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Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker Paperback – September 28, 2010
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2009: Professional sports such as football and baseball may tout themselves as "America's Game," but according to James McManus, poker is the true American pastime. Cowboys Full is McManus's brilliant homage to the game that inspired his 2003 bestseller, Positively Fifth Street, and weaves through a colorful history of sharps, grinders, and braying donkeys. From the lawless saloons of the Old West to Oval Offices of the modern era, poker has been a part of our cultural DNA for nearly two centuries by offering a shot at the American Dream with each deal. "More than politics, warfare, business, or physical sports," McManus argues, "poker has become the arena in which men and women of every race and background compete on the most equal footing." Although positioning it alongside Mom and apple pie may be a stretch, Cowboys Full nevertheless presents a compelling case that the essence of America is best understood through a few hands of its favorite card game. --Dave Callanan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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What I most like about it is that it is filled with story after story. It is not some boring historical piece on how poker got started and the numbers (data) on where it s now. This book is really great to listen to (or read). Each morning I walk into my business and tanatalize some of my employees with cool stories from this book. The Wild Bill Hickock, Doc Holiday and Poker Alice are absolutely incredible tidbits. Heck, those three stories make the whole book worth the read. I am currently on the part with FDR which is compelling as I just recently watched the Bill Murray version of FDR. From this book I got some deeper information and now can picture this guy in the White House with multiple girlfriends while his wife is spending amorous nights with her female lover and I have to wonder.....What IF Bill Clinton lived this kind of life? The world of those days kept the bedroom in the bedroom. Today, every single thing any celebrity does is front page news.
In a nutshell, this book is a MUST for history buffs. A must for card players. (My business partner, Bob is an avid poker player and a very un-interested book reader, but when I told him some of the stories along with the real information on poker, he said...I want to listen to that when you are done!)
Get it, read it, regal your friends at parties...or not....depends on how you tell the story!
However, it is only fair to point out that the topics I wanted covered more fully were ones for which the information just isn't available.
The switch from 'old poker,' where the players bet on the cards they were dealt in one betting round and then showed them down to see who won, to Draw must have been very early. However, there isn't any written record of the change.
The very important switch from "If I bet more than you have, you have to fold" to table stakes, the switch that made no-limit playable, must have been early, maybe earlier than the switch to Draw. Again, it is likely that there is no information available. However, my speculation is that a pack of cheats lost a huge pot because a planter had so much cash on him that they could not, among them, cover his bet and had the unpalatable choice of losing the money on the table or trying to get away with robbing him in a public place.
In any case, this switch must have taken place early enough to make the story of the film "A Big Hand for the Little Lady" totally impossible in the setting in which it was depicted.
The invention of limit betting, which _many_ attribute to the casinos and claim became the standard so that the suckers would go broke more slowly, was already done long before 1875 and McManus documents this by quoting a book on Draw strategy written in that year but he doesn't discuss this sort of thing enough.
Meanwhile, he has the same habit of so many baseball authors, among others, of just _having_ to write things like "as the Babe came to bat in the bottom of the Seventh, who could know that the stock market would crash in a few short months?" And there is more of this and more analysis of various political figures than I like. Still, it is part of poker history that Nixon won a bunch of money durring WWII while in the Navy and that G.W. Bush was in favor of a law that makes it very difficult to play online these days. But there was more than enough of this stuff and the book ran to six large.
The authors political views are not mine. As a right-libertarian I think he was a bit too generous in his praise of our current President and didn't kick his predecessor around enough.
Much of the rest of the book is fine if you haven't read about it elsewhere. There is more than enough about the WSoP and tournament poker in general. Tournaments are a sideshow. The Beale match had another very good book written about it not long ago and it gets too much space in this book. However, if you haven't been reading about tournament poker, the Beale match and other matters that he covers, the author is informative and entertaining enough that his coverage is fine.
The book is almost 600 pages long and a delight to read. My only complaint is that, at least with the inexpensive paperback edition, the paper is extremely thin -- almost tissue-like. But I guess that's why it's so affordable.
Anybody who cares at all about poker should own this book. It is the definitive work on poker's history and meaning in our society.
Most recent customer reviews
Cowboy's Full is mostly a great read, and there's a lot of interesting things to...Read more