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Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,367 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
Rough sex, black magic, murder, and the science-and eros-of gambling meet in the ultimate book about Las Vegas

James McManus was sent to Las Vegas by Harper's to cover the World Series of Poker in 2000, especially the mushrooming progress of women in the $23 million event, and the murder of Ted Binion, the tournament's prodigal host, purportedly done in by a stripper and he
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ebook, 416 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jason Koivu
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Entertaining tale of how the author, with little experience, made it to the final table of the World Series of Poker.

This was in the days prior to when the WSOP globally exploded in popularity, especially after a nobody named Chris Moneymaker (yeah, that name is suspicious) beat out all the pros and won the whole thing against monumental odds. That televised event spawned a poker craze that drew amateurs in droves. All the tv networks started showing their own poker series, even the bloody Trav
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Kathrina
Librarians from all over the nation descend on Las Vegas in 3 days. Like a good librarian, efficient and thrifty, the American Library Association likes to choose favorite vacation destinations, but always in the off season. I imagine that, while most of the thousands of descending librarians will bitch about the heat and unload their dollars on iced teas, souvenir tote bags, and perhaps an evening of entertainment with Celine Dion, few of them will contribute much to the betting pot. Did I ment ...more
Joshua
Feb 12, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
McManus' non-fiction book enters the world of high stakes poker and murder in Las Vegas and when he sticks to those two topics--Positively Fifth Street comes up A-K and sitting on quad Aces on the River (couldn't resist!). When he veers off into a tangent, or starts talking endless poker strategy from one of the many books he has read--then the book takes a dip.

I'm not a poker player so some of the poker action in this got lost on me. Since I don't know what hands really beat another hand, the
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Mollysusie
Jul 13, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is another example of a potentially good story that was badly edited. Or, more likely, not edited at all. The story was, or at least I think was supposed to be, about Ted Binion's murder and the author's experience playing in World Series of Poker at Binion's casino in Las Vegas.

Instead it was about blah blah blah. Seriously, I have no idea how many pages in the hundred or so I read (except to say *many*) where in my head I read "blah, blah, blaaaaah". I skimmed and skipped paragraphs, and
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Greg Pettit
I enjoyed the book quite a bit. It's a great thriller where the suspense is more about the poker than the murder trial.

Ostensibly about both the World Series of Poker and a dirty murder trial related to it, the book is really more about what it's like to be IN the WSoP. And in that, it excelled. I am by no means a great poker player, but I was thrilled by the tales of the table.

Some of the author's observations seem a little dated, since the world of poker has changed significantly even in just
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Zach
Okay.

There are two interesting stories which the author has attempted to cram into one book.

I would have liked more about the Ted Binion murder case, it just shows up mainly in the beginning and the end, which would be fine as a device to get the author to Vegas, but he tries to bring it up at times, most annoyingly attempting to draw parallels between himself and Ted Binion.

At times I wanted to yell at the author--you are a journalist, a family man from Chicago, he was the son of a Vegas leg
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Seth Madej
McManus is an excellent writer, and he's able to make the world of professional poker engrossing. (He also, probably unintentionally, makes it clear how truly boring it is.) The parts of the book about his tournament play and the murder trial that surrounds it are page turners. His tangents about the psychology of gambling, evolutionary biology, etc. etc. are much less so and have a distinct barnyard smell. They feel like padding in a book that's already as padded as a term paper by a second-sem ...more
Melody
Oct 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
First of all, I have to say that I don't know how to play poker, so large swathes of this book went sailing over my head. It opens with a gory murder reenactment, also not something I fancy. Those two things notwithstanding, this was a solid and entertaining listen. I didn't like McManus' habit of referring to himself as "Good Jim" and "Bad Jim". Every time he did so I found myself rolling my eyes. It was quite a window into a totally foreign lifestyle. Enjoyable.
Samuelsday
This was relatively interesting, since I like poker, and gambling. I think it probably could have lost about 100 pages. The author goes on quite a few tangents, especially in the middle section, but his writing style is good enough and he did give you a good feeling of being there in that moment. Also, I really didn't know how the story ended so the suspense was there right up to the end. Not a bad read.
Chad
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was going to be more interesting than it was. The author sets it up as though he is going to delve through the details of a murder mystery in Vegas at the same time as he follows his own progress in the World Series of Poker. But in truth, he lays out all the facts of the murder in the first chapter and then makes forced analogies throughout the rest of the book. The poker game commentary was interesting, but otherwise I found the book lacking in cohesiveness.
Yama Rahyar
A magazine dispatches to Vegas a doughy middle-aged white guy who's obsessed with letting you know how hot his younger wife looks in her underwear. He enters the World Series of Poker on a whim, makes it very far, gets excited and treats himself to a lap dance. Also there's a murder trial and his younger wife is not very happy about the lap dance. Something something, poker as metaphor for the human condition.
Karl Lehtinen
Have to read this if you've ever played Hold'em. Almost seems quaint by todays Poker-Explosion standards. But it's still a classic. And the asshole actually made the final table. Respect.
Clare Fitzgerald
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On my managing editor's advice, I decided that the next step in my poker education would be losing a chunk of money to Ricky and Alexis on Friday reading James McManus's Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker, a journalist's account of playing—and final tabling—the World Series of Poker in 2000, just a few years before the Chris Moneymaker thing happened.

