Positively Fifth Street: Murders, Cheetahs, and Binion’s World Series Of Poker - James McManus

It’s been over 10 years since this book has been published, and even longer since the 2000 World Series of Poker, which served as a backdrop for the novel, but it still remains one of the most popular poker narratives ever written.

With this said though, there really hasn’t been that many books of this kind written, so it’s a big fish in a pretty small pond really.  Given that this is a book which serves to entertain, we really need to look to the consensus of its readers on its value, and based upon that it’s been a book that’s been pretty well received by the public.

This project got started by the author being hired to cover the 2000 WSOP, and in particular, to look into the increasing popularity of the game among women.  He also set out to cover the murder trial of Ted Binion, which was going on at the time.

To make things more interesting, McManus actually enters the tournament himself, despite not really having the money to do it.  He took some of the money that was advanced to him to write the book and entered in a satellite tournament, which he won and earned his seat at the main event, defeating a well known pro along the way.

So a lot of the book deals with his experiences at the poker table, and he also assumes a general knowledge of the game in order to be able to follow along properly with the action.  Some readers have lamented that this part of the book went over their heads, so in order to get the most out of this book, you do have to know a fair bit about the game of no limit Holdem.

This is a fairly long book by poker book standards, over 400 pages, but unlike most poker books, it is written by a skilled writer who does know how to engage his readers.  So this is more like a novel than an instruction book, and it does stand up to its billing for the most part as a novel.  The fact that it is non fictional does make things more interesting as well.

Without giving away the story too much, McManus does surprisingly well in the big tournament.  Much of the book in fact surrounds the author’s experiences at the poker table, which is the best part of the book, a sort of diary of a poker tournament from a skilled writer.  He does weave in a lot of other things in the book as well, including even some poker strategy. 

So if you are looking for a poker book that’s off the beaten path and more like a novel than what you normally see, you probably will enjoy this, as many people have.  It’s relatively inexpensive, and while it probably won’t make you a better poker player, it’s a nice step back from the usual poker book fare.

Rating: 4 out of 5