Lyle Berman Biography Examines Big Business, Start of WPT Concept - Thursday 15th of December 2005


Who is Lyle Berman? What were his roots? How did he make his money and what made him discover how the game of poker could make millions for himself and others on an international level? Berman's biography, written with the assistance of Dr. Marvin Karlins (Psyching Out Las Vegas, The Book Casino Managers Fear The Most), is a straightforward look at how hard work, gut instants and imagination, along with the ability to assess a risk and act on it, got him to where he is today.

Titled I'm All In High Stakes, Big Business and the Birth of the World Poker Tour (228 pages, hardbound, $24.95), with a foreword by Donald Trump, the book takes you from Berman's earliest days growing up in Minneapolis (he was born a few months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941) to his millionaire status today. How he got to the top of his game in business and as a person makes for interesting reading.

Karlins, who has a doctorate in psychology, allows the reader to access Berman's thought processes, an interesting trip. Berman remembers his humble beginnings well in a sense, he's constantly reminded of his roots the importance of family, hard work, education and above all, the importance of being, acting like a decent human being in a fast-moving, whirl-and-twirl world often gone delirious. Perhaps it was Berman's insight into people, what they want and how to apply innovative marketing techniques to his product which made him so successful.

One of his early ventures was Berman Buckskin clothing sales. He attributes his success to hard work and luck. "We were at the right place at the right time...but that isn't everything.

"Taking advantage of that good fortune to make a great fortune requires something more than luck, and that "something more" is business skill.

"We prospered while others failed because we had better operational controls in place, produced a superior product (both in quality and design), pioneered the movement of leather apparel stores into shopping malls, were the first major leather apparel company to go overseas, and buy direct as a retailer, and had a superior group of employees."

Berman really rolled into high gear in 1979 when he sold his apparel company for $10 million to W.R. Grace, a diversified New York chemical conglomerate, although he remained as president and CEO until 1987. It was a "wild and crazy ride," he says. He would eventually buy the business back "with a little help from institutional investors" for $93 million. Later he sold it for twice as much to Melville Shoe Company.

"After everyone else had received their cut of profits from the sale, I got a check for $18 million," he says. "Cash on the barrelhead...it was the biggest payday of my life.

There would be bigger things ahead for Berman, including the world of high stakes poker.

He's played against the biggest names in the business, and his observations about men like Doyle Brunson; how Las Vegas tempts, teases and entices dangerous behavior (especially by poker players); what it takes to win (including card sense, self control and a passion for the game); are part of what makes this book work.

Included are his ventures and adventures into the casino industry; his opinions and observations about Indian gaming and the inside story of how the World Poker Tour went from idea to a massive and imaginative operation.

He calls March 30, 2003 a key date in poker and TV history, where poker captured the imagination of America for the first time on a massive scale.

Berman is one smart cookie. Many in the casino industry wish they were half as smart. His book offers some solid advice about business sense, identifying opportunities, getting along with people and how to enjoy life beyond the money.

The book, illustrated, not indexed, is an easy read. You'll better understand Berman, what poker means to him, and perhaps what many world class players dream of achieving, including a sense of balance and inner happiness beyond the high stakes tables.

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