Fast paced with good historical content. Ben Mezrich has great style and say with words to engrossing you into his stories. Straight flush is no exception. In “Straight Flush,” Ben Mezrich follows a bunch of fraternity buddies through the rise and fall of what they hoped would be an online poker. After writing about MIT students who took Las Vegas for millions and the founding of Facebook, Ben Mezrich turns to online poker. “Straight.
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The six college friends were the founders of Absolute Poker, which was shuttered on April 15, as part of what’s now been deemed by the online poker industry as the Black Friday indictments. Since the release of the book there has been a lot of chatter about the accuracy of its text, which Mezrich deems “Narrative Non-Fiction,” and in particular the chapters that detail the Absolute Poker cheating scandal.
In late June, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mezrich in his office in Boston for an exclusive interview. We talked candidly about the process of writing the book, how heavily the main characters were involved in the telling of the story, the discrepancies between the cheating scandal as presented in the book — and other accounts which can be found online, and whether or not Mezrich felt as if the subjects were being honest with him.
Ben, talk us through the process of getting involved in the Straight Flush project. I get 20 to 30 pitches a week and they go into my website or go into my Twitter. Every college kid who has done something crazy will pitch me a story. The Julian Assanges of the world all pitch me their stories. I kind of ignored it. Online poker, I played a little bit but didn’t know enough about the industry and wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to write about.
Then a second pitch came in from Pete Barovich. So I started to look in to it. It had the elements I look for in a story: So, it had that cool arc that I look for so I was intrigued. I started talking to Pete, who was the first guy I started talking to in Phoenix. It was pretty fascinating. Then came the process of finding out how many sources I can get. I managed to get to all of the guys, and they all seemed willing to talk.
Book review: Straight Flush by Ben Mezrich – The Boston Globe
Scott Tom was the most reluctant. He did not originally want to talk to me probably because of the whole 60 Minutes thing, and a lot of people had come after him and he was in Antigua and he was trying to figure out what he was going to do about the indictment and the government and fllush that kind of stuff.
But I met with him and convinced him to be a source as well. I had very limited knowledge I flusy say compared to a lot of your readers probably. But I had played online poker a little bit, and I also played poker with friends.
Since Social NetworkI had a lot more mainstream projects going on, but I was fascinated by the fall of an industry. I thought that was really cool. Was there any hesitation being that you got hard pitches from two of the founders.
You mention Garin and Pete both atraight the story. Were you at all concerned there was an agenda? Well no, you want to do a story like this. For me anyways, having the sources available to you is the most important thing. I would much rather write a book when the people involved are willing participants than when they are not. You want Mark to talk to bdn.
In this case you want Scott to talk to you. Writing this story without them being involved would not have been a good story. It was quite the opposite of concern. I was thrilled they wanted to be so open and tell the story. Part of it also involves your agents and a lot of other people. You want to pick a project that has legs. Something like this probably took a few months. Then it boils down to handling all the interviews, which took place both via Skype, and through trips around the world.
Then there is the process of getting all the court documents. I got thousands of pages of documents and not just the indictments, but every trial that was going on.
Then anything involved with any of the people themselves like newspaper articles, and all the blogs.
You have to go through all the material flysh see exactly how the story is going to go, but yeah, it took straigt while. When online poker was kind of hot, I think I was on PokerStars mostly.
It was never for a lot of money. I think at most I might have had a thousand dollars online. I lost it all. Where is this money going? I think a lot of people have the same concerns when putting their credit card on the Internet.
So I think I stopped for that reason. I liked it, and I always felt like it was foolish that it was illegal.
Why is this illegal? I can buy lottery tickets in the supermarket. So I never had an issue with it legally. I was fascinated by it. So yes I played but my friends would laugh if I said I was a good poker player. I am really good at folding gen third [place]. I can fold a pair of aces, easily. You mentioned that you got full cooperation flysh the key characters in the book.
Exclusive: Ben Mezrich Discusses Straight Flush, Truth About Absolute Poker, and More
Can you expand on that? Yeah, all the main characters: Then the dad, Phil Tomwho is a hoot you could say.
Those were obviously the inside guys. Sources who wanted to remain unknown. There were the court documents as well. That was pretty much most of my sources. Brent Beckley made the decision to turn himself in, and face the music, while Scott Tom is straiht at large. Did you notice a big difference in attitude between the two? I felt bad for Brent. Brent mfzrich a really sweet guy. If you talk to Brent, he is a very nice guy. I think he was naive.
‘Straight Flush’ by Ben Mezrich
I think he did things that were foolish. I think he knows that he was at risk. He knows he was putting himself in that danger position by being the payment processor. He straightt looked up to his brother and still looks mezrichh to his brother.
Scott really did want to take care of his brother but Scott is more of the cowboy, benn of the dangerous kind of guy. I think Brent ended up getting in over his head. For him it was fun, it was crazy, and it was an opportunity. Then when he got sentenced he was very upset. He did not ever expect to go to jail. He thought he was turning himself in to start a new life and thought he would be able to get his kids back into the United States, which he did.
I think he turned himself in thinking he would pay a fine and go free. Instead, a judge decided to make an example fluwh of him. So he was very upset when I talked to him. Scott, on the other hand, was terrified about his future because he had no idea what was going to happen. I went to Antigua and spoke to him in person. He is a charismatic individual. He is definitely complex. There are two sides to Scott, I think.
If you talk to everyone how knows him well they either love him or hate him. But they are both very different people. Do Beckley and Scott Tom have a different take on the events that took place? Was it difficult to piece together a cohesive story? Scott was pretty clear on how he felt about things.
Scott clearly feels that the government did both him and Brent wrong. Brent waivers back and forth when you talk to him.
He just wanted it all to be over.