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Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire--and How It All Came Crashing Down...

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,658 ratings  ·  158 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House, the sources for the films The Social Network and 21, comes the larger-than-life true tale of a group of American college buddies who brilliantly built a billion-dollar online poker colossus based out of the hedonistic paradise of Costa Rica.

One problem: the U.S. Departmen
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by HarperLuxe
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 ·  1,658 ratings  ·  158 reviews

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Start your review of Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire--and How It All Came Crashing Down...
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why I finished this book--I guess it was thrilling enough to make me want to hear the ending. This is a "dramatic narrative" account of the rise and fall of an online poker website, which went from a frat-house dream to a billion-dollar company to the subject of indictments and seizures by the Feds.

Mezrich mailed this one in--every mansion's lawn is "manicured" and at least three women are described as having "ample" chests. I was far less interested in the trappings of instant weal
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Mezrich's works of faction are generally a fun read, even if (or, perhaps, largely because) he rarely lets reality get in the way of a good story. This one, however, doesn't really work on either level. There's an obviously great story lurking underneath — or, if you're not really concerned with the facts, potentially two great stories. At some point someone is sure to write the more in-depth corporate-finance-thriller-esque exposé of the company's increasingly complex attempts to evade the US j ...more
Leo Walsh
In poker, there's a concept called a "bad beat." That's when you have a great had, say 3 Aces, which will win 99% of the time. And yet, you get beat by a full house of, say, twos and threes, cards which suck individually.

In a nutshell, the story Ben Mezrich tells in STRAIGHT FLUSH, his fictionalized history of the online poker site Absolute Poker is a bad beat.

The story revolves around a handful of Montana fraternity brothers who create an online goldmine, the poker site Absolute Poker. Five y
Melinda Elizabeth
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Straight Flush charts the rise and rise of the online poker gaming industry, and how a bunch of frat boys developed a multi billion dollar business during the dot com boom.

The start up of the Absolute Poker website reads like a script for a movie – there’s certainly lots of sex, drugs and intrigue when they leave everything behind and bank their investment in some dodgy banks in Costa Rica with the intent of creating an online poker environment that is just as enticing as the real deal.

Jun 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Considering I read this in one day, I'd say it was a definitely a page-turner -- mainly in a gawking at the accident on the side of the road kind of way. Just unbelievable how this particular off-shore gambling site was born. Not as good as his previous Bringing Down the House, but worth reading at the beach this summer. And poker players will surely get more out of it than I did. ...more
Sep 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Going all in!

This is the story of the rise a fall of a online poker business empire that was started by friends from university following from a passion discovered whilst there by one of the main protaganists.

Having previously read his book about the building of the Facebook empire I was intrigued to read some of his other work as I really enjoyed that book. For me this wasn't as good. I think the main reasons for this lie with the facts that the characters and subject matter come across as bein
Donald Schopflocher
Fast paced story of the rise and fall of Absolute Poker. Not enough information about ‘Black Friday’ to determine whether the author’s withering critique of the US DOJ is justified. More information about the other companies involved (Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker) might have lead to a more balanced and complete account. The book was written to be sensationalistic and was therefore written too close to the conclusion of the Black Friday raids to allow a full assessment, if indeed it was at all ...more
This book follows the normal Mezrich formula for telling a non-fiction story that makes an appealing narrative. He specializes in telling stories of young geniuses who do stuff that no one else has been able to accomplish. His most famous book is The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal which was the basis for the movie The Social Network.

If you haven't read his books before, start with another one. This one is not as strong a story as the
Brian Besaw
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another Mezrich hit! Busting Vegas meets Accidental Billionaires. Straight Flush offers a behind the scenes look at the genius behind Absolute Poker, the online poker explosion, and the rise and fall of the major US online sites. For someone who was captivated by the poker boom, this book offers interesting insights. And, as a student of human nature, it is an especially fascinating glimpse inside a different kind of mind. While so many, upon first exposure to poker, online or otherwise, wanted ...more
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting story from the author of The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal and in a similar style. Details the roller coaster ride by the founders of the Absolute Poker internet poker empire. I have my own opinions about how the government has handled online poker, and if anything those views were just strengthened by this read. Recomended to fans of Ben Mezrich or anyone interested in Poker and online entrepreneurship. ...more
Aug 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not a literary masterpiece, this was a good account of these boys and their experiences as fledgling online poker entrepreneurs. I was surprised at my reaction to their being brought down by our government after doing absolutely nothing illegal until 2 congressmen attached an illegal gambling rider to a powerful port protection bill????? They took every precaution to be sure what they were doing was legal right to the end, paying back customers if there was any sign of illegal activity whe ...more
Edward Monrad
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me back to the good days of online poker! It was fun to reminisce about sites, bonuses, ideas, and games long gone. Also interesting to see it from behind the scenes. Without having been a player back in those days myself, though, it wouldn't have been so interesting. ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book about since all I did in high school was play Texas Hold'em and learned how to play other games of poker on gaming sites like this, I loved the back story.

