Poker Book Reviews
Review by Justin West
For years the "Games and Puzzles" section at Barnes and Noble was dreadfully small. It consisted of manuals on chess strategy, billiards, even magic tricks, but very, very little poker. My, how the times have changed! Now, it seems there is an entire shelf devoted entirely to poker, with just about every high-profile professional player weighing in.
Admittedly, I grew weary of reading poker books years ago. I do enjoy reading articles in magazines, online, and elsewhere, but the general brand of poker books doesn't really interest me much. Now, don't get me wrong - there are exceptions. Big Deal, The Biggest Game in Town, and One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey "The Kid" Ungar, are three of my favorite reads. But finding a book that holds my attention in such a manner is rare, indeed.
Well, folks - I have to tell you that, with Pizza, Pasta and Poker, Vince Burgio has done it. Vince has placed his life and travels on display for the world, charting a course that saw him become a wide-eyed soldier, an encyclopedia salesman, a poker dealer, and ultimately a professional poker player. And he's managed to do it with style.
I am, of course, familiar with Vince Burgio's work, as he is one of our feature authors here at PokerPages.com, regularly contributing some of the most enjoyable works we have to offer. But before I picked up his book, I must admit I didn't know much about the man, where he came from, or what drove him.
It's clear that Vince has a real talent for storytelling, obvious that he enjoyed penning his thoughts and tales for mass consumption. In the end, that's what makes it such an enjoyable read - you can tell that Vince enjoyed writing it.
Be advised, this is not your standard poker book, penned by a rising or risen poker star for a quick buck. Pizza, Pasta and Poker is a heartfelt memoir of Burgio's wildly exciting life, written with humor, emotion, and honesty. It is quite refreshing, indeed, to read a book in which the author's personality and emphatic love for the game of poker shine so brightly.
We follow Burgio as he moves up the ranks in the poker world, beginning with penny-ante family games, later moving up to low-limit lowball, raising the stakes and subsequently making the leap into the realm of professional poker. Highlighted within the pages is Burgio's rush in 1994, peaked by his first World Series of Poker bracelet (7-Stud Hi/Lo), multiple wins, and final table appearances.
Burgio also chronicles his journey to a fourth place finish in the 1994 WSOP main event, and the hand that dealt him a brutal blow that may very well have cost him the victory. To this day, he still has not revealed what he held when he went all-in against Russ Hamilton only to be immediately called, losing to the first straight flush in World Series of Poker final table history! The only person that knows what Vince held is his wife, and while she has been given permission to divulge the information, you'll have to read the book to find out when and how.
What's more, Burgio is fearless when it comes to discussing his personal life. This book isn't just about poker - it's about Vince, and how he came to be the man he is today. He describes in great detail his marriages, and his relationships with friends and family. Sadly, Vince's father passed away while Vince was still in college, and his mother would later follow. Burgio does not hold back here.
In his career, Vince has taken first place in numerous major events, including tournaments in the World Poker Classic, the now-defunct Diamond Jim Brady, the Shooting Star, and most recently the 2006 Ace-to-Five draw event at the Legends of Poker. Vince has amassed more than $1,000,000 in major tournament cashes, and shows no signs of slowing down.
While Burgio doesn't offer much in the way of strategic advice, one can certainly derive great enjoyment and insight while following Vince's journey from just being an aspiring player, to becoming one of the most successful players around. Pizza, Pasta and Poker is a delightful, enveloping, and quick read that should find a home on the bookshelf of any enthusiast of the game.