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The Poker Diaries by Liza Conrad

April 14, 2007

The Poker Diaries by Liza ConradLulu’s been playing poker since she was a kid, thanks to her father and grandfather. Her grandfather is an ex-con who now owns a bar, complete with back room gambling, and her father was actually on his way to an illegal poker tournament when he met Lulu’s mother, a museum curator with family money. Although her parents’ marriage didn’t last, Lulu knows they still care for each other, which is more than she can say about many of her friends. Take Dack, for example.

Dack, aka Dalton Angus Charles Kensington III, is the son of an internet millionaire who divorced his wife after making a fortune and ditching her for his “secretary.” Dack’s father basically abandoned him for his new wife, and Dack’s mother is still bitter about her treatment (even if she did score in the divorce settlement). So when Dack loses money and a family heirloom in a poker game, Lulu is the one he turns to.

Lulu and Dack may be best friends, but he has none of her skill at poker. They decide that the only way Dack can get the heirloom, a watch, back is for Lulu to win it back in a poker game with the same guys who won it off Dack. Lulu is a bit apprehensive since this plan requires her to lie to her parents, but they can’t think of a better solution. She ends up getting the watch back for Dack and they think that’s the end of it, until Lulu learns she is being blackmailed. Somehow, she was caught on film at the poker game, which would be bad enough by itself, but there are also clips of her talking about how she learned poker hands and describing some of the illegal games she’s gone to with her father. Her blackmailer claims to be representing a group who wants a “poker-playing phenom” to enter illegal high-stakes games to win them money. If Lulu does not agree to play on their behalf, the clip will be released to the media, which would cause problems for her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, the mayor of New York City.

The Poker Diaries by Liza Conrad is a fast, breezy read. The tough-on-crime-millionaire-Yankee-fan mayor was a bit too reminiscent of certain New York City mayors, I found it hard to believe that Dack only lost $600 before throwing his watch into the pot (you mean his father doesn’t leave him with a load of cash whenever he takes off with the new wife?), and everything was wrapped up a bit too neatly, but whatever. I liked Lulu and how well-adjusted she was. The Poker Diaries was a pleasant enough way to spend an hour, and between its poker-playing narrator, uptown and downtown settings (as the cover copy puts it), and a bad boy romantic interest, will appeal to its audience.

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