A man ponders his son’s pokercentric life.
While studying for a college degree, Isaac Haxton decided to leave school for a year to play professional poker. With all the excitement that implies, Isaac’s father, poet Brooks Haxton (English/Syracuse Univ.; They Lift Their Wings to Cry, 2008, etc.), doesn’t focus simply on the poker angle. Instead, the narrative moves through a series of twists covering every aspect of the author’s son’s life. While many of Haxton’s flights of fancy fit the subject matter—e.g., his son's early interest in math problems, lifelong love of games in general and childhood ability at chess—some simply do not, as when his daughter had to give up gymnastics. Other tangential tales are related to each other but still seem out of place in the larger context. For instance, both the author and his son were hospitalized around the same time, and Haxton relates both accounts. While both medical tales begin with serious intrigue, they also fizzle out in similar manners. In an instant, Haxton has moved on, and readers are left to assume that all ended well and to wonder what made the stories worth telling. The author also introduces other elements of the overall gambling story but doesn’t fully flesh them out—e.g., a government seizure of Isaac’s winnings. One compelling factor to which Haxton frequently returns is the idea of chance. He puts his poetry skills to excellent use, spinning out language that is often beautiful and evocative. The book is not just about his son’s competitive gambling career; it’s also a poetic memorial to the poignant moments in his life, his son's life and their shared life. Haxton also includes a helpful glossary of card-playing terms.
Not without flaws but an appealing, intriguing read for those fascinated by poker, chance and unique father-son relationships.