|Title||Diary of a Mad Poker Player: A Journey to the World Series of Poker|
|Pros||Well-written mix of history (especially the early days of online poker and its legality), strategy, and personal anecdotes.|
|Cons||Too much minutiae about the author, including poker chat transcripts, and not enough about the 2004 Main Event.|
|3||Chips in the Night||1|
|19||How to Play Hold Em||3|
|34||My First Million||5|
|42||Good Play, Bad Play||6|
|51||Will - and Testicles||7|
|71||Abuse and Self-Abuse||9|
|88||A Happy Ending||11|
|96||Phil and Ernie and Ernest and "Rita"||12|
|102||Cocktails on One!||13|
|112||Gambling and the Lawyer||14|
|128||This Way Up||16|
|134||Back to Reality||17|
|148||The Last Chance Saloon||19|
|153||The Walking Dead||20|
|168||The Face of Poker||22|
|178||The Other Side of the Screen - Part I||23|
|187||You Can't Bet On It||24|
|199||The Man Who Bluffed Himself||25|
|210||The Other Side of the Screen - Part II||26|
|238||The Final Table That Isn't||29|
|244||Like a Bandit||30|
At least three authors had the idea before him: Anthony Holden, Al Alvarez, and James McManus, but Sparks was the first to write about trying to qualify through online satellites.
Since Sparks isn't able to get an advance for the book, his online poker endeavor is funded from the money he already has in his accounts, his credit card, and even a transfer from his wife (who may actually be the best poker player in the family).
His journey is instructional (sometimes for what not to do), as he slips in a fair amount of strategy advice as he discusses hands of his own and from Chris Moneymaker, Sammy Farha, and other famous players. Unfortunately, just because he knows what to do doesn't mean he does it. His satellite attempts continue to be unsuccessful, and an attempt to build his bankroll through cash games does no better.
Even with his days dwindling, Sparks finds time to be a journalist, especially with his investigation of cheating in online poker. He interviews employees from the then-biggest online sites -- PartyPoker, ParadisePoker, and PokerStars in that order -- all of whom assure him that they have significant controls in place to detect the most likely form of cheating, collusion. Sparks even pulls it off himself, but since he does it at play money tables, he absolves the site for not catching him.2
The Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet scandal hadn't been uncovered yet. It's a bit ironic that the sites focused so much on preventing their users from cheating, but the biggest problems turned out to be internal.
The biggest weakness of the book is that Sparks fails to qualify for the Main Event and chooses not to buy in for $10,000. Just when the excitement of the book should be peaking, he becomes just another journalist writing about the tourney instead of continuing with his personal experience in the Championship.
Still, Diary of a Mad Poker Player is an enjoyable read with many entertaining and educational side trips, another case where it really is about the journey, not the destination.