The story in brief: James McManus was assigned by Harper's to cover women players in the 2000 Worl
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Ginger Heskett
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/14342352
Ann Frost
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are two intertwined stories being told here - one about the murder of Ted Binion, owner of the Horseshoe Casino, by his mistress and her boyfriend and one about the World Series of Poker being held at Ted's casino. I found the latter story particularly fascinating. And I learned a lot about playing poker. Frostie's beware! :)

The author is sent to cover the story of the women playing in the poker championship and figures he'll just play along too. Not only does he play along, he finishes fi
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Wingedbeaver
In 2003 Chris Moneymaker and ESPN made poker a country wide obsession and a viable television sport when Moneymaker went from online poker amateur to World Series of Poker champion on national TV. But before there was Chris Moneymaker there was James McManus, a Chicago journalist who was sent to Las Vegas in 2000 by Harper’s Magazine to cover the rise of women in poker and the Ted Binion murder trial and ended up at the last table of the WSOP. Positively Fifth Street is the chronicle of this jo ...more
Williwaw
The lurid opening of this book -- a reconstruction of how gambling magnate Ted Binion was probably murdered in 1998 -- is quite a page-turner. I enjoyed how McManus jumped into the action without much explanation. At first, I wasn't sure what was going on. I thought perhaps it was merely a kinky but poorly executed menage a trois; but it slowly dawned on me that something vicious was going on. Eventually, I realized that McManus was describing a brutal murder.

McManus is certainly an accomplishe
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Dean Hamilton
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Never play cards with a man called Doc." - Nelson Algren


I've never played a serious game of poker in my life.


The few times I've sat down and played a few hands, it has been in almost total ignorance of the odds, poker strategy and anything but the most basic dos and don'ts...but...the first thing I wanted to do having finished Positively Fifth Street was jet down to Vegas and set myself down at a table.


James McManus's book Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs and Binion's World Series
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Daniel
Oct 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
James McManus stumbled onto a once-in-a-lifetime story when the Harper's editor, Lewis Lapham, sent him to Las Vegas to cover the 2000 World Series of Poker. McManus, who'd been an amateur card player for thirty years, decided to leverage his advance on the magazine article into a spot at the World Series. Not only did he win the satellite tournament to get in, but he also made it to the final table, bringing home a take of close to a quarter million dollars. The account of his run forms the hea ...more
Corielle
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Jim McManus wrote Positively Fifth Street to investigate two things for Harper’s Magazine: the murder of Ted Binion, and the 2000 World Series of Poker. He tells you right up front that he mostly just wants to play in the 2000 World Series of Poker (it’s common for journalists to participate, to get a front-row seat to what they’re covering). He loves poker, and gambling, and Vegas, and despite a promise to his wife to keep “Good Jim” in the driver’s seat, “Bad Jim” takes over quite a bit as McM ...more
Curtis Seven
Oct 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: games, non-fiction, travel
Parts of this book where used almost wholesale as building blocks for Cowboys Full so no matter which you might read first at this point if you read both you hit parts you swore you read somewhere before (because you did). Unlike Cowboys Full which is a later book that discusses the history of poker this book is specifically about the authors experience at the 2000 WSOP at which Chris Ferguson won the main event and during which the trial of Ted Binion's accused killers was taking place just a f ...more
Tyler Jones
Nov 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poker
James McManus was sent by Harper's to cover the 2000 World Series of Poker (hereafter in this review to be referred to as the WSOP) in Las Vegas and to also report on the trial of the couple accused of murdering Ted Binion, son of the WSOP founder Benny Binion. This dual assignment was apparently not enough for McManus, a lifelong poker enthusiast, who could not resist the temptation of playing in the main event himself. With an advance less than half of the entry fee, he won his way in though a ...more
Tom Stamper
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Positively Fifth Street is one of those rare nonfiction books that read like a great first person novel. It doesn't hurt that McManus follows in the gonzo tradition of Hunter Thompson on his journey. The book begins with McManus a professor and freelance writer who is hired to write a story on how women are appearing more and more at the World Series of Poker and how women are becoming more visible in the game. But this is no ordinary World Series, because the Binion family that has run the even ...more
Robert Beveridge
Jim McManus, Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2003)

