Mario Puzo: A Poker Player’s Idol

Mario Puzo: A Poker Player’s Idol

The connections between literature and gambling or casinos are more than one would think. Though most of the time they do not play major roles in the actually plot development (gambling usually is used as a type of character definition or portrayal), the connections do exist. But there is one world-famous novel that takes gambling and makes it part of the action; moreover, the author took novel writing and made it a money-making strategy, sort of like poker.

The author of the bestselling modern novel The Godfather, Mario Puzo, should and possibly is a poker players idol due to his use of casinos and gambling in the novel, his view on poker as “living outside the system,” and his focus on strategic thinking.

A novel to make money
Mario Puzo, son of Italian immigrants, was born and reared in New York. After serving in a non-combatant position during WWII, Puzo decided to commence a literary career. In the 1950s he began writing short stories and novels. His first few novels achieved critical praise, but they hardly sold. Motivated by this lack of monetary recompense, he resolved to write a new novel specifically with the intention to make money. He even admitted it in the autobiographical essays released after The Godfather titled The Godfather Papers & Other Confessions. Not long after the publication of The Godfather, the author began to see the money flowing in more than he ever dreamed. The novel was, and still is, a huge hit.

The “Harmless Vice”
If you have read this novel, then you should know that Las Vegas works as the final critical objective for the Corleones. The story concludes with the family moving there and claiming a stake in the newly- budding hotel-casino industry. As a matter of fact, a lot of the conflict between the Corleones and the other families is over the Corleones’ desire to use illegal gambling instead of drug trade as their primary form of income. Hence in the novel, gambling takes on the role of a “harmless vice,” as Don Vito describes it. It is viewed very differently from drug trafficking in the eyes of politicians and this makes it more reasonable than “perversions” such as drugs.

Living “outside the system”
Another reason why poker players tend to like Puzo’s novel stems from the concept of living “outside the system.” Referring to his father, Michael Corleone says, “He doesn’t accept the rules of the society we live in because those rules would have condemned him to a life not suitable to a man like himself…a man of extraordinary force and character.” This elucidation connects with Al Alvarez’s description of poker. Many of those who seek to live this way favor the poker world and become professional players.

Strategic thinking
Finally, and maybe the strongest link, is the books focus on strategic thinking. The characters in the novel constantly plan ahead in a disturbing, and fairly evil manner using strategy, counter strategy, anticipation, and the like; all these things reflect the strategy of poker. In the novel Don Vito paraphrases Machiavelli’s The Prince saying, “There is no greater natural advantage in life than having an enemy overestimate your faults.” This directly correlates to poker. Experienced players know that one should never “tip your hand” or give any clues as to what the hand might be and what moves one is capable of.

Those are only three ways of how the best-selling novel The Godfather links up with poker and poker players. If you haven’t read it, and you love poker, the Don recommends that you read this gripping novel. Just remember to take hints for your game away from it.


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