Book Review: The Biggest Game In Town

Initially published as a two-part article in The New Yorker back in 1983, The Biggest Game In Town is the best selling book that discusses the ins and outs of the World Series of Poker. It put the World Series of Poker (WSOP) under the spotlight and acquainted many of its readers with the idea of high stakes poker.


Since it’s initial publication as a book following it’s success in The New Yorker in 1983, the book has remained in print. Discussing the events of the WSOP in 1981 with intricate details on each and every player and each and every game played, the book is captivating even to those who don’t play poker themselves. Describing the WSOP as “Dreamland” in the opening chapter, author of the book Al Alvarez explains to his readers how high the stakes were, with individuals playing for £5,000, a number most people can’t even begin to comprehend betting.


Yet the incomprehensible is suddenly crystal clear thanks in part to Alvarez’s excellent way with words. A game that isn’t always easy to understand is suddenly made to look like a child’s game of hopscotch as Alvarez eloquently explains to his readers how the bets are placed, how money is dealt, how the game begins and how you can win.


It’s not all about the 1981 WSOP though. Alvarez goes back in time to the first ever WSOP to help readers get a better grip on where this popular gambling game began, who enjoyed it first and why it’s still so successful today. In addition to this, he doesn’t just write about the game itself but also about the players; who they are, how good they are at their game, how they succeed. He writes about these individuals as if he knows them better than he knows himself, giving his audience a real window into each professional player’s mind. Soon, we know these professional poker players better than we know our own friends and family.


It is this that sets Alvarez and his book apart from all other poker themed books. Thanks to his previous experience as a journalist, Alvarez knows how to investigate, to pry, to research and then to translate all of these hard facts and scraps of evidence into a real story for a broad audience to enjoy; this is exactly what he has done with this book.
If you want a book that tells you about the history of poker and how to play poker, you can look online or stroll into your local bookstore or library and find one almost instantly. But if you’re looking for a book that takes you to a particular place and time, that allows you to feel like you’re sat around that poker table, getting involved with the game, and that  turns these seemingly fictitious and unreal characters into your closest friends, then The Biggest Game In Town is the book you need to be reading.

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