Jim McManus

In May 2000, in a convergence that in a novel would seem eye-rollingly contrived, that year’s World Series of Poker coincided with the Las Vegas trial for the murder of Ted Binion, owner of the Series’ host casino. Sent by Harper’s to cover both stories, Jim McManus decided to play in the tournament, his first, and shocked everyone by making it from 512 players all the way to the final table of six. He later expanded that article into the intoxicating Positively Fifth Street, drawing maximum color and suspense from the lurid trial—involving an ex-stripper girlfriend, tar heroin, and an underground vault filled with silver bullion—and from Texas hold’em, the inherently dramatic poker variant played in the Series. McManus’ new book, Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30), explores the game’s history and particular role, actual and metaphorical, in American culture. GAVIN BORCHERT

Thu., Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m., 2009

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