bookrev: Positively Fifth Street by James McManus (just in time for the WSOP)

WSOP 5 stars: Well written trip through the 2000 WSOP and the Vegas trial of the century. And, yes, I filed it under Philosophy…cause it’s Poker!

James McManus (fiction author, sports journalist and sometime poker player) went to Vegas to cover the trial of the murder of Ted Binion (whose father started the World Series of Poker (WSOP)) and to cover the rise of women at the WSOP. He ends up taking part of the advance money, winning a play-in satellite tourney, and getting a seat at the 2000 WSOP.

He made it to the final table and fifth place.

He intertwines his own story (an amatuer amongst some of pokers greatest names) with stories of the trial (where Ted’s girlfriend and best friend are accused of murdering him), Jim’s own personal history, the history of poker and the WSOP and the parallels he sees between them all.

The insights into the game, the hands, the mannerisms, and particularly what Jim is thinking at the time (fold? call? raise? who’s that beautiful dealer named Red?) dividing the voices in his head (see? not just me!) into Good Jim and Bad Jim,  make the writing of the actual WSOP satellite and tournament the best part of the book. But the other stories are woven in intricately and smoothly (with only a few abstract jumps), mixing in Dante and Dostoyevsky to prove his point.

Since the book has been written, the number of players entered into the big Texas Hold-em WSOP tourney has climbed in from the $1.5 million Chris “Jesus” Ferguson won (and 512 entrants) in 2000 to 2006’s  $12million Jamie Gold won amongst the 8,773 entrants (and around 12,000 are expected this year).

Read it before the big one this July 6, and it will help you imagine the action.

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