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on 23 September 2009
A lifetime ago I saw Vicky Coren in a pub in Oxford. Didnt know her from Adam Dalgliesh at the time - she stuck in my mind because although she looked like a right posh bird, she laughed like the lovechild of Sid James and Dot Cotton.

A few years later she turned out to be An Famous and more especially, An Famous who played cards on the telly. An Famous who played cards on the telly, who I'd seen in a pub. Brilliant. Pub Story Gold. According to the rules of popular culture she became an anecdotal fixture in my life whenever poker, laughing and/or posh birds came up in the conversation.

"That Vicky Coren, yeah she used to drink in my local, got the best laugh in the world that girl, and she plays cards on the telly. She's lovely she is."

All based on nothing of course but clearly repeated often enough to ensure that when Once More With Feeling hit the bookstores I got 7 copies as birthday presents. I had to return 6 of them and I'm pretty sure I'm still known to the staff in my local bookshop as "the porn book guy".

So, skip some years and replay the scene. This year I only got 4 copies of For Richer, For Poorer - clearly I've lost some mates over the years - but still not a bad show. In the birthday gift Top 10 that got her third spot behind some rather nice malt whisky and a painting by Sadie Hennessy - a good result for a random, one anecdote, half serious, 14 year old, pretend celebrity crush.

And now she's gone and ruined it.

Not only has she written one of the most honest books about the poker lifestyle ever, but in a surprise move she's thrown the rules of conventional Celeb-Biography out of the window - she's only gone and been straight up about herself.

No more mysterious, half imagined, poker playing posh bird with a cockney sparrow laugh, no more saucy funny bird tucked up on Charlie "it's not a panel show" Brooker's silly chair. Oh sure, she's still An Famous but now she's gone and revealed herself as an actual real life person too. A real person who has the same crap to deal with as the rest of us. A real person who gets down about herself sometimes, who sometimes gets overdrawn at the bank, who muddles on just like we all do. How on earth am I supposed to have a pretend celebrity crush on her now? Play the game Coren!

I suppose we had a good run but it looks like I'll have to buff up the Tracey Emin anecdote now and god alone knows where that'll all end up.

Buy this book. It's a belter, and so by all accounts is she.
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on 4 June 2015
Readers of the late genius Alan Coren, greatest exponent of English literary humour since P.G. Wodehouse, may well remember a hilariously disaster filled episode in which he described his despairing attempts to feed the 6 month old Victoria at 2 a.m.
Well, she's a big girl now and no mean performer with the written word in her own right. Having no knowledge of, or interest in, card games or gambling of any description, I bought this book purely on the strength of the Coren name and V.C's television appearances. On first reading I admit to finding all the jargon and description of poker games rather hard going, but second time round it was much easier and well worth the effort.
This is the story of her journey from diffident teenager to accomplished international player in a fast changing world of seedy and exotic locations from dingy London clubs to Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, accompanied by a cast of characters to match, and full of incident.
She emerges from this book as funny, highly intelligent, occasionally vulnerable, definitely a woman of spirit, with a sharp eye for character and atmosphere, and the ability to get them down on the page. She certainly has what Ernest Hemingway ( and her father ) described as cojones!
Liked her before, like her even more now.
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on 12 December 2009
Of all the books I have read on poker in the last few months this is the only one that conveys any atmosphere, real feeling or depth. You can explain anything technically, but if someone described kissing the way most books talk about poker you'd never want to try it. This book conveys what it's like to give poker a passionate snog and feel your knees wobble. The prose is a joy to read.

By way of explanation - I'm learning about poker from a starting point of no knowledge whatsoever, hoping to make it into the gaming industry and a friend recommend I read up on Victoria Coren's articles on poker and her website. I was lucky - this book was due out the week after and I yummed it up, cover to cover. Poker aside, it's an honest and moving memoir, as well as being pant wettingly funny in places.

