*UPDATE: December 30, 2018: I had the honor and privilege of translating Eli’s autobiography into English. More details at the end of this article.*
Last night I had the good fortune of attending the launch party marking the release of Eli Elezra’s long-awaited biography. Israel’s most high-profile poker player, Elezra’s well-documented successes at the tables and numerous TV appearances on high-profile poker shows have inspired hordes of his fellow countrymen to take up the game. Though he has long resided in Las Vegas, Elezra is well-known for being proud of his roots and his Homeland. As the biography was penned in his native Hebrew, it made perfect sense to hold the launch party in Tel Aviv.
Israel’s king of poker, @elielezra1, having a Tel Aviv homecoming on Monday to launch his biography. ? Gonna be there with bells on ? pic.twitter.com/lQwHDDqMx4
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) March 4, 2017
Huge Rail Shows Up for the Hometown Hero
While there are no live poker rooms in Israel, the game enjoys a fair bit of popularity in the Holy Land. This was quite apparent in the turnout, as well over 200 people – on a Monday night, no less! – showed up throughout the event to meet and greet the poker legend (which, incidentally, is what the biography’s Hebrew title translates to).
Much like a king receives his subjects, Elezra sat at a poker table, pen in hand, as fans who purchased the book waited patiently in line for an autograph and photo op. Complimentary food and drink were available as well, making for quite a lively atmosphere.
To get a better sense of the goings-on at the event, check out our highlight video, below.
Gracious Speeches Steal the Show
It was revealed in the evening’s speeches that the 238-page book took close to six years to compile. The writers, Matan Krakow and Yoav Ronel – both of whom are active and well-known on the Israeli poker scene, were of course present at the launch and received well-deserved recognition and applause from the audience.
Naturally, the highlight of the night was when Elezra addressed the assembly. In a brief speech that played well to the home crowd, Eli thanked everyone involved in the making of the book as well as his wife, Hila, for her support throughout the years.
These were Eli’s candid remarks (translated from the original Hebrew):
In 2004-2005, a guy named Mori (Eskandani) came to Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio and spoke to us – to me, Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, and Barry Greenstein. He said “guys, we want to take this game and put it on television; to make a series out of it.” We told him we were willing to give it a try.
That was the moment that High Stakes Poker began. In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined that it would make me as famous as I am. Anyone who knows even just a little about poker has watched all of those episodes; seen all of those hands.
I’m staying in the King David hotel here, and while I’m eating breakfast the waiter comes around to my table. He then proceeds to say “I was watching you in such and such a hand – tell me, why didn’t you fold?!” Indeed, even today there are people still watching those shows for the first time, despite the fact they were actually filmed 7-8 years ago; those were some incredible years.
High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark turned us all into rock stars in the poker world.
Some Fantastic Poker Stories Await
As if anyone present needed any additional convincing to purchase the biography, the Foreword was written by none other than Doyle Brunson, the Godfather of Poker himself. Eli also read a few selected passages from the book that had us in attendance enchanted. Plainly put, they were riveting and had me wanting to start reading the moment I got home… which I did 🙂 .
Looking through the table of contents, the book covers plenty about Eli’s life prior to discovering poker, including his childhood in Jerusalem, his IDF military service in the Golani Brigade, and his adventures while working on Alaskan fishing boats.
Poker topics discussed include what it was like to play against billionaire banker Andy Beal, the day Eli lost $1 million, playing in Bobby’s Room, winning money vs. winning bracelets and other trophies and accolades, online poker, the dreaded (poker) year of 2011, Full Tilt Poker, and much more.
Also included, for those less familiar with the poker world, are a primer on how to play Texas Hold’em, an abridged history of modern poker, and a brief glossary of poker terms.
UPDATE: December 30, 2018
Eli’s English-language autobiography is called Pulling the Trigger and it contains updates to the Hebrew version as well as additional stories. The book was released by Two Plus Two Publishing in January 2019 and you can buy it now on Amazon.
WATCH: Interview with Eli Elezra, in Jerusalem, marking the launch of his English-language book