a marshal who teaches him a thing or two about being spineless in a Poker game. As they bumble their way through the Old West, they turn it into the New West of moviedom with their smart contemporary tone. It is an action movie that chuckles at action movies without straining anyone's brain. "Maverick" exploits and undermines every western cliche from gunfights to war-whooping Indians to runaway stagecoaches and heroes hanging off cliffs.Literally.
Watch it on a fun family night and guffaw the whole time.

We will keep coming up with more and more movie suggestions for you. Keep watching this space regularly for the latest updates!

Cheers,

Team 9stacks
 

Fools Die : A Poker Lover's Review

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A hugely ambitious, partly autobiographical novel by 'The Godfather' writer, Mario Puzo, Fools Die is a partly brilliant, partly embarrassing novel, at its best during the parts where money begins to change hands and poker tables come alive.

Fools Die came out in the year 1978 and is set in  the New York, Hollywood and Las Vegas of the 1950s. Here, Puzo explores the culture of gambling, sex and other adult themed excesses in Las Vegas.

The novel focuses on the lives of three gamblers, Jordan, Merlyn and Cully, thrown together in Vegas, their fates entwined by the death of one, very early in the book.

On the night of his biggest win in Vegas at Xanadu, a casino, Jordan is found dead in his hotel room, presumably after committing suicide. Cully and Merlyn had met him that night and had played against him.

After the incident, Merlyn a struggling writer and compulsive gambler returns home to New York while Cully stays back in Vegas, rising as a big fish in the same Casino

Struggling to make ends meet and a family to support for, Merlyn is recommended by his father in law to join the army as an admin worker. Under the influence of a corrupt colleague and partly because he is under debilitating debts acquired due to his compulsive gambling habit, Merlyn begins to take kickbacks for getting out the sons of wealthy New Yorkers who had been enlisted to fight for America in the Vietnam War.

Soon the act is traced back to him and he is investigated by the Army. Merlyn calls on Cully Cross, his gambling acquaintance from a long time ago, who then uses his influence and contacts to help him get off the hook.

Merlyn then finds a job at a local newspaper where he meets the charismatic Osano, who is a famous writer and is quite influenced by Osano's thoughts and ideas.

Merlyn strikes gold when he writes a bestseller and has an offer from Hollywood to convert it into a movie. Merlyn moves there and falls in love with Janelle, a starlet. His experience with Hollywood leaves him disillusioned and lonely. At the same time, everyone he had felt close to begins to die. The deaths of his loved ones affect him deeply and he begins to get increasingly isolated.

While the author concentrates more on the slangs, the culture and lives of gamblers and players, the book has some brilliantly thrilling scenes happening, especially when the baccarat games, that closely resemble the dynamics of Poker tables, are at play. There are numerous quotable lines that you as a poker player can spout in a game, from this book. The casino director, Gronvelt is a fascinating mix of Don Corleone (The Godfather) and  the other iconic anti heroes and ‘villains’ of Puzo’s other books.

The first part of this book is a true page turner, however, the latter half of the book suddenly takes a sharp turn towards tedious land and you begin to tire of the indulgences and  constant digressions into other subplots.

All said and done, whenever there is money changing hands, deals being struck, gambles being made and risks being taken, the plot shines and thrills. That is the experience us Poker players live for, don't we?

Have you read the book? We’d love to strike up a discussion.

If you would like to review a Poker -related book, movie or a tele series, or want to suggest one for us to review, do let us know in the comments below.

Keep watching this space for more reviews of books and movies in pop culture on Poker.

See you,

Team 9stacks.

Best Poker YouTube Channels

YouTube is a great resource for Poker. A lot of pros are uploading videos on how to play better. Studios are putting up original poker content - documentaries and TV shows. And this post is our list the best of Poker YouTube.

LEARNING

In these channels, you'll get strategy advice, hand discussions, and hand history review. If you are a beginner, this is a great place to start.

  1. Doug Polk
  2. Alec Torelli
  3. Splitsuit
  4. DonkPlay
  5. CrushLivePoker
  6. Gripsed Poker Training
  7. Johnathan Little
  8. The Poker Guys
  9. Upswing Poker
  10. Reading Poker Tells

TWITCH STREAM HIGHLIGHTS

Some poker pros play live on twitch and have developed a huge following. Usually, they post a short highlights video on their YouTube channel where you could hear their thought process while being in that actual situation.

  1. Poker Staples
  2. Kevin Martin
  3. Lex Veldhuis
  4. Team Never Lucky

VLOG/PODCAST/NEWS

Want to see what the daily life of a poker pro looks like? Or perhaps you want to check out what's the latest in the world of poker. Follow these for all this and more.

  1. Andrew Neeeme
  2. Joe Ingram
  3. PokerNews
  4. Jeff Gross
  5. Poker Central

Let us know in the comments below if there is any other you found useful.

10 Easy Peasy dishes to jazz up your Poker Party

Poker is a hugely engrossing game. It is also a game where nobody likes to have messy fingers. Let’s take a look at some kick-ass, easy to make and fuss-free finger foods to have on hand when you’re playing Poker.

Mozzarella Balls and Fruits   

Mozzarella to the rescue!

Grab a packet of Moz balls, some goat cheese, scoop out some cantaloupes, watermelons, melons, sprinkle some freshly crushed black pepper, some basil and skewer them with toothpicks. You’re all set!

Shrimp Cocktails

Shrimptastic!

Nothing screams Poker Night the way a shrimp cocktail does. It is also one of the most fuss-free pre-gamers to serve your guests. It gets everyone slightly tipsy and sufficiently satiated to begin playing .

