Book Review: “Ship It Holla Ballas!” by Jonathan Grotenstein & Storms Reback

“How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker’s Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew”

I am not a “balla”

For 5 years now I am working in the poker industry and for 6 years I am playing poker myself. I am glad to say that I never got anywhere these guys got to. You might think that making a living without sitting in an office day after day and by grinding virtual poker tables, becoming millionaires and living the high life might be something to aim for. Not for me though.

I am a fan of calculated risks. I am not very good at math like most online poker pros are and risking hundreds of thousands of dollars on a regular basis by making quick decisions that require the correct strategy over a long period of time, risking your health by working crazy hours, taking drugs to enhance performance and mingle with shady characters is just all stuff that scares me!

Don’t get me wrong. I looooove poker! I played a lot of it: Around 1 million hands online and maybe around 1500-2000 live. And of course the idea to score big or be a winning player over a long period of time is tempting, but I’ll just stick to working in the poker industry and making money the safe way. I will continue playing poker for fun and with little hope that I can make something extra each month…but even if I don’t I won’t risk what I don’t have or play for amounts that make me dizzy.

My biggest online score was $11.700 when I won a  $55 tourney and beat 1300 players. My biggest live score was an EPT Side Event where I made a deal and got €6000 for 3rd place. That money was all invested well into fun stuff!

So yeah, I can’t say I absolutely detest the decisions those young online poker kids are making, but it’s to extremes that I will just never understand. It is much nicer to read about these crazy lives from a safe distance… 😉


Just to be a little pretend “balla” myself I used a $100 print tissue as a bookmark…THAT’s how baller I am …I don’t even have a $100 handy… haha 😉

The “Ship It Holla Balla” crew

Many of the names in the book rang a bell for me. I am long enough on the scene to be familiar and in touch with a lot of poker players and personalities. Though as most people I mainly know live players. It is mentioned throughout the book that the online poker players never got the recognition in the early years as they were all hidden behind screen names and aliases and the scores happened online and not in front of TV cameras at the live felt.

So, personally for me it took me a couple of pages to understand that I actually knew many of the mentioned players but just couldn’t connect them with their online names. The book is this way tailored a lot to the actual “poker nerds” themselves that have been around and following those guys on 2+2 and other poker communities.

And although I am working for an online poker company and was for most of my career a “Community Coordinator” I was mainly concentrated on the German market and so missed a lot of the stuff that was going on in the rest of the poker world when it came to online players.

So I guess for readers outside of 2+2 it might have been helpful to name some of the players by their real names as well (after all it isn’t that difficult to find out their real names… if this was for legal reasons).

It is exciting to be taken through the thought processes of Andrew “good2cu” Robl as the main protagonist in this book but also to be led into the lives of other players like Tom “durrrr” Dwan, David “Raptor” Benefield, or my biggest personal poker crush Phil “Jman” Galfond. <3

We learn about how these guys got to become poker players in the first place, we learn about the highs and lows in many ways. The “Ship It Holla Balla” crew gets robbed, celebrates success at the poker table, goes wild in strip clubs and basically goes through a hell lot of money.

I don’t want to spoil the read by taking any of the excitement away. Will they do the crazy prop bets like jumping into a pool full of sharks, will they survive the poker crack-down in the USA and keep on “ballin'”…?

You really have to read it for yourself. This book is an easy and fun read and you don’t want to put the book down as it’s so easy to just get another of one of the short chapters in and see what kind of adventure awaits or heroes next.

This one is definitely a recommendation from me. Go for it! 🙂


P.S.: I had seen a documentary about Andrew Robl a couple of months ago and it might be interesting to see this as a teaser for what you can expect from the book. 🙂