Positively Fifth Street by James McManus
Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker

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...McManus' fevered descriptions of the big hands have the quality of great sports writing, going beyond mere play-by-play and into the flytrap heads of the masters, who calculate their odds against other players' patterns and tics, not to mention their own instinctive ties to Lady Luck.
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Synopsis

Rough sex, black magic, murder, and the science-and eros-of gambling meet in the ultimate book about Las Vegas

James McManus was sent to Las Vegas by Harper's to cover the World Series of Poker in 2000, especially the mushrooming progress of women in the $23 million event, and the murder of Ted Binion, the tournament's prodigal host, purportedly done in by a stripper and her boyfriend with a technique so outré it took a Manhattan pathologist to identify it. Whether a jury would convict the attractive young couple was another story altogether.

McManus risks his entire Harper's advance in a long-shot attempt to play in the tournament himself. Only with actual table experience, he tells his skeptical wife, can he capture the hair-raising brand of poker that determines the world champion. The heart of the book is his deliciously suspenseful account of the tournament itself-the players, the hand-to-hand combat, and his own unlikely progress in it.

Written in the tradition of The Gambler and The Biggest Game in Town, Positively Fifth Street is a high-stakes adventure, a penetrating study of America's card game, and a terrifying but often hilarious account of one man's effort to understand what Edward O. Wilson has called "Pleistocene exigencies"-the eros and logistics of our primary competitive instincts.

 

About James McManus

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James McManus is a novelist and poet, and most recently the winner of the Peter Lisagor Award for sports journalism. He teaches writing and comparative literature at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, including a course on the literature and science of poker.
 
Published April 1, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 449 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Humor & Entertainment, Sports & Outdoors, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction
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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Scott Tobias on May 06 2003

...McManus' fevered descriptions of the big hands have the quality of great sports writing, going beyond mere play-by-play and into the flytrap heads of the masters, who calculate their odds against other players' patterns and tics, not to mention their own instinctive ties to Lady Luck.

Read Full Review of Positively Fifth Street: Murd... | See more reviews from AV Club

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Eric Carrera 7 Aug 2014

Rated the book as 5 out of 5

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