Recently Mike Leah made his writing debut with the publication of his first novel Poker Face, a fun, exciting and witty look at the world of high-stakes card playing. The novel is full of humor and irreverent banter; while also being very relevant to what can happen in the world of poker. I was highly impressed with Leah’s writing.
Poker Face starts off with our protagonist Wayne meeting up with a friend of his wife, a famous and respected poker player named Heather. Wayne mentions that he wants to play poker, so Heather tells him about the game of “Coffee Pot”, a game of high stakes and pressure, like nothing that she has ever played before. However, for Heather, it is just the beginning of something much bigger and much more exciting.
Her name is Carmel, and she is the queen of Coffee Pot. She tells Wayne that she is bringing her husband that day because she expects him to win the whole pot. She tells Wayne that her husband plays poker for money, and she tells Wayne that if he wants to see what all the fuss is about, he needs to play Coffee Pot with her.
Carmel shows Wayne around Coffee Pot and tells him all about it. Wayne takes her advice and enters into a scenario that only he could have imagined:
“Everyone was afraid to make the first move,” Mike Leah writes in his entertaining style, “so everyone started out by sitting at the same table and building the most generous hand they could manage.” “The initial game was similar to many other coffee pot games and seemed to be working itself out just fine. No one had ever lost, and everyone was happy to just have fun while winning.”
This is where things go horribly wrong, however, when “the opposition finally turned up…and out, and out…The limit” and coffee pot suddenly came to an end. Although coffee pot has always been the perennial winner of the coffee pot tournament, this time, it was not so.
After Coffee Pot was won, the coffee pot tournament was ended and everyone went their separate ways, some hoping to win, others to have fun and relax. Wayne ended up having an unhappy and tense night.
Later, at a party of sorts, people get together to reminisce about Coffee Pot, and also Wayne (who seems to be making things worse). Mike Leah then shares what happened:
“My great uncle took over the business in the seventies, and the owner was running coffee pot tournaments, but he also ran a cocktail bar, and was the man who started the story by telling everyone that everyone wanted to try the game. He told everyone about Coffee Pot and how it would help them earn some money, and everyone got in, and not one of them knew how to play it.”
Then Mike Leah takes us back to Carmel and what she thinks of the entire episode. Not only does she talk about her experience, but she also describes how she enjoyed her time there, how she met Wayne and even describes how she heard about the game from one of her friends, all in one paragraph.
In another paragraph, Mike Leah gives us some personal observations about how he and his wife have found themselves at the dinner table during one of the summer months. “Our husbands are both in graduate school, and while we enjoy the evenings together, we are often less concerned with how our marriage might fare as we are with how our husband might do. It’s a way of life, and an opportunity, and we love it, because we are in the company of others who are enjoying it, too.”
It is this type of writing and insight that makes Mike Leah’s debut novel a bestseller. He writes in a conversational tone, and many times we are right there with him, asking questions, sharing his own experiences, and much more. In short, this is a fun read.