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Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss
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Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  141 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
"So each night begins. One of us picks up the other and we drive into the Mississippi darkness, headed for a place where everything is different." This first nonfiction book by Frederick Barthelme, author of BOB THE GAMBLER, and his brother and colleague Steven is both a story of family feeling and a testimony to the risky allure of casinos. Within a year and a half, the a ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published November 22nd 1999 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1999)
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Mar 29, 2016 Brian rated it it was amazing
This is the book that treads meaningfully upon the question of gambling addiction. Written by both Frederick and Steven Barthelme (younger brothers of the literary stalwart Don), it is intimate in its honesty about what makes a family, about losing one's parents, about that green-eyed demon Gamblor. This is the book I want my family to read when they ask why I spent too much of my 20s and early 30s in Las Vegas at a blackjack table. This is the book that makes me want to read all of the Barthelm ...more
Neil M Campbell
Apr 08, 2013 Neil M Campbell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Think this is one of the most smugly ignoble books I've ever read.

Their father is undoubtedly one of the most unpleasant people it has ever been my misfortune to meet in print, a sad, needy, attention seeking little man who bullied his family mercilessly. Steve and Rick are two pussies, utterly unheroic figures. Father never grew up and neither did they. Seems to me they feared and hated him and took revenge by effectively involving him in their gambling - he was with them in the casinos to all
Dec 19, 2011 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, gaming
The authors, two writer brothers who teach at the same university, slipped into a gambling fever, losing a quarter million dollars in the years following their aged parents’ deaths. This is a lucid, compelling book: the sense of addiction, the timeless, weird feeling one gets when gambling, is brought vividly to life. There’s also some measure of self-analysis: the brothers conclude that guilt and grief fueled their two-day-long losing sprees, and they appear to aptly judge themselves. They are ...more
“Double Down” is a book written by two literature professor brothers who become addicted to casino gambling in Mississippi. The book describes their family backgrounds, outlook on the world, and then goes on to describe their casino gambling experience. This book mostly gets on my nerves because I feel if I ever met the authors, I would want to tell them how spoiled and selfish they are. I felt frustrated reading about their gambling experience because they had clearly lost control. Their gambli ...more
Guy Choate
Feb 12, 2012 Guy Choate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
While I wish it dealt a little less with the family stuff and a little more with the gambling, this was a great read. I was also unsure about how some of the legal issues turned out. However, I'm a gambler and these guys nailed exactly what it's like to be a gambler. Their attitudes toward the casino were spot on, and I found myself laughing (to keep from crying) out loud in some of the descriptions of the game of blackjack.
Nov 23, 2008 Sera rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book is awesome. It's about two brothers who are gambling addicts. The book not only gives tremendous insight into this disease, but it also shows how the brothers found ways to feed it.
Christopher Roth
Oct 21, 2012 Christopher Roth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no interest in gambling per se, but this looked like a well written and quirky memoir. The first-person-plural narration--the only time I'd seen that before was in The Virgin Suicides, and there it was a gimmick, but here it's because there really are two narrators--is a surprisingly successful experiment. My enjoyment of this was all the more surprising given that I can't sympathize at all with the impulse not only to gamble all one's money away but even to gamble some of one's money awa ...more
Apr 07, 2009 Louise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The fascinating story of Frederick & Steven Barthelme and their three year gambling splurge in Mississipi casinos. Both brothers teach at the University of Southern Mississipi and are well educated men who find themselves spiralling downward!

From back cover:

"When both of their parents died within a short time of each other, Frederick and Steven Barthelme inherited a goodly sum of money. What followed was a binge during which they gambled away their entire fortune-and more. And then, in a cru
Mar 27, 2011 Marguerite rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
An interesting look at compulsive gambling, from two thoughtful writers who have been there. It's an urge I've never experienced, though I know people who have. The Barthelme brothers provide the interior view, and put it in the context of their own family history, which they believe predisposed them to their shared addiction. Maybe the most fascinating dynamic is that two rather ordinary people can react to loss (of their parents) with such reckless gusto. That makes the book a cautionary tale. ...more
Mar 23, 2014 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a memoir by two brothers who gambled away a bunch of inherited money. I expected it to be a straightforward recounting of their exploits, but it ended up exploring the psychology and history that led their choices (largely their upbringing and relationships with their parents). I enjoyed the whole thing and particularly liked the self-analysis about why they continued playing even though they knew they'd lose big over the long term.
Sep 29, 2010 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing about gambling is really good - there's a certain clarity that really shines at times. There are a few other things going on here: the brothers confront the applicability of the teachings of their strong-willed father in their grown up lives, react to the death of their parents, and briefly explore the ennui of being middle class intellectuals without children. There's also the story of their court case, which has lots if potential, but gets abruptly dropped at the end, which is a bu ...more
Dec 19, 2007 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decent book about 2 presumably well-educated and responsible brothers who are compulsive gamblers in the gulf coast. As I recall, they are college professors who have otherwise normal lives, but can't control the gambling...
Mit Rennat
It is never interesting to read about two detached rich men who pretend to be actual people with actual problems. Let us not forget that this shit really happened and why did I waste my time reading this trash?
Mar 20, 2011 Cindy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Two brothers with a gambling addiction is discussed amid a background of family relationships. Fascinating. Guilt over their dying parents is addressed.
Jun 25, 2008 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Hated it. My entire book group hated it. 6 years after reading it (our 2nd book) we still laugh about how bad it was.
Aug 08, 2008 Nate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brutal de-glamorization of gambling, makes me never want to enter a casino again. Not that I hang at 'em much now.
Jul 14, 2009 Ed rated it liked it
This is an oddly endearing book from two guys who know who know how to write.
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Barthelme's works are known for their focus on the landscape of the New South. Along with his reputation as a minimalist, together with writers Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Amy Hempel, and Mary Robison, Barthelme's work has also been described by terms such as "dirty realism" and "K-mart realism."He published his first short story in The New Yorker,and has claimed that a rotisserie chicken helped ...more
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