Oh and I start my new job in poker next week. I can say this book was instrumental in helping me understand so much more than the technical. I've snogged poker and I liked it...
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Victoria Coren has been playing poker for 15 years and unlike most gamblers, has won quite a nice sum of money, not least in 2006 when she won $1m in the European Poker Championships. The subtitle of her book, "A Love Affair with Poker" hits it on the nail, but this is a love affair with no happy ending, just a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, complete ecstasy when things go well and misery when they don't.

You have to admire her persistence. She joined the world of poker when it meant mixing with disreputable people in dingy clubs, the lure of the cards overcoming the distaste for her surroundings. The book, For Richer For Poorer, chronicles her journey from playing her big brother Giles and his friends for pennies, through to the time when she carries a fat roll of bank-notes around with her.

You'd expect the daughter of humorist Alan Coren to be witty, and For Richer For Poorer is certainly light-hearted enough. Victoria can laugh at herself, and her self-deprecating, almost confessional tone makes the reader warm to her. The book is autobiographical throughout, starting with stories of her childhood and ending with the sad death of her father, the much loved writer and broadcaster.

Victoria hated school with a passion but writes amusingly enough about her childhood and her family. When she is freed from school she develops a stand-up comedy act and travels around America before going to University to study English Literature. On leaving she commences her career as a journalist and begins serious poker playing at the Victoria Sporting Club (the "Vic") in Edgware Road and at the Stakis in Russell Square. It seems difficult for a woman to get accepted into these poker playing circles, but Victoria persists and before long is mixing with people with strange names and starting to win small amounts of money.

Around this time (the year 2000), the game of poker is being transformed by television, with Late Night Poker on Channel 4 being well known and attracting large audiences. Victoria finds herself playing with Martin Amis, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry, and as online poker develops, she finds more opportunities and also sponsorship (gambling with other people's money certainly makes life less stressful!).

The autobiographical sections are interleaved throughout the book with a running account of the tournament which led to Victoria's big win. These sections tend to be a little technical but provide great insight into the calculations you need to make and the sheer wads of experience you need in order to win. While playing poker with friends at home for small stakes may be fun, to play competitively for big money you need an obsessive streak which will keep you at the card tables for most of your spare time.

Victoria is obviously very good at poker, and prepared to spend the time and intelligence to think about her playing strategies. There are some sad stories about lesser people who have a large win and immediately leave the poker tables to lose all they've won on blackjack or roulette. At one point in the book, Victoria is set up on a radio programme to discuss gambling with Gamblers Anonymous and this is a sad affair with neither side communicating effectively.

I wouldn't want this review to appear at all judgemental - this is a very entertaining book and allowed me to learn what motivates poker players and to understand the world they inhabit. One can't help but warm to Victoria, whose remarkable candour makes this a fascinating read. She speaks frankly about her broken-heart when love affairs fail, and also about the resulting depression which affected her for months afterwards.
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on 30 December 2014
All in - bought this as I have a soft spot for Victoria Coren - not solely due to her poker abilities.
Great Book.
It's an autobiography where poker is allowed to creep in, and then raise it's head, and then bellow 'godzilla-like' across the pages/tournaments/years.
I've walked away as smitten as I was when I picked the book up - but with a great pile of respect in addition (that'll teach me).
Moreover it's quite a lovely, sweet book - a candid and brutally honest account of a life of gambling. No judgements - just the frustrations, the lows & the highs.
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on 15 August 2013
For all Victoria Coren's talents, I personally found this book very disappointing; as someone who has only ever played social poker I found the occasional advice on strategy and tactics fairly interesting, but that was all.

It started well, describing how the author became involved in poker and her early influences, but quickly goes downhill. Following this, as the title suggests, poker is discussed to the exclusion of all else which makes it very hard to care about any of the characters. If she had included more about her personal life (one anecdote about her father and her in the marketplace is actually very touching) I feel the book would be far more interesting. As it is we know nothing about her life outside the game; for all the reader knows she does nothing but play poker, a feeling reinforced by one particular paragraph. Referencing the day of the September 11th attacks, Coren briefly says how she was scared by thoughts we were all in danger, but later played poker, switching the TV off as it was nothing but a distraction. To me this is representative of her approach to the book, which is single-minded and reads more like a bank statement than anything else (made £x here with y hand, lost £a here with b hand)!