It is a wild ride.
Lawrence O'flahavan
Better than the movie!!!
Feb 19, 2016 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, owned
This one is a DNF. Got 2/3rds through the book and am not enjoying it. The story is ok, the writing is ok (not great, but ok) - neither is spectacular enough for me to keep reading.
Jane Goldberg
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is written for a niche market. The world of modern poker players. Specifically online poker players. It is the true story of how six university students fell in love with Texas Hold ‘em.

They turned their last Vegas for the game into a billion dollar empire...until Black Friday. Black Friday the day when the US government declared ALL online poker (playing for real money) illegal. That edict, issued in a federal court for the Southern District of New York ruined the businesses of hundre
Robert Spillman
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a fan of Ben Mezrich's books, so you can guess the outcome of this review. Mezrich conveys facts in a suspense narrative that is fun to read and easy to imagine the events as they take place. Straight Flush follows a group of college students who design an online poker game that becomes very popular, making them millionaires very quickly. You take part in their venture by way of Mezrich's descriptive writing, and feel the excitement of the good years and the gnawing pain of impending disaste ...more
T Sunclades
The writing is fine, I just dont identify with people who "party hard"

This is the story of one of the many online poker sites that sprang up in the early 2000's. We follow a group of college friends who decide to try making a site to let people play poker on for money and see what happens. They have some wealthy friends and family that help them get their start. After that we have a lot of jet setting and debauchery and hard working nights and days. Eventually the United States congress sneaks l
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the way that Mezrich rips a story from the headlines, and delves into with journalistic aptitude to create a readable book.

This fast paced book is about a group of University of Montana fraternity brothers, who had no gaming experience, yet moved to create Absolute Poker in 2003. They moved the company to Costa Rica where the site could operate without a gaming license. The frat boys made millions before the enactment of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which crimi
Mezrich has a gift for finding these amazing stories, and then failing terribly at telling them. This is my second book by him, and my last. He never focuses on anything interesting in his books, choosing instead to spend paragraphs describing women's bodies rather than building tension and talking about the story. He never bothers to explain what an IPO is, despite the fact that it is a huge goal of the protagonists for part of the book, but he wastes a solid paragraph describing the over-lipst ...more
Bobby Jones
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, but Mezrich does what he does in every one of his books- he identifies too much with his subjects and obscures the realities to make them appear in a better light. He is, in many ways, a gonzo journalist and, in that way, a participant in the debauchery and corruption which he chronicles. The factual problems within this book are well documented and I don't need to list them here. As a work of fiction of questionable non-fiction, Straight Flush was quite good. As a wo ...more
Luke Sayese
I would have given it a higher rating if the author included more details on how the online poker industry had started and how it operated back in its early days. Instead there were more details on their lavish lifestyle and women’s appearances (and also what they were wearing, including their underwear oddly enough) than online poker. As a big poker enthusiast I was a bit disappointed in leaving out those details. Overall it was alright, not great but alright, because I at least got some insigh ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan of how Ben Mezrich approaches telling these stories - Bringing Down the House, Accidental Billionaires, Bitcoin Billionaires, etc. - about kids in their early 20s with their fingers on the pulse of a major innovative disruptor. This particular story felt a little bit different, removed somehow, focusing more on the narrative and less on the personal sides. Perhaps because it involved so many main characters? While it was not germane to the story, it was still odd that details abou ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-story
A house full of frat boys decide to start an online poker business so they never have to give up their partying, drinking, all-the-girls, lifestyle. For a while they succeed and keep living large but eventually the law catches up to them. I didn't think the explanation of why they were in trouble legally at the end was adequate. I still don't really understand what happened. An unregulated industry that the government decided needed to be regulated, so imposed rules in retrospect? Not sure. ...more
Alex Hoskinson
I read this because I really liked two other books I've read by this author, but this one just didn't quite do it for me. The quality is fine, I just was never able to come to the point where I could relate to the characters, so it made it hard to really care about what happened.

But, it's still an interesting story - especially if you like the topic. And it will get you thinking about international law and business ethics.
Jonathan Harbin
Facinating story about a group of SAE fraternity brothers that started a multi-million$ online poker business that was questionably legal and the drama that surrounded this development. They traveled all around the world to skirt away from the law but some could not escape fate. Would make a great movie, maybe one worth going to the movies about.
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The excitement of a start up, the passion and the headiness of success. Brilliantly captured. Playing with the greys in the legal framework, with the aid of lawyers and bankers and then crumbling down when the heavy hand of the law comes down. A roller coaster . And the cast of characters well etched out.
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mature
Not quite as good as Bringing Down the House but decent. As a guy who graduated high school and was in college in the mid 00’s I was certainly around Hold ‘Em quite a bit but it never grabbed me like it did to many others was always more of a blackjack guy. Seemed to be a bit of a book about nothing more so than Bringing Down the house.
Eric L White
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining read

This was a really enjoyable book. I've read three or four Mezrich stories, and all of them are a lot of fun. This was also a fun flashback to the internet poker days. I spent many hours playing online poker, and it did feel like the wild west. I also remember the internet poker boom ending almost overnight. Anyway, i would recommend this book.
Per Berger
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good read, leaves you thirsting for more.

Fast paced with good historical content. Ben Mezrich has great style and say with words to engrossing you into his stories. Straight flush is no exception.
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