Book Review: Dutch Boyd’s Poker Tilt Is a Story That Needed to Be Told

220px-DutchBoydLast week I wrote that I was torn over whether or not I should purchase Dutch Boyd’s new poker book, Poker Tilt. On the one hand I was very interested in reading Dutch’s story, but on the other hand I certainly fall into the not-a-fan of Dutch camp.

Well, things actually worked themselves out on their own. After seeing the column Dutch offered to send me a digital copy of his book, and I have to say it exceeded all of my expectations. So much so that I went and purchased a print copy from Amazon because it certainly deserves a place on my poker bookshelf, and also because I didn’t want anyone to think the point of my previous column was to get a free book.

In my previous article I asked the question if anyone should spend money on the book, and I can now answer this with an emphatic yes. This book is worth buying and had the author’s name been someone other than Dutch I have a feeling it would be one of the top selling poker books.

Poker Tilt is not simply the story of Dutch Boyd. While he is the central figure throughout, it’s more of a story of the birth of online poker and the era just before and just after Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP win.

To the best of my knowledge, no other poker book covers this era.

He zigged when I expected him to zag

My expectation of Poker Tilt was it was going to be Dutch’s attempt at redemption or some pitiful attempt at salvation, with well formulated reasons told with a dramatic flair in an effort to justify his past transgressions.

This was not the case.

In fact, throughout the whole book I really can’t recall Dutch explicitly asking the poker world for forgiveness nor does he seem to expect it; he seems to have accepted his past and simply wants to put it behind him.

The text itself reads more like a deposition than a tell-all autobiography. There is little in the way of internal monologue or even the usual “this is how I was feeling at the time.” At first I was a bit disappointed with this lack of emotion, but a quarter of the way in I realized it was probably for the better.

You’ll draw your own conclusions

For one thing, it becomes apparent from the beginning that Dutch’s formative years were atypical. He went to college at 12 and by 16 he was in Law School. This didn’t happen because he was a prodigy as we were led to believe by ESPN, but because he scored high enough on the entrance test to get his GED, and did so at the urging of his mother.

I can only imagine what it’s like to spend age 12-20 exclusively with people that are older, and I imagine you miss out on a lot of life.

Dutch doesn’t see it this way.

When I asked him if he had any regrets about missing out on “normal” teenage life his answer was telling: “Well, I don’t know what I missed out on… so no regrets. It doesn’t really sound to me like a “normal” teen life is enjoyed by anybody.”

I think this is most evident in his friendships. The book is jam packed with what many readers will view as superficial friendships born out of necessity and convenience… and smoking weed.

I don’t know if Dutch simply didn’t go into greater depth with his friendships or not, but everything seemed to be rushed–meet someone playing cards, go smoke weed with them, become best buds– with no true bonds formed.

Dutch’s view of the poker world

Love him or hate him Dutch makes some very valid points about poker and poker players in general. I agree with a lot of his perspectives on the game and the cast of characters that engage in it, which I’ll sum up in a single word: Cynical.

In addition to the story arc that detailed PokerSpot and the 2002 and 2003 WSOP I really enjoyed the brutal honesty of what it’s like to be a poker pro, and how deep down most poker players are just trying to survive like anyone else. All of the notions swimming around people’s heads that a life in poker lets you sleep until noon and work when you want will be dispelled after reading Poker Tilt… Which is a good thing.

Dutch’s perspective

I asked Dutch what he wanted people to take away from Poker Tilt, here is what he said:

“It’s kind of funny, because this one made me think for awhile. It’s basically like asking me what the point of my book is… and (lol) I don’t really know! Does it even have a point? But if there is one thing I’d want people to take away from my book it’s that poker players are not the characterizations that we see on television or read about on forums… we are real people who across the board are struggling through life.”

This cynicism also seems to have Dutch keen on getting out of poker, but he is stuck in the proverbial Catch-22 in that he needs poker to get back on his feet in order to get out of poker. The one thing he has discovered he is good at is the one thing he desperately wants nothing to do with.

“Right now, I’m really just trying to make a comfortable life for my girlfriend and myself. I’d like to start a family, get healthcare, have a little money in the bank, not have to sweat rent,” Dutch told me, “Maybe this summer, that will all come with a big tourney score. After the Series, I’m hoping to get back into coding with an actual 9-to-5 here in the #vegastech scene.”

My takeaways from the book

As much as I’m against what Dutch has done and how he’s acted (I feel negatively influencing new players coming into the game), he has penned a very poignant and good poker book. If you’re having the same thoughts I did, and not sure you want to line Dutch’s pockets, my advice would be to buy the book, you won’t be disappointed.

Takeaway #1: His life is a bit depressing, but not in a wasted talent kind of way, more in a daydreaming slacker kind of way. For Dutch everything needs to happen immediately or someone else will pass you by.

Takeaway #2: Dutch was someone who got in way over their head and simply didn’t know how to deal with it. I think we lose sight of the fact that he was 20 when PokerSpot happened, and up until this time he had seemed to pull off the impossible i.e. graduating law school at 20. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how PokerSpot happened.

Takeaway #3: It’s one of the most important poker books ever written from a historical standpoint, as it offers a good look at the early days of online poker, an era where very little is publicly addressed.

You can buy Poker Tilt at



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