Mezrich (Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History, 2011, etc.) returns with a breakneck retelling of how a bunch of closely knit fraternity brothers built an online poker empire and how fate’s final hand dealt them all a wicked blow.
Before the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, the world of online poker was like the Wild West: virtually lawless and flush with easy cash for those audacious enough to grab it. By bringing the casino table into the American living room, top-grossing sites like PokerStars and PartyPoker were able to rake in massive amounts of money. AbsolutePoker, the site hatched among the frat brothers, was right there with the online poker kings, earning its principals staggering sums of money in an incredibly short period of time. While largely nondescript collegiate types, the characters represent the kind of youthful American archetypes that engenders them with empathy. Before long, the frat boys had successfully established their online outpost in the jungles of Costa Rica and were signing up new subscribers almost faster than they could comprehend. Predictably, they also began driving too fast, drinking too much and sleeping with way too many women. Still, thanks to the author’s mostly adept hand, they essentially remain the same sympathetic dreamers they were before their worlds started to turn increasingly nightmarish. As the author gleefully hurtles the hapless band of entrepreneurs into that final hairpin turn on the highway, readers are left to wince, the RPMs of this rapid-fire narrative running high in the red. The reportage takes on added significance given the fact that the college crew’s final cards have yet to be played.
Fast-paced and wildly chaotic.