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Featured Publisher: John Blake
Apart form its current publications, John Blake Publishing has a sizeable back list of acclaimed sporting titles. These include biographies of stars such as Roger Federer, WG Grace, Fernando Torres and Frankie Dettori. For more information, visit www.blake.co.uk



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The Biggest Game in Town by Al Alvarez

Release date: 03rd March, 2003
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

List Price: £8.99
Our Price: £6.74
You Save: £2.25 (25%)
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The idea of going to the World Series of Poker, playing the odd event and interviewing some of the game's biggest names may look like a blindingly obvious way to throw together a book these days - but a quarter of a century ago it must have seemed positively eccentric.

When British writer Al Alvarez flew out to Las Vegas in 1981 (the year of Stu Ungar's second victory), there were no online card rooms, no hole card cameras - there were only 75 entries for the WSOP main event, for goodness sake.

Poker's big names were not TV stars, but (mostly) men who had made a fair proportion of their bankrolls on the wrong side of the law. They were colourful characters, to be sure, but a book of tales interviewed out of the likes of Texas Dolly, Treetop Straus and Jack Binion was more like subcultural anthropology than celebrity journalism.

So, just as Herbert Yardley blazed a trail in the wit-and-wisdom field with his Education of a Poker Player and Doyle Brunson set the benchmark for how-to-play guides with Super System, Al Alvarez opened the batting for the I-was-there report with this little gem. And we say 'gem' because this volume was not just a first - it remains one of the very best.

Much of the book's raw material will now seem familiar, though that's partly because some stories are so good they have been retold many times in the intervening years (even, as Des Wilson has pointed out, the inaccurate ones). But what makes this book timeless are the author's keen eye for detail and superb ear for language. For Alvarez is a poet (we mean that literally not hyperbolically), so that even if some of the tales are a little stale, his sense of pace and polish keep this book as fresh as the day it was published.


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