Brad Feld

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Books: Poker, Baseball, and Personal Fabricators

Jun 19, 2005
Category Books

My traveling – which was pretty intense the past few months – has slowed down.  Correspondingly, my reading has picked up again.  Not surprisingly I’ve got a huge pile of books stacked up (and now in boxes about to be shipped to Alaska).  I’ve read three great books in a row – all covering different things – that I thought I’d share with you.

First up is The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King.  This is the incredible story of Andy Beal – a Texas billionaire (owner of Beal Bank) – who is obsessed with beating the best poker players in the world at their game.  I’ve been playing a monthly-or-so Texas Hold’em tournament style game with some of my Colorado CEO/CTO friends for the past eighteen months.  We shifted to tournament style because there was such a wide range in betting tolerances and – as a result – bluffing didn’t work (someone was always willing to toss in $X just to see what you had).  Beal’s strategy was to shift the poker greats outside of their financial comfort zone which he did by upping the games ultimately to $100,000 – $200,000 Texas Hold’em where there was $40 million on the table.  The book is extraordinarily well written and engrossing – about the characters involved, the actual games played, and the overall super-high-stakes poker scene.  A must read if you are into the current poker craze.

Next was Coach by Michael Lewis.  I’m a huge fan of Lewis – going all the way back to Liar’s Poker.  Lewis has written a memoir that every dad on the planet should read (there – that was my ode to fathers’ day).  This is a half book (you’ll be done in less then an hour) that tells the story of Lewis as a teenage boy learning life lessons from his high school based coach (Coach Fitz).  Lewis ends with the simple message from Coach Fitz that “fear and failure are the two greatest enemies of a well lived life” – something every entrepreneur should keep in mind. 

I just finished FAB tonight. Neil Gershenfeld is the director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms.  I’m a software guy, so anything that involved physical materials, a tool, or assembling anything mystifies me.  Gershenfeld’s book helped me understand why I should think beyond software by using a simple analogy: The 1960 Mainframe is to the 2005 Personal Computer as the 2005 Automobile Plant is to the 20×0 Personal Fabricator.  FAB is full of both examples and theory and Gershenfeld writes in an incredibly accessible way.  CBA claims their vision is to get to the point of “literally creating things from ‘it to bit’” and this book gave my brain a shove in a new direction.  Personal fabrication is the ultimate in user-driven innovation – big ideas explained in a way anyone can understand.