Pocket Kings (Paperback)

By Ted Heller

Algonquin Books, 9781565126206, 368pp.

Publication Date: March 27, 2012

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (3/26/2012)
CD-Audio (3/27/2012)
Pre-Recorded Audio Player (3/27/2012)

List Price: 13.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In this dead-on satire of online obsessions, a novelist with writer’s block finds a new—and very lucrative—stream of income in a virtual world that appears to give him everything he lacks in the real world.

When Frank Dixon, a frustrated writer who has seen his career crash and burn, decides to dabble in online poker, he discovers he has a knack for winning. In this newfound realm, populated by alluring characters—each of them elusive, mysterious, and glamorous—he becomes a smash success: popular, rich, and loved. Going by the name Chip Zero, he sees his fortunes and romantic liaisons thrive in cyberspace while he remains blind to the fact that his real life is sinking. His online success, however, does not come without complications, as he comes to realize that his “virtual” friends and lovers are, in fact, very real, and one rival player is not at all happy that Mr. Zero has taken all his money.

Heller’s cautionary tale is continually surprising and startlingly real, a tour de force of satirical storytelling in the vein of Jonathan Tropper and Sam Lipsyte.

About the Author

TED HELLER is the author of Slab Rat, which GQ magazine called “diabolically witty” and the Washington Post called “uncommonly smart, funny, and dead on” and named as one of the 10 best novels of the year. He is also the author of Funnymen, which the Guardian of England called “a masterpiece of comic invention” and the Times of London called “one of the most satisfying books in years.” Previously a senior writer at Nickelodeon Magazine, Heller lives in New York.

Praise For Pocket Kings

“Heller’s novel about a failed writer offers an unlikable protagonist, vivid writing and a comic depiction of our most disgraceful inner states.”—The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice list

“Highly entertaining . . . Pocket Kings is, in spirit, the comical sequel to Frederick Exley’s Fan’s Notes, the classic and psychologically tragic depiction of machismo mediocrity.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Ted Heller’s brazen, often hilarious and always disturbing new novel, Pocket Kings, is a hybrid love letter and suicide note to 21st-century publishing . . . What seemed at first to be a smart if limited satire about publishing and online gambling becomes an illuminating and fully realized story about identity and reputation in the digital age. At its best, Pocket Kings explores authentic existence and the desperate extremes to which a man will go to be recognized in an industry that he, like so many others, despises and loves.”—The Washington Post

“[A] recklessly funny, sparky satire of our obsession with the virtual world.”—Vanity Fair

“Pocket Kings is the kind of reading fun that offers nutritional value and not just empty calories. Ted Heller’s third novel is a satirical, charming literary ride.”—Buffalo News

“A poignant, funny satire ... Heller’s prose is razor sharp and his cultural reference points are spot on. In fact it’s all so believable that you have to wonder about Mr. Heller’s own online poker credentials. Watch out for him at the virtual tables.”—CultureMob

“Heller (Slab Rat, Funnymen) seems to have inherited the satire gene from his father, Joseph.”—New York Post

"The pace is fast, the plot twisty, and the satire bites viciously."—Library Journal

"Laugh-out-loud funny . . . There is a certain Everyman quality to Frank, whose hopes gradually fade away but whose self-deprecating humor helps carry him through his midlife angst and denial of addiction; you want to wish him well."—Booklist

“A well-crafted and entertaining satire.”—Publishers Weekly