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The subtitle-and the premise-of Steven Lubet’s Lawyers’ Poker (Oxford University Press, 2006) is “52 Lessons That Lawyers Can Learn From Card Players.” Fifty pages in, the author concedes “But all of that is obvious.” It is. There are no epiphanies, no life-altering revelations here. This book may not be a “must-read”-you will become neither a better lawyer nor poker player for having read it. Ah, but it is most definitely a “should-read”-this book is just flat out enjoyable. You will catch yourself smiling as you read it. You will be glad you read it. You should read it. Lubet’s premise is that we lawyers can learn lessons from poker. Well, duh, of course we can. Tennyson’s “Ulysses” said it best: “I am a part of all I have met.” We can learn lessons from anything. But 52 lessons? Not 51? Or 53? Because there are 52 cards in a poker deck, 52 lessons. Just a bit, perhaps, contrived. And not just contrived; the book is, I think, seriously flawed. It is flawed because, while it cites the greatest poker movie ever made, The Rounders, it fails to cite that film’s most famous and insightful line: “Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” It is flawed because, while it purports to be a scholarly work on the subject and thus cites extensively to the recognized authorities in the field, it fails to mention at all what for people of my generation was the poker Bible, Poker According to Maverick. TV character Bret Maverick summed up in one rule-one, not 52-why everyone, not just lawyers, can learn from poker: “If you know poker, you know people; and if you know people, you got the whole dang world lined up in your sights.” So I say that this book is flawed. But then, so was Van Gogh, and look at what people pay for his work. Perhaps the point could have been made more efficiently � la Maverick, but what’s the fun in that? What makes Lubet’s expanded treatment so enjoyable is the effortless way he weaves to and fro from poker parable to legal lore to practice pointers. Into the mix go presidents Lincoln, Truman and Clinton; movies such as My Cousin Vinnie, The Music Man and Legally Blonde; famous lawyers like F. Lee Bailey, Kenneth Starr and Johnnie Cochran; and poker stars Todd Brunson, Chris Moneymaker and Johnny Chan. Historical figures; hypothetical figures; hysterical figures; high-rolling figures. They are all colors on his palette from which Lubet constructs a canvas that is just plain fun to observe. Equal parts of historical fact, artistic depiction, war stories and legendary poker hands, seasoned with just the right amount of “see, now there’s the point.” Lubet describes hands that won championships or huge pots, as though he were Maverick himself; he reprises memorable movie scenes with the skill of a Roger Ebert; he tells legal war stories like a veteran correspondent; he recounts historical facts and events as only a historian can; and he delivers his lessons with �clat worthy of Aesop. When winning is everything Poker is an especially apt teaching tool for lawyers because, well, except for politics, there is no other career endeavor other than law or poker in which the paradigm is to simply beat the other guy. You want to go to a surgeon who only slips up now and then, whose mistakes are a little less egregious than the doctor next door? No, in most things, we measure competence and success by objective standards, not on relativity. First is always best, but second place is pretty darn good in most things-except in lawsuits and winner-takes-all poker games. Only in poker and law can you succeed on weak cards or no cards at all. Only in poker and law does second place suck. And Lubet makes the point in spades (and, of course, in hearts, and diamonds and clubs). Every reader will come away with a different favorite anecdote from this book. With so many vignettes to chose from, mine happens to be a story about how a poker player unmasked a Nazi spy, simply by using the powers of observation that any good player must have. Your favorite story will be different, just as all poker hands are different. But you will have one. Unlike the game of poker, this book will make a winner out of everyone who reads it. As Lubet himself would (and did) say, “you can bet on it!” Robert L. Byman is a partner in the Chicago office of Jenner & Block, and a regular litigation columnist for the NLJ. He can be reached at [email protected]

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