Cover Image: The Only Way To Play It

The Only Way To Play It

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Member Reviews

"The Only Way to Play It" follows Nate, a struggling painter in NYC, hustling to make ends meet and support his family by playing a series of underground poker nights.  While I know very little about the game – making some of the specific card-playing jargon incomprehensible – I found the book to be an exciting exploration of the financial precariousness of creative pursuits... which turn out to be just as subject to luck and timing and access ("who you know") as gambling!  Nate's constant self-reflection was appreciated, and tonally I think the novel does a good job balancing a pretty dark and dire subject with some levity.   I think my only quibble is that some of the plot threads regarding the Russian mob and/or robberies were too quickly resolved or dropped entirely in favor of the satisfying, slightly preposterous ending.  I liked this book's intersection with the art world and ultimately wished for more of that.
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This book was super good. It was super original and I flew through it. It didn't feel like anything I've read in the past. Can't wait to read more from the author!!
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The Only Way To Play It initially caught my eye with the soft, neutral colours of the cover, with the bolder colours of cards that make up the silhouette of a man. The cover intrigued me, so I decided to find out more. 
The synopsis gave a good overview of the book, giving just enough information to make you want to find out more about Nate Fischer, his relationships and job. The book sounded interesting and quite different to what I usually read, so I decided to give it a go. 

The Only Way To Play It focuses on the main character Nate Fischer who is a struggling painter with a side job of gambling, something he is doing to simply try and support his family. I thought this was an interesting concept that I personally hadn’t come across before; the idea of a struggling artist taking part in something of higher stakes to provide. I had conflicting views throughout this book over Nate’s choice to gamble. In one sense I felt it was admirable that he was trying to provide for and support his family, even if not in the most conventional way, but then I also found myself feeling frustrated with him on occasion, especially when I could see the negative effects this was having upon his family and relationships. 

The relationships were written perfectly, with interest and multiple layers that ran deeper than just the surface deep relationships you often find in books. This was something I found to be particularly enjoyable and helped me to feel as though I was reading about an actual person rather than a character. Nate’s reflections upon these relationships, alongside his self-reflection throughout were relatable and appeared genuine, especially when he reflected on his career, the risks he took and the impact this had, especially on his marriage to Laura. 

Overall, the book was well written, with a strong narrative and was fast paced, helping to provide an excellent flow throughout from start to finish. I rate this book 4.5 stars (rounded up to 5), as it was really enjoyable and a book I would thoroughly recommend, but it is not the genres I usually enjoy reading and felt like I didn’t connect with the story fully. However, hopefully further works from the author will encourage me to branch out more from my usual genres into something a little more fast paced and new. I know I will certainly be looking out for more from Peter Alson in the future!

Thank you to NetGalley & Peter Alson for the ARC in exchange for my fair and honest review!
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I greatly enjoyed this fast-paced read and the insights it gave into the mind of a gambler. While the book felt far-fetched at points, I enjoyed the relationship dynamics throughout the story and found myself turning pages quickly to learn if and how they’d be resolved. This was a fun read for someone looking for a book that moves quickly.
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The Only Way To Play It is a fast paced book which revolves around Nate Fischer who supports his family by gambling. The story has many intricate layers- Nate's self evaluation from his career to his relationships,his father's money troubles. 

The book is well written and engaging. It has a very interesting and creative premise that is constantly paced.The book is enjoyable.

Thank you netgalley. he author and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read and review #The OnlyWayToPlayIt.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Peter Alson's Arbitrary Press for giving me an advanced copy of The Only Way To Play It. 

Peter Alson begins his publishing venture with an absolute winner. 

The novel follows Nate Fischer, a struggling painter who supports his family by playing poker at seedy locations around New York. Nate's marriage is falling apart, his loser-father is having money troubles, and Nate's on a losing streak playing poker; the source of his income.

What attracted me to the novel was the struggling artist doing whatever he can to keep his dream alive. I've read many novels about writers and artists, but I found the angle of Nate being a poker player highly original and exciting. Will he win money? Lose money? Be able to pay the bills? Be able to feed his daughter? Typically in fiction about struggling artists - whether it be a writer, painter, actor - the characters will work odd-jobs before 'making it'. However, in The Only Way To Play It, Alson has shown there are fresh ways to tell stories about those with creative ambitions. 

The book was fast-paced and constantly moved forward, but there was also a fantastic balance of self-evaluation from Nate, especially when he questions his career and the downward spiral of his relationship with his wife, Laura. 

It was a beautiful read and surprising throughout. I will, without a doubt, read any other fiction Peter Alson releases. 

I found the novel universally relatable, and I highly recommend it (especially if you're in a creative field, trying to achieve your passions). The novel gave me hope, and made me remember this: We dream, the journey is tough, but we can find a way to make things work. 

Readers of this novel may also enjoy: 

The Fuck-Up - Arthur Nersesian
Chinese Takeout - Arthur Nersesian
The Comedy Writer - Peter Farrelly 
Sam the Cat - Matthew Klam
Who Is Rich - Matthew Klam
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby
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Well the book was portrayed as a book about a gambler and it lived up to that billing. It was a treat to read the insights into the gambler's live as the real thread of the book. The stresses that gambling causes seems real (not contrived).

I was disappointed in the various gambling venues. They resulted in situations that I found highly unlikely as our serial gambler tried his hand at all of them. The first venue seemed to be the most credible.

As an experienced gambler, he took unnecessary risks in selecting and entering alternative gambling venues. Perhaps this was the key theme that the author wanted to create?

As a modern tragedy, it seemed to end with an unlikely outcome for our hero, one of the less-likely outcomes of the many possible.
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