Binion's Horseshoe
Photo of Binion’s Horseshoe by wallyg used under a Creative Commons license.

James McManus, Positively Fifth Street (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003).
In 2000, McManus persuaded Harper’s to send him to Las Vegas to cover the World Series of Poker and the trial of the murderer of Ted Binion, of the family that founded the No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em event. McManus gambled his entire advance to enter the competition, and ended up doing far better than he could have hoped.  In the telling, his success on the felt gives the book a certain velocity, even as he steps away to cover the murder trial and relate some of his own life. If you have no time for Texas Hold ‘Em, then I suppose this book might not grab you, but then why are you reading about Vegas?

Google Book Search offers a peek at McManus’s hand. January Magazine offers an excerpt too.  Jodi Wilgoren profiled McManus in The New York Times in 2003. James Browning’s review in The Believer stands out. Lots more reviews: Hagen Baye (Mostly Fiction), Joe Hartlaub (, Jason Kirk (, Michiko Kakutani (The New York Times), Robert R. Harris (The New York Times), Jamie Berger (San Francisco Chronicle), Deano (BlogCritics), Nick Christenson (, Todd Leopold (CNN), John, David, Mark Flanagan (, Aaron Todd, Daniel Fierman (, Observer, C. Max Magee (The Millions), Milbarge, Lev Grossman (Time), and Ian Anderson. Here’s an interview at, and here’s one you can watch. Tim Harford drew on the book to write about poker reasoning. Jack Bogdanski notes that the “murderers” got a new trial and eventually were acquitted. After the book came out, McManus wrote “Further Adventures in Poker” for Esquire. He wrote “The Biology and Eros of No-Limit Hold ‘Em Tournaments” for He also has written for The New Yorker about Senator Obama’s poker game. And he appeared on To The Best Of Our Knowledge, on Wisconsin Public Radio.

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