Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ship It Holla Ballas

By Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback
New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2013
305 pages     Non-fiction
The Shortlist

The obscure title Ship It Holla Ballas turns out to be the name of a group of online poker players. The subtitle says it all: “How a bunch of 19-year-old college dropouts used the Internet to become poker’s loudest, craziest, and richest crew.” 

I have to admit at the outset I know nothing about poker, so I was a bit amused when I was sent this book from the publisher. However, I do know something about 19-year-olds, and their party-hard ways, having survived the young adulthood of 3 children and 4 step-children and their significant others. It was always comforting to remind myself that the concept of consequence is that last thing to develop in the human brain, and it develops in the male brain by about age 25.

This quick read is the story of online poker in its heyday and the online poker forum that drew together some young men with too much time and money on their hands. One of the students is from Michigan State (no surprise to me since that is the place where 4 of our children went). The book also discusses The World Series of Poker as it appears on ESPN and how these young adults got drawn into the something for nothing culture. The authors note that at the height of the Internet poker boom (2005-2008) one out of every five college students was playing poker on the Internet.

My favorite line in the book is a description of two of the founders of the online poker forum Two Plus Two: “Both men were enamored of their own intelligence and dismissive of most social graces.” I know some guys like that. The rest of the book is as breezy and cynical in tone.

Two movies came to mind as I was reading this book. One was a documentary about a MIT professor who taught probability and took crews of students to play blackjack in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. It was called Breaking Vegas and was based on the book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich. The other is the movie based on the documentary—21 starring Kevin Spacey.

If you are at all interested in Las Vegas, poker, the rise of the Internet and other aspects of young adult stupidity, I can recommend this book. It is quick and fun. It showed up on Amazon’s list of best new books in January, but I wouldn’t go that far. 

The website of the Ship it Holla Ballas poker players. The website says “The Ballas travel the world in search of sweet parties, hot girls and play in some poker tournaments on the side.”


Anonymous said...


texas holdem said...

Very interesting post. I like to read about people that have a dream to do something and succeed to implement their dream and make money. This post tells about group of such people that love poker and do it very successfully.