Photo of the 2007 World Series of Poker by on2wheelz used under a Creative Commons license.
A. Alvarez, The Biggest Game in Town (Chronicle Books, 2002).
Originally published in 1983, an account of the 1981 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Much of it was first published in The New Yorker as character sketches of the card players, like Amarillo Slim, Nick the Greek, and Doyle Brunson. The players are different now, the center of Vegas has moved from downtown to the Strip, and the tournament has gone big-time, but Alvarez’s writing still holds up. You don’t have to play Texas Hold ‘Em to enjoy it, though it probably wouldn’t hurt.
Google BookSearch gives you a preview. Wikipedia has this bio of Alvarez. This appears to be an excerpt of sorts. C. Max Magee sees the early days of big money. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (The New York Times) says Alvarez writes with elegance and wit, but decides that the book is less than the sum of its parts. Saul Goodwin (National Review) says Alvarez offers a memorable view of Las Vegas. Joseph Epstein (The New Yorker) cals it an excellent account. Troy Patterson (EW) calls it a linked series of subtly freakish portraits. Nick Christenson calls it a pillar of the poker literary canon. John Skow (Time) says Alvarez’s account is as close to Binion’s as a prudent soul will venture. Observer says this is the one book to read about the Las Vegas poker culture. Todd Wheeler says it’s a great book even if you don’t know poker. Joon-Soo Kim likes the historical perspective on Vegas poker. Laurence Phelan (The Independent) says it’s a fascinating study of extreme gamesmanship. Murphy James is fascinated by Alvarez.