9780747553779 / 0747553777



Publisher:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC



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About the book:

In Poker--Bets, Bluffs, and Bad Beats, journalist, poet and novelist Al Alvarez looks back on a lifetime's immersion in the business of playing cards for money, and quantifies the emotional and intellectual pot into which he and millions of other players past and present have been tossing their chips for nearly 200 years.

For the past 40 years or more I have played poker regularly, once or twice a week, except when I am in Las Vegas, when I play all day every day for a couple of weeks on end. Poker changed my life, and sometimes I think it may even have saved it.

From the card-sharps on the Mississippi steamboats, to the thrill-seeking octogenarians playing for $5 jackpots in corporate Las Vegas, Alvarez explores the history and mythology of the game, the legends and the also-rans, arguing that the legacy of poker is far greater than sum of its losers and winners.

Alvarez gauges how far the language and underlying attitudes of the game have become interwoven with American-led culture; how the bluffing and dollar-bullying that are key to winning are writ large across the history of power brokering in the USA, from the days of the "wild frontier" to the ongoing struggles for supremacy in the White House; how the professional players' maxim, "never give a sucker an even break", is the guiding principle of a me-first consumption-fixated society. Or as Walter Matthau put it: "The game exemplifies all the worst aspects of capitalism that have made our country so great."

A witty, intelligent study, lavishly and eclectically illustrated with images of the ephemera and iconography of the game, this is a gorgeous book--product of one pipe-smoking poet's turbulent, enduring love affair with poker, with risk and reward, and the men and women, both real and imagined, who have marshalled the qualities of high thinking and low cunning that mark out the true card player. --Alex Hankin

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