No Limit by Pete Hautman

#96 in my book challenge for the year was No Limit by Pete Hautman, a young-adult novel. It was previously published and out of print under the title “Stone Cold”. It was retitled because most teens assumed that the book had to do with the wrestler with the same nickname, Steve Austin. It was republished because of the recent increase in poker popularity and awareness, particularly for no-limit Texas Hold-em. It was a quick, entertaining read about a sixteen year old boy who gets hooked quickly into poker. As he learns and wins, it’s easy to see why he continues to gamble. He is able to succeed mainly by learning to read other players’ “tells,” or their mannerisms at the poker table. While this is interesting, it is likely to be dated now that poker has gained a wider awareness. He has a goofy, hapless friend who does less well. The ending is a surprise, but is not unearned, and perhaps the best part of the book. Hautman neatly avoided both easy moralizing and the obvious ending. The dynamic of the main character and his friend, though, is nearly identical to that in Godless, one of Hautman’s more recent, and I think better, novels.

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