Ace on the River came out during the 2005 World Series of Poker. I brought about twenty pre-printed copies of the book with me to Las Vegas to give out to the media for review and I kept a bunch of them sitting under my chair while I was playing events. One day, someone at my table asked if he could have a copy. I told him I couldn’t give them out because the few I had with me were already earmarked for the media. I told him the book would be out in a couple of weeks, but the guy was really persistent.
“How can I get this? I want to read it now,” he demanded. I apologized again.
“Well, what if I knock you out?”
I decided to humor him and promised if he managed to bust me out of the tournament, I’d give up one of the copies.
He didn’t knock me out, but word started getting out about my offer. Later in the same tournament, I sat down at a new table and someone else said, “I want a copy too. How about if I knock you out?”
By the end of the day, it got around that I’d be giving away a copy of my book to whoever knocked me out. I can’t remember who busted me from that tournament, but I did give away one of my pre-printed copies.
When the book came out a few weeks later, some poker players who I suppose were trying to save some money tried to keep this arrangement going. It was nearly the end of the World Series and I decided to keep giving out the books. I signed them, of course, and as an extra touch I included the hand the player knocked me out with in the inscription. Some people declared it a marketing ploy, that I was trying to get my book noticed during televised events, but it really wasn’t something I planned. The whole thing happened organically.
When you’re a poker player, if someone offers you a challenge, you accept it. That’s what I did when it came to this ritual. People began to expect to get a copy of the book if they busted me from a tournament and over the next six years or so I gave away somewhere around 250 copies. However, when I signed with PokerStars I began traveling overseas more frequently to play events on the European Poker Tour. It forced me to carry six or seven books with me on each trip to Europe, and because they’re printed on such high-quality paper they weigh over two pounds each. All too often, I would be at the airport checking our bags and my girlfriend would be opening up our suitcases and moving books from one to another to get them under the fifty-pound limit.
It was such a pain to lug these darn books around and eventually my girlfriend pleaded with me to tell people this was the last year I would give out the books. That was in 2012, and although some players were disappointed I put an end to this tradition, we have been traveling far lighter ever since.