Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker

James McManus, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $30 (528p) ISBN 978-0-374-29924-8

Poker now has what must surely be its definitive history in this excellent, comprehensive account of the game from the author of the widely hailed poker memoir Positively Fifth Street . In tracing the game from its early 19th-century roots in New Orleans to today's global phenomenon, McManus does more than present a history of poker: “My goal is to show how the story of poker helps to explain who we are.” The “national card game,” he asserts, embodies essential American qualities. It's an ambitious objective, but the book achieves it by connecting the game to American culture. Poker, it turns out, is inextricably linked with history, from the Civil War to the cold war, and with politics (Nixon financed his first run for office with poker winnings earned during his WWII service; President Obama may owe some of his political fortunes to a regular poker game he joined after election to the Illinois senate). The book also outlines the re-emergence of poker in recent years as a pastime for many millions and, for a select few, a reasonably legitimate profession. (Nov.)

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