Jim McManus made the final table at the World Series of Poker.

That alone should make any poker player want to pick this book up and read it immediately. It gets better when you realize that McManus went in as the rankest of rank amateurs, the guy whose previous poker career revolved around the $3-$6 Hold 'em game at the local VFW. Yes, folks, Jim McManus is living proo
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Mike Mathews
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago I read the article that contained the seed for this book in Ira Glass's New Kings of Nonfiction. (If you haven't read that book you should stop reading this now, and go find a copy.) I really enjoyed that article.

I was not terribly interested in poker, but was fascinated by the idea of an amateur entering the world's premier poker tournament in order to write a story about it...then finishing fifth overall. I recently ran across a copy of Positively Fifth Street in a thrift stor
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Kelsey
Apr 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to learn more about poker
I thought this book would be more about the infamous murder of Ted Binion (former owner of Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas) allegedly by Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish. However, it was more so about the renowned World Series of Poker Tournament that was going on at the same time as the trial of Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish. I did, however, learn a lot more about poker than I ever knew (which is very little) and the amazing rush that comes with playing the captivating game. I also think it's incred ...more
Jay
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, audiobook
"Positively Fifth Street" takes two disparate but related stories and tells them together, much like "Devil in the White City". The murder of Ted Binion of the Horseshoe Casino and the 2000 World Series of Poker tournament at the Horseshoe are loosely combined into one narrative, full of tangential twists and turns. Many of the passages are stream of consciousness, and they start to feel extremely over-indulgent, but that is understandable given the event that McManus is participating. I persona ...more
Thomas
Feb 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully told story of the author's experiences in the 2000 World Series of Poker, coupled with his reporting for Harper's both on the Series and on the murder of its owner, Ted Binion, who was killed by his stripper wife and her new boyfriend.

I have a reservation about giving it four stars, which is that most of it probably wouldn't be of much interest unless you follow poker pretty closely -- and specifically No Limit Texas Hold 'Em. If you don't, much of the book is completely impenetrable
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Andrew Hecht
Oct 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poker players and enthusiasts
There can be no finer book to pick up in the middle of the TV coverage of Binion's WSOP. McManus's tales of how he parlayed his 4G advance from Harper's first to a seat at the WSOP Big Game and then made it all the way to the final table all with the backdrop of the heroin laced/circus sex Ted Binion murder trial. It makes for a compelling read. But it's McManus's literary flourishes, his background as a Catholic altar boy that inform his decision making on so many levels, his references to Dant ...more
Ensiform
Jul 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The author goes to Vegas in 2000 to cover two stories: the brutal murder of seedy blacklisted casino mogul Ted Binion by his girlfriend and her lover; and the rise of female poker players at the Big One. Like nearly all journalists, he goes to play as well as observe, so blows his entire "Harper's" advance on an entry fee, and actually makes it to the final table.

Part autobiography, part meditation on the rush of thrill seeking and the cut-throat world of professional poker, part history of the
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James "Jim" McManus is an American poker player, teacher and writer living in Kenilworth, Illinois.
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“Because all that money wouldn’t be in the pot in the first place if you weren’t up against a pretty strong hand, you loose, dumb, tight-weak motherfucker!” 1 likes
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