The writing is forced and the structure is poor, leaping from one poker event to the next and recycling the same bland clichés. Coren introduces Amarillo Slim and other characters more than once and after a hundred pages of déjà vu, the same old events, settings, characters and emotions, it becomes a chore to plough through the rest of this bland and repetitive book. At some points I found myself wishing the younger Coren and her "friends" would leave the poker table, go outside and stop wasting their lives with such fanatical devotion to a card game.

Despite my high hopes when buying it, I would not recommend this to read; for serious players it offers nothing, whilst for those with a casual interest in the game it strips away any glamour or fun. While the concept had potential, the execution is poor; read something else.
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on 16 September 2009
Having been an avid reader of Vicky's poker column in the Guardian, I was looking forward to reading this and my expectations were first well and truly met, then overwhelmingly exceeded. The book flows beautifully.

Vicky describes how she fell in love with poker at an early age, first the romance surrounding the game then the game itself. Each chapter is interspersed with key hands from *that* London EPT tournament. We follow Vicky through the early days at the Vic, vegas, and Late Night Poker. From the tuesday night home games to the WSOP. Heartfelt and heartbreaking, this is a rollercoaster read matching the rollercoaster of Vicky's relationships; with the game, the players and her family. It goes without saying that this is a must-read for any poker player - it will resonate with anyone who has picked up a few chips or a hand of cards and felt those first flutters of fear and excitement. But this book has broader appeal than just poker players.

I usually read quickly. But this is the first book in a long while that I've slowed down and savoured. It's magnificent, classy, elegant, and very very funny!
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I like Victoria Coren's sense of humour, but I confess I have no interest whatsoever in poker. Thankfully the book is more of an autobiography, amusingly told, but - and this probably deserves a "well obviously!" - there is a lot of content here about poker, strategies, and the outcomes of games. I admit I did skim some of these sections which by and large fall at the end of chapters where they describe the progress of a key game in Victoria's poker career. There is much talk of the "button", the "river", "flops" and so on, and these are explained in a brief appendix at the end of the book.

If you're a fan of poker and Victoria Coren you'll love it. If you're a fan of one but not the other you'll probably just like it more than anything.
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on 5 May 2011
I don't like Poker but I like Victoria Coren so I bought the Kindle version of For Richer, For poorer thinking that I'll only get a couple of chapters in before getting bored. But Damn her and her friendly,chatty, funny and honest tale had got me hooked. I started to care about her friends and laughed at their stories and was genuinely sad when one of her friends died ( oh hush now! That's not a spoiler as I never said who it was)I loved that she just didn't plop the reader into the Poker world of Today but took us back to when she first started and along the way introduced us to Poker champions of their day. She didn't sugar coat the game and make it all sweetness and light, she mentioned the lows as well as the highs and that just made the book all the more honest and as a reader, who know's nothing about Poker, I was grateful for that. And their is a handy wee guide at the back of the book with a list of Poker terms and what they mean. Which isn't all that easy to access on Kindle but useful none the less. I came away understanding a little more of why this Game can pull people in

I still don't like Poker but I like Victoria Coren even more after reading this. So yes go buy it!!!!
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on 22 December 2010
Ms Coren is something of a queen of all trades - a former schoolgirl correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and stand-up comedienne, she tells how she first played cards to hang out with her brothers Giles's cool friends. Clearly a gambler at heart, she learned the hard way that the house always wins at roulette and turned her to attention to poker. The book details the high and lows of her `career' which coincide with the seemingly inexorable rise of poker. Anyone tempted to chuck a few (hundred) pounds at internet poker would be well advised to invest in this book beforehand and you'll realise who your virtual opponents might be. The game remains first and foremost a social event and Victoria amusingly brings to life the motley crew who have kept her company at card tables from seedy London clubs to the ersatz glamour of Vegas.
Readers (like me) who know jack about knaves are strongly advised to start with the appendix which makes the action much easier to follow.
But you don't have to play poker to enjoy this book.
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