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Publisher's Summary

In the spring of 2000, Harper's magazine sent James McManus to Las Vegas to cover the World Series of Poker.

But when McManus sets foot in town, the lure of the tables is too strong: he proceeds to risk his entire Harper's advance in a long-shot attempt to play in the tournament himself. Only with actual table experience (he tells his skeptical wife) can he capture the hair-raising subtleties of poker that determines the world champion. The heart of the book is his deliciously suspenseful account of the tournament itself - the players, the hand-to-hand, and his own unlikely progress in it.

©2003 James McManus; (P)2003 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

Critic Reviews

"A delicious inside look." (Booklist )
" all true Beat writing, Positively Fifth Street is a joy to read." (The Los Angeles Times)
"The drama of high-stakes poker is inherently compelling - here is a rare opportunity to read an account by someone who can really write."(Publishers Weekly)
"Exhilarating chronicle....[as] tension-packed as any thriller." (The New York Times Book Review)

What members say

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  • Overall

Ted Binion, World Series of Poker, Strippers

While the details of the Binion family lifestyle, Ted in particular, did hook me in, it was the considerable detail that portrayed the chaotic mindset of a poker player that kept me interested throughout the entire book.

As one wears their 'poker face' at the table, it's rather difficult to read what's beyond the mask of your fellow competitors. Are they actually that calm and collected? Or are they scrambling for any available sanity while confronting the decision of calling (or re-raising) a $160,000 bet?

McManus vividly describes the mindset and thought process as a poker player at the tables--something you definitely cannot see by watching the WSOP on television or video. Whether it's the continual switching of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hide or calculating pot odds, the book does have a lot to offer. A definite recommendation to an amateur/aspiring poker player. There's even some detail about the strip clubs!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mark
  • Warner, NH, USA
  • 07-02-03

Don't fold on this one!

The opening minutes took my breath away. Expecting to hear about the ins and outs of poker I was "treated" to a moment by moment retelling of a grizzly murder. I was repulsed but intrigued. Did I have the right book? By the time he revealed what was going on, McManus had me hooked. He was "playing" me, just like a poker player, luring me in for bigger and bigger stakes. "Positively Fifth Street" is about poker, but poker as a morality play. "Good Jim" and "Bad Jim" don't so much wrestle for control of the author's "soul" as they tease, entice, and pursuade with the book's opening horro set against the lure of that ultimate stack of cash - and a bracelet.

McManus' prose is superb and listening to the book provided a distinct pleasure that reading wouldn't have afforded. McManus draws the listener to the table with his voice, sometimes reading in a tone that sounds like a stone-cold gaze, sometimes softening, letting you feel the anguish and ecstacy of his experience. I was sitting right at the table with him and there were times when I found myself holding my breath, waiting for next card to fall.

I had no idea what to expect when I started "Positively Fifth Street," in fact, I just sat down to listen for a few minutes but in the end I had to play the whole game out. 3 1/2 hours after it started the story ended, and I could breathe again.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • Edison, NJ, USA
  • 01-24-05

Great Book!

I was pleasantly surprised on how good this book was. I wish there was an unabridged edition available because I blew through this one in just over 2 days on my commute. Being into Hold'Em I was able to appreciate the first hand account of the action at the table.

The explanation of Binion's death was pretty much just like the special on Discovery channel but it was still interesting. It is unfortunate that it was based on a true story.

The reviewer "mtaddei1" pretty much hit the book dead on in my opinion.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

What fabulous insight!

WOW! :O That's the best way to describe this book! Mr. McManus' prose and delivery style is the best I've ever heard from any audio book. The story does start out very grizzly, so be prepared for that if you're sensitive to descriptive violence. Also, be sure that you've taken your blood pressure medicine during the author's recounting of his experience during the WSoP tournament. The way Mr. McManus describes the developement of the hands had me feeling nearly as anxious as if the hands were mine! This is a great book for anyone interested in well written, well delivered dramas, and its a MUST HAVE for anyone with even a passing interest in the game of poker.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Edward
  • Mill Neck, NY, USA
  • 05-21-03

Positively Fifth Street Murderers

I really enjoyed this book and am glad to give it four stars. I would have liked the author to have made the book longer by putting in chapters inbetween the main story's plot of more of the history of gambling and Vegas. Very interesting, informative and entertaining.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


If you are obsessed with poker and know all the lingo, this might be interesting. It's not enough to know what a full house is versus a flush. This book talks in a vocabulary where most card combos have their own name and the author does not explain.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Tremendously enjoyable

The author himself reads the story of going to cover Binion's World Poker Championship as a reporter and report on the the grisly murder trial Ted Binion. And ending up at the final table playing for $1.5 million.

If it wasn't true no one would ever believe it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Heart of a father soul of a gambler

Good Jim and bad Jim come together to weave a rich tale that paints a vivid picture of Vegas through the eyes and voice of a gambling writer/father. Jim marries the murder story of a prominent Las Vegas son with his own inside thriller at the 2000 World Series of Poker. A great account well read by the author who the listener can't help but feel for. You'll enjoy every minute of this short story.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story


I searched far and wide to find this, I couldn't remember the name or author from a long ago magazine piece, so glad I did. A real mixture of mystery and realty.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Enjoyable book even if you are not a poker fan

What made the experience of listening to Positively Fifth Street the most enjoyable?

Great history about how the WSOP came about and going to Las Vegas as an outsider

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ted Binion

Which scene was your favorite?

The Stip Clubs

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?