Cheese Dip and Chips:

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Greasy items like chicken wings are cumbersome because you have to keep running to wash your hands. Also poker games sometimes go on for hours. That’s why  having a cheesy dip with chips or sausages or even veggies can be a life-saver. They are great to randomly munch on while keeping a poker face during the game

Meaty Cheese Roll up bites:

Cheesy Rollups

Take a slice of well marinated and well cooked meat of your choice, add dollops of chutneys or spiced mayo, add cheese generously and then roll it up in a naan or a tortilla. Cook for about a minute on the pan. Cut up the roll into bite sizes and viola, fuss-free and filling finger food is ready. Perfect for keeping those mid game hunger pangs in check.

Cheesy Jalapeno Poppers:

Jalapeno Cheese Poppers

This is for all those who like to get a little wicked when hosting a game at home. The Jalapeno has kick that is very well complimented by the cheese it is rolled into. It leads the player to get thirsty and guzzle more of their drink. This loosens them up and it makes for quite a profitable game for you. ;-p


Pizza:

Pizza all the way!

The eternal favorite. Just call for the overloaded pizza and concentrate on the game! If you plan to make the pizza at home, try to make it chicago style, so that it is easier to cut and hand out. It doesn’t make a mess and it is easy to clean as well.

Cheese Fondue:

Cheese Fondue

If you want to go a little fancy but don’t want to put in too much effort, Cheese Fondue is your best friend. All you have to do is to saute some veggies and cocktail sausages, chicken rashers, mini lamb patties, etc, in some butter and pepper. Pay attention to the cheese sauce because you will add at least 3 types of cheese and each will have different boiling points.

All anyone has to do is dunk the sauteed items into the cheese. Simple

Money Bags:

Gimme the money, honey!

If you are feeling a little feisty and want to make something at home, Moneybags will be perfect. Create a dough out of eggs, butter and refined flour, make small balls and flatten them to their thinnest, wrapper-like forms. Pick up mince meat, add garlic powder, black pepper, salt, finely chopped spring onions and any other herb of your choice.Cook them together and then place this mixture on your doughy wrapper. Fashion them like money bags and tie them up with the leaves of the spring.onion. Deep fry and serve with spicy schezwan sauce or a homemade tomato garlic chutney.

Kababs and Cocktail Samosas:

Kab(aah!)bs

Skewered, roasted food is the best, isn't it? Seekh Kebabs and meat filled cocktail samosas are super easy to stock up skewer and roast/fry any time you’re hungry. Perfect Poker food, right?

Biryani:

Burp!

This is a no brainer. Biryani is the granddaddy of all party food. Put your hand on your heart and look us in the eye when you say you really don’t care about Biryani. Of course Biryani is the ultimate destination your Poker food night is leading to! Order in, make it at home, no one’s ever going to say no to it.

So, food is sorted. Now how about checking out some fun cocktails to get your guests drunk and multiply your chance of winning Poker night?

Keep watching this space

Love,

Team 9stacks

 

Poker Books to Read

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Books carry with them timeless wisdom. With poker it is slightly different, because the game is ever-evolving. Having said this, it is always useful to read about different prevalent strategies of the time. Poker isn't about following a certain set of rules, but learning different strategies and creating your own out of it. This is our list of all the poker books that you should ever need.

The Classics

These are the oldest books with which most of us started our poker journey. They maybe outdated now, but there is still some timeless advice here.

  1. The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How To Think Like One
  2. No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice
  3. Super/System
  4. Phil Gordon's Little Green Book: Lessons and Teachings in No Limit Texas Hold'em

Maths and Theory

Solid poker maths fundamentals are the building blocks to becoming a better poker player. And these books are the right pick.

  1. Poker Math That Matters
  2. The Mathematics of Poker
  3. Poker Workbook for Math Geeks
  4. Essential Poker Math: Fundamental No Limit Hold'em Mathematics You Need To Know

Cash-Games Specific

Cash games - whether 6-handed or 9-handed are the most common form of Texas No-Limit Hold'em. These books will help you master the format.

  1. Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em
  2. Harrington on Online Cash Games; 6-Max No-Limit Hold 'em
  3. Professional No-Limit Hold 'em: Volume I
  4. Playing The Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker To Dominate Your Opponents 

Tournament Specific

Tournaments are a different beast altogether from cash games. Let these books guide you.

  1. Kill Everyone 
  2. Harrington on Hold 'em Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments, Vol. 1: Strategic Play

Mental Game

At the most elite levels of poker, the slight difference between the mental strength of players can result in huge edges. These are some of the most popular books in the category.

  1. The Mental Game of Poker
  2. Elements of Poker

Poker Tells

Everyone loves to make a big call just by looking at how the villain is acting at the table. This book is a classic in the genre.

  1. Caro's Book of Poker Tells

Advanced

Once you've mastered the basics, get started on some advanced concepts:

  1. No-Limit Hold 'em For Advanced Players: Emphasis on Tough Games
  2. Applications of No-Limit Hold em
  3. Easy Game

General

Biographies, epic poker stories, novels - all that and more in this big list of all the general books on poker:

  1. The Banker, Professor, Suicide King
  2. Fools Die
  3. One of a kind: the rise and fall of Stu Unger
  4. The man with the $100,000 breasts
  5. Molly's Game
  6. Shut up and deal
  7. King of a small world
  8. Blood Aces - the story of Benny Binion / WSOP founder
  9. The Picasso Flop
  10. Positively fifth street
  11. Poker Nation
  12. Straight Flush

Did we miss any important book? Let us know in the comments below and we will add it to the list.

Love,

Team 9stacks