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Swimming with the Devil Fish (Read 3908 times)
Five Fingers
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Swimming with the Devil Fish
Jul 5th, 2006, 9:45am
Swimming with the Devilfish
By Des Wilson

Read this book? What did you think?
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The Lawman
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Re: Swimming with the Devil Fish
Reply #1 - Jul 25th, 2006, 10:13pm
When I picked this up I thought it was going to be a book primarily about Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliott and his life story from the back streets of Hull to the bright lights of Vegas and, in a way, it is.
 The book is all pitched very much in Ulliott's favour with a big picture of him on the cover, a title including his name and the first 70 pages being listed as 'Book One' which are exclusively about the top man in British poker at this time. This portion of the book presents several anecdotal tales of Dave's development as a person and player to the point where he is described as a 'poker superstar'.  
This is all well and good except for the truly awful literary style. The whole piece is written in 'footballer post match interview speak', (as in the present tense) even when referring to stories from way back in Ulliott's past. I don't know if this is an attempt to present the infomation as if it's being told by a cabbie to you, the reader, as you sit in the back of a Hackney carriage, but it is certainly very annoying.  
As the book progressed into 'Book two' I got the feeling that it had paid its lip service to Ulliott (did he finance it or something? His website certainly gets a few name checks!) and the author was now finally getting to the real core of his subject. What follows is a collection of thumb nail sketches of several of the other leading lights in the British poker scene with brief episodes from their lives and playing careers. There are still lapses of prose exclusively in the present tense but  the book as a whole switches style and seems more informal and readable. As well as learning about the players there is info on where and how they played before the recent poker boom. A definite 'good old days' stance is projected and the 'new breed' of internet poker players are shown to be a lot less charismatic than their 'real game' forebears.  
Having introduced us to many of 'the Usual suspects' the book moves on again to one of its best segments, a resume of the 2005 WSOP. At last there is some straightforward descriptive writing rather than a catalogue of players, one after the other, which has been the bulk of the content up to this point. The player profiles still pop up in this chapter but it does manage to present a readable account of the tournie from 2005 and Hachem's eventual success.
With yet more character profiles interspersed with a look at the growing European poker tournament scene the book peters out to a final questioning conclusion: can the poker boom continue or is the bubble about to burst and what does this mean for the multitude of old school players we have met in the preceding pages of the book? Wilson seems concerned for many of the older players and not only because several of them are his friends.  
On the whole I found this book to be a bit rambling and pretty badly written. I have already mentioned the infuriating style but it also makes some glaring mistakes, (for example on page 54 when it talks of Paul Ivey!) and it is filled with all the usaul stock stories and lines which it seems no poker book can publish without ("Mr Moss, I'll have to let you go..", "a chip and a chair...", "a minute to learn, a lifetime to master..." etc etc). It's purpose was unclear and it served mostly as a check list of senior British and Euro players and most of that infomation is romanticised and looked back upon with rose tinted lenses. Ulliott's life as a criminal for example and the often strong arm tactics seen and employed at the underground spielers are portrayed as almost humourous and quaint. It's as if the author wants his reader to feel a part of something risky and dangerous but not to scare them away, this all the while emphasising the blandness of many of the new breed of poker players who on the whole come from the internet.    
I wouldn't recommend this book other than as a very light read and only then if you are prepared to read it in your head in a 'mockney' accent: Guy Ritchie probably loves it!  
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Re: Swimming with the Devil Fish
Reply #2 - Mar 24th, 2007, 7:47pm
Have to agree with the Lawman. I was more than a little dissapointed with this one.
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