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Publishers Weekly, 2003-03-03 It's the fantasy of many a red-blooded American male, and increasingly, many a female: to stare down a grizzled "rounder" (or professional) in the final hand to win the million-dollar prize of the world's biggest poker tournament. Harper's magazine sent poet and novelist McManus (Going to the Sun, etc.) to cover the 2000 event in Las Vegas. Playing in his first tournament, he was more successful than anyone could have dared hope. For a writer, this is the equivalent of drawing a straight flush-no small part of the appeal here is watching McManus as he skillfully converts a chance into a sure thing. Moreover, coinciding with the tournament that year was the salacious trial of the murderer of Ted Binion, legendarily profligate scion to the family that created the event. He probes the trial at length, but the theme-scummy people are capable of scummy behavior-is hardly as interesting, and the book always perks up when McManus returns to the green felt, where "flop" and "river" can combine to end the author's streak at any moment. Of course, opponents and spectators alike were well aware of McManus's identity as erudite literatus and tourney neophyte-which at once made him prey and permitted him to play possum. While refusing to downplay his No Limit Hold'em chops (earned by practicing with a computer program), McManus modestly charts his delirium as he prevailed in one nervy confrontation after another. The drama of high-stakes poker is inherently compelling-here is a rare opportunity to read an account by someone who can really write. B&w illus. Agent, Sloan Harris. (Apr. 16) Forecast: While the initiated will greedily devour this, it has considerable crossover potential, justifying the 75,000-copy first printing. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2003-06-02 It's a safe bet that no one at Harper's expected novelist McManus, who the magazine sent to Las Vegas to cover the 2000 World Series of Poker, to parlay his advance into chips and play his way into the championship. The scene for this nonfiction work is Binion's Horseshoe Casino, and the game is No Limit Texas Hold 'Em, presumably the purest form of the game. McManus, a poker player since age nine, plays like he writes: gloriously. From the 512 starters, he finds himself, days later, at the championship table, playing for surreal stakes (he wins $866,000 on a single hand). In addition, he is simultaneously covering Ted Binion's gruesome murder trial, which just happens to coincide with the Series. McManus reads with a poker face. Seemingly calm and impassive, his voice may initially make listeners wonder if the author is the right person for the job. But although McManus's style doesn't change, listeners' perception of it will. His even keel is a deception, and as he is describing making quarter-million-dollar bets after playing cards with the world's best for days on end, listeners will be able to feel his heart racing under the calm fa?ade. Simultaneous release with the Farrar, Straus & Giroux hardcover (Forecasts, Feb. 24). (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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