With the text complete and the photos finished, Ace on the River was ready for the editing process. As I mentioned in Part One, I wasn’t impressed by any of the poker books I’d read while I was shopping Ace on the River to publishers; most of them were edited by people who clearly didn’t understand poker vernacular. Not wanting my manuscript to succumb to that ugly fate, I decided to tap into my own resources.
I come from a pretty well-educated family. My father has written books and both my sisters are professors. Editing the book turned into a really big family project, so much so that my father, 90 years old at the time, probably pulled ten all-nighters working on the manuscript, painstakingly examining sentences and wording. I was afraid I was going to kill him! It was hard work, but the editing process actually turned out to be fun and it was really enjoyable to have my family involved.
From start to finish, it took me two years to write Ace on the River. It was the beginning of the poker boom and I was playing as much as I could, but in order to finish the book, I had to take time off every once in a while. This was also by far the highest-earning period of my poker career; at the time I was making several million dollars a year and I estimate the missed playing time cost me easily more than a million in income. As the editing process wrapped up and the printing process began, I sought out the best color publisher in the United States to make the book and selected high-quality paper for printing. The production cost was pretty steep—almost $5 a book—and I ordered a run of 100,000 copies. All told, I paid about $500,000 out of my own pocket to have the book printed. It was an expensive undertaking, but Ace on the River was very well received. The first week it was available for purchase on Amazon, Ace on the River cracked the top 20 of all books sold on the site. That week, it passed The Da Vinci Code but was still behind the Harry Potter books.
When I got my first checks from Amazon, they were for six-figure amounts. However, instead of holding on to the money, I decided I was going to do things a little differently. I took everything from those first few checks (about $300,000) and re-invested it in advertising for the book. I took out a half-page color ad in the sports section in USA Today in addition to ads in both mainstream and poker publications.
After the initial burst of the first six months, sales slowed down. The way I had it arranged with the publisher, I expected to get a royalty check every month or two, but it had been about six months since I received a check. It surprised me, so I contacted Charles Kaine to try and find out what was going on. Charles dodged my calls for months, never responding to any of my messages. It was getting ridiculous, because I knew the book was still selling well. Finally, I left a message informing Charles I would have to involve the police since he wouldn’t answer my calls and I wasn’t receiving my money.
A few days later, Charles admitted in an email that he had embezzled the money that was coming in. My book was by far the biggest title he had ever been involved with and when the money started rolling in, he “borrowed” it to invest in his own project—a bookstore or something of the sort. Charles thought his business would do really well and he’d be able to pay the money back quickly, but of course things didn’t go that way. The business failed, Charles blew through all my money, and he had no way to pay me back.
I would always laugh when I was accused of trying to take advantage of the poker boom and make a quick buck with my book when the experience was actually the exact opposite. But despite the sour ending I had with my publisher, I got a lot of intrinsic value from writing Ace on the River and I still look at it as a rewarding experience. I believe we all have a book in us and I was fortunate to be able to write mine.
In Part Three, I’ll tell you the real story behind how I ended up giving away over 250 copies of my book to players who knocked me out of live tournaments.