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The Biggest Game in Town

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  457 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Al Alvarez touched down in Las Vegas one hot day in 1981, a dedicated amateur poker player but a stranger to the town and its crazy ways. For three mesmerizing weeks he witnessed some of the monster high-stakes games that could only have happened in Vegas and talked to the extraordinary characters who dominated them--road gamblers and local professionals who won and lost f ...more
ebook, 192 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Picador (first published 1983)
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I love love love this book, and wrote a large piece on it for Card Player in 2006 after interviewing Alvarez by phone):

Al Alvarez & The Biggest Game in Town:
How An English Poet Penned the Best Poker Book Ever Written

Twenty-five years ago, an English poet, critic and avid poker player named Al Alvarez flew across the Atlantic to Las Vegas, checked in at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino to watch the World Series of Poker, then sat down and produced the best poker narrative ever written: The Biggest G
"Las Vegas is no more a place for childhood than it is a place for sensibility. It is a town without grace and without nuance, where the only useful virtues are experience, survival and money. "In Vegas, they weigh you up in gold," said Jack Straus. "They call it the golden rule: the man who has the gold makes the rules." (Page 40)

The Biggest Game in Town gives you the 1970's history of the World Series of Poker, held at Jack Binion's Horseshoe Casino, along with small biographies of some of the
Tyler Jones
In 1983 Al Alvarez wrote a book called The Biggest Game in Town. It was both a history of poker and an account of the 1981 main event which was won by Stu Ungar. Alvarez was and is a great writer of both poetry and prose, and was also Sylvia Plath’s close friend and editor. He knows how to put words together and he also knows a lot about poker, being a long-time player himself. The combination of writing ability an deep knowledge of his subject makes The Biggest Game in Town, in quite a few peop ...more
Robert Beveridge
A. Alvarez, The Biggest Game in Town (Houghton Mifflin, 1983)
[originally posted 14Aug2000]

Someone who's not involved in the wonderful world of gambling may look at Alvarez' spirited and slightly surreal view of the World Series of Poker 1981 as a study in caricature. "No one's like this," I can hear them saying. "No one's really that obsessive over this kind of thing. It's just a game, right?"

Let me tell you something, and this is coming from the perspective of a guy for whom $64 on a pick six t
Last year I read Positively Fifth Street, a book about poker whose author entered the World Series of Poker and described the experience. The inspiration for that book was this book, widely regarded by poker players as one of the best poker books ever written. This goes to show you that poker players should stick to cardplaying and leave the bookreviewing to people with taste. This book is not nearly as energetic or enthralling as Positively Fifth Street. You don’t end up wanting to play poker; ...more
This is my second poker stories book in a couple of years, after "Positively Fifth Street", and I am going to slow down my rate. This one, written before Positively, felt pretty similar. I did notice a different style in this one though - it really stood out for me. I think because I read that the author is a poet, I was looking to see how this was unlike other similar books that were written by journalists / magazine writers. This one felt like, of all things, a soundtrack album. There were the ...more
Didn't think I was going to enjoy a book about Vegas… I just got back and was sick and tired of the place. But Alvarez writes about the place in such a way that almost made me want to go back next week.
Decent book, a good look into poker players and the game even with it being from the 80's i feel a lot of information applies still in todays poker world, pretty quick read
Another poker classic on my Shelf of Honor. A. Alvarez was a close friend of Sylvia Plath and was best known (prior to this book) as the author of a study/contemplation of suicide, "The Savage God."


This book is also about the World Series of Poker (see my comments about Positively Fifth Street) but written about 20 years before James McManus's account -- in the days when the participants numbered in the dozens, not thousands, and the $10,000 ent
Luis Perez
Nonfiction. A writer and amateur poker player from Britain swoops into Las Vegas for three weeks to observe and write about the characters of the game and their fates at the 1981 World Series of Poker.

If you like poker, you will like this book.

One other note: This book will not help you become a better player. It's not a book of strategy or techniques, although the pros in this book do reveal some insight into their thought processes.
One Flew
Insightful and thought provoking. As a poker enthusiast i loved this book, the endless poker stories and industry overviews. Alvarez did very well to give an unbiased view to the Vegas scene and the immense highs and lows of the gamblers life. Probably a more enjoyable read for the other degenerate gamblers out there like me, though still a great introduction to the subject if you're an outsider.
Well worth the read.
Great travel writing-esque review of the 1981 World Series of Poker...

Written by someone from the UK, the perspective of the outsider looking in to the Vegas of that era is a novel way to see Glitter Gulch, than other histories of Vegas I've read.

Definitely, written for those with an affinity for poker and the major players whose personalities come out so well in the anecdotes and interviews Alvarez includes.

Really well-written account of the 1981 World Series of Poker and a treatise on poker in general. Alvarez's prose is superb and his descriptions of the game's history, characters, and tournament action paints a romantic picture of America's true passtime. also, a quick read at 18o pages.
A slim volume that had some great moments with the characters in the 1981 World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, it was a bit too slim, and the author never really gave enough time to any one player. Still, worth a read if you're interested in some of the early years of the WSOP.
Faultless prose, solid content, nicely culled imageries and dialogues. The book meanders a bit (what essayistic project doesn't?), but I like that the picture of Las Vegas Alvarez painted for me; he managed to inform without judge, which is impressive. (Sociology; 200+ pages)
Bob Mckay
Arguably the best book on written on high stakes poker. Has some interesting Las Vegas history as well. If you like this I would recommend "Positively Fifth Street"; a blend of the telling of the Ted Binion murder intertwined with the authors experience playing in the WSOP.
interesting, up to a point, but nowhere near as good as Amarillo Slim's "In A World Full Of Fat People".

a quick read, and a useful primer if you don't know about Vegas or poker.
Dave Peticolas

Wow, what a book! An account of the 1981 World Series of poker, focusing on the personalities and strange sub-culture of the high-stakes professional gambling circuit.

A classic in poker literature and a portrait of the World Series of Poker before it became the bloated, corporate shill game it has warped into. Not that I don't love it.
This was a fun look into the lifestyles of professional poker players (my brother is one). Perhaps a bit dated if that is liable to bother you.
One of the better poker books I have read. Not too in-depth or technical but a decent, quick read.
A great rundown of the World Series of Poker from the early 1980's; very entertaining book!
Kosh Koshover
Terrific snapshot of vegas and poker, also happens to be one my favorite cover designs
They say this is the best book on poker ever. That doesn't say much for the genre.
This is easily the best of the books on poker that I’ve read.
Dan Yingst
Best poker book ever written, at least that I've read.
Interesting to WSOP fans but, probably not many others.
Phil Simon
Best gambling book I've ever read.
Mike Hoffman
Terrific writer, great story . . . .
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Al Alvarez is an English poet, novelist, essayist, writer and critic who publishes under the name A. Alvarez and Al Alvarez.

Born Alfred Alvarez, he was educated at Oundle School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he took a First in English. After teaching briefly in Oxford and the USA, he became a full time writer in his late twenties.

From 1956 to 1966, he was the poetry editor and critic f
More about A. Alvarez...
The Savage God: A Study of Suicide Feeding the Rat: A Climber's Life on the Edge The Writer's Voice Night بکت

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