There have been many questions about the origins of the World Series of Poker, which began at Binion's a generation ago; along with how the game of hold'em evolved from an idea to the most popularHoward Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," is the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he has held since 1979. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry. Howard's website is www.gamblersbook.com card game of the century.
Jonathan Grotenstein and co-author Storms Reback, have done a remarkable job of research in writing All In:The (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker (306 pages, hardbound, $24.95), using hundreds of resources, interviews and re-creations of hands and situations.
The book is well indexed so you can easily find a name, and there are hundreds who have helped make Binion's Horseshoe event the spectacular it was.
I wish it were illustrated. There's not a picture to be found, which is a shame, because the characters and events described deserve that little bit extra. It would have made the book even better as a resource/reference guide. But no matter, for the newcomer to the game, the digging the co-authors did fill in many a gap, answer many a question.
"One of the more credible stories surrounding the origin of this variation of (hold'em) poker credits a bunkhouse full of ranch hands. With only one deck of cards available to them, they devised a game in which as many as twenty-three players could participate at the same time. As its name would suggest, Texas was undoubtedly the land of its birth, but the game quickly moved into Louisiana and Oklahoma ... Felton "Corky" McCorquondale, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, introduced it to Las Vegas' California Club in 1963..."
This is not only the story about how a game became popular, but of the people who helped promote the game. It's also about the growth of big-time poker; the colorful events, the wildly-nicknamed players; how innovative promoters brought the game to a new level to the print and electronic media (television) and how it continues to escalate beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
The authors must have interviewed anyone alive who remembers each World Series of Poker, while watching old videos of the final table.
One question the book answers is how "satellite tournaments" originated in the late 70s, and how they eventually ..."transformed the World Series into a truly open tournament, no longer the sole domain of those who possessed world-class skill or limitless bankrolls."
As result, a large percentage of the newcomers were recreational players. Ironically, the satellite concept is described as a "happy accident." The idea clearly caught on, and a man named Eric Drache gets the credit for nurturing the idea. The book, which deftly changes gears, is also packed with witticisms, short funny stories, bad beats, some of them funny, some sad, of bravery at the tables.
Overall, for the history buff, the book is perfect. Yet, for those seeking to enter the mindset of world-class players while understanding how the game has changed because the collective quality has evolved as well, this book has value there too.