Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Biggest Game in Town: The Players

Johnny Moss, Chill Wills, Amarillo Slim, Jack Binion, and Puggy Pearson outside of Binion's Horseshoe during the 1974 WSOPWas checking Tim Lavalli’s blog today and saw his grim forecast for the future of poker writing. Lavalli (the “Poker Shrink”) has just finished covering the L.A. Poker Classic for Poker News (with Dr. Pauly, Amy Calistri, Change100, et al.). Lavalli says he’s hearing a lot of his peers describe this summer’s WSOP as being a kind of last hurrah for poker writers. Thanks to the UIGEA, says Lavalli, “the government has made it impossible to earn a living writing about poker.”

He expects the “quantity and quality” of coverage of events like the WSOP to decline considerably once the last hand of the Main Event is dealt in mid-July. Lavalli particularly laments the imminent demise of “what was finally becoming a professional class of journalists covering poker from multiple and critical points of view.”

Phil Graham, who published and co-owned The Washington Post from 1948 to 1963, once memorably described the reporter’s job as writing “a first rough draft of history that will never really be completed about a world we can never really understand.” If Lavalli is correct and we begin to have fewer and fewer writers covering poker, a lot will be left out of that “first rough draft of history,” thus making it even more difficult for future generations to come to some understanding about what happened.

'The Biggest Game in Town' (1983) by Al AlvarezSpeaking of poker history (and the WSOP), I have been meaning for a while to share this here list of poker players who appear in Al Alvarez’s The Biggest Game in Town. Alvarez’s lyrical study of Vegas and poker is organized around an account of the 1981 WSOP, the one which saw Stu Ungar win his second straight Main Event title. The Biggest Game in Town is revered by many as the gold standard of poker writing -- indeed, every one of those writers to whom Lavalli refers has been influenced and/or inspired in some fashion by Alvarez.

This list compiles all of the professional poker players mentioned by name in the book. (At least all of the ones I caught.) The list doesn’t include other figures mentioned or discussed by Alvarez, such as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Mario Puzo, Jimmy Chagra, John and Edna Luckman (the original proprietors of the Gambler’s Book Shop), and the like. Names marked with an asterisk receive more attention from Alvarez than do the others. The links take you to various places on the web -- player bios, personal websites, articles, interviews, even some discussions of famous hands. If you’re interested in someone, click on through and see where it takes you.

But if you haven’t read The Biggest Game in Town, don’t waste too much time. Go get yourself a copy and read it already.

Addington, Crandall*
Alto, Jesse*
Appleman, Mickey*
Baldwin, Bobby
Binion, Benny*
Boyd, Bill
Brunson, Doyle*
Butts, Milton
Carey, Betty*
Caro, Mike
Clayton, Ricky
Dandalos, Nick “the Greek”*
Drache, Eric*
Dunwoody, Charlie
Fisher, Gene*
Freer, Barbara
Furrh, Don
Green, Perry*
Hawthorne, Joey
Heimowitz, Jay*
Jacobson, Milo “Slew”
Kaplan, Gabe*
Leibowitz, Seymour
Moon, Sam
Moore, Andy
Moss, Johnny*
Myers, A.J.*
Pearson, Puggy*
Perry, Mickey
Petrillo, Chicago Sam
Preston, Amarillo “Slim”*
Reese, Chip*
Roberts, Sailor
Salinas, Tony
Skinner, Curtis “Iron Man”
Sklansky, David*
Smith, Bill*
Smith, Ken*
Straus, Jack*
Ungar, Stu*
Whited, Junior
Wolford, Byron “Cowboy”



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've read The Biggest Game in Towna few years ago. Not a bad read, but I liked Positively Fifth Street by Mcmanus much better. I wish I could say why, but it's been too long for me to remember. It's just that when I think what is my favorite poker book, I instantly think Positively Fifth Street.

3/04/2007 3:32 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

McManus is a terrific read, no doubt. I finally got to Fifth Street last summer (and wrote about it a little). For me, the best sections are when he's away from the table, reflecting on the game, Vegas, history, etc. (in other words, when he's most like Alvarez).

I'm definitely looking forward to McManus's history of poker book (currently being excerpted in CardPlayer).

3/04/2007 9:36 AM  
Blogger Swifty said...

I believe I bought both books for derbywhite at Christmas.

I asked to borrow them when he'd finished ;)

3/05/2007 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea McManus was writing a history of poker book. Thanks for mentioning it. I look forward to reading it.

3/06/2007 12:50 AM  
Blogger Random Table Draw said...

Did you find Tahoe? I'll be lining him up for an interview if you want in on it for your podcast. Should be awesome. He is listed plaing there when Moss rode in on a camel and another spot...did not see him on the list.

8/01/2008 6:52 PM  

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