by Jimmy Lee Shreeve
John Blake Publishing
April 2008, 288 pages
... because it’s just about the greatest PR headline I’ve ever seen.
The skinny? UK-based true crime author Jimmy Lee Shreeve is writing a poker-related blog, which can be accessed via his website. Shreeve is the author of four books detailing some of the gruesomest rituals in modern history, including child sacrifice and cannibalism. His newest book is Cannibals, out in hardcover this month from John Blake Publishing. According to Shreeve’s press release, his poker blog “covers his personal experiences ... and highlights the often wild individuals who have been associated with the game since its beginnings on the Mississippi riverboats in the early 19th century”.
Enticing as that sounds, I don’t think even the most creative of press releases could rightly describe the joys of Shreeve’s blog. It is truly a journey into weirdness: eccentric, funny, and ridiculously compelling. If you need some poker tips, Jimmy’s got some. But the fun here is learning about Jimmy’s dad, who taught Jimmy to play poker as a kid. Jimmy’s dad learned the ropes from “U.S. airmen and members of the Mafia during stints in Italy and North Africa in World War II”. Right? Jimmy writes, too, about his first high stakes games, about comparing method acting to poker playing, and comments on the techniques of Phil Hellmuth.
Here’s just a sample from Shreeve’s latest entry, titled “Too many aces can land you in a hole”:
Although most of us would agree that aces in the hole are a good thing to have, too many of them—metaphorically-speaking, at least—can literally land you in a hole. One time, when I was playing poker regularly in Bristol, in the west of England, I ran into what was as near to a Wild West shoot out as you’re ever going to get in the U.K. (short of getting involved in armed robbery and gangsterism).
It involved me, Frank Coburn and Sam Johnson. Both were singer/guitar players, who I used to back up with lead guitar in the pubs and clubs in the region. This was during the mid-1980s.
We’d been playing poker with some rasta guys in St. Pauls, which is the Bristol equivalent of the London district of Brixton. As usual, we’d been playing in the Gaol, the historic cellar owned by Frank. The rastas became disgruntled, saying that we’d had too many “aces in the hole” for it to be a fair game. We weren’t cheating (being honourable, none of us would). Luck had simply been on our side. The game ended, and the rastas left, muttering vengeance.
We thought nothing of it. But the following evening we were on our way for a drink at the Beaufort pub in the arty Montpelier area of Bristol. I was wearing my long coat and Western hat (which I still wear), and was completely unaware that the rastas were waiting for us up ahead, standing like gunfighters in the shadows.and wielding knives.
Head on over to see how it ends…