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Ghosts at the Table by Des Wilson

Release date: 04th October, 2007
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing

List Price: £17.99
Our Price: £12.59
You Save: £5.4 (30%)
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Given an almost unquestioned belief in the bluff's strategic clout and a deep admiration for those players who frequently exercise it to good effect, poker, by its very nature, is a game around which any number of myths have grown.

Was Wild Bill Hicock really holding aces and eights when he was shot in Deadwood, South Dakota? Was the longest-ever poker game actually played in Tombstone, Arizona? Poker historians crave answers to such questions; for regular players, appropriately embellished tales of what is supposed to have happened is sufficient, which is why they'll enjoy Ghosts at the Table, Des Wilson's follow up to his enormously successful Swimming with the Devilfish.

It's fair to say that Wilson has his doubts about whether Wild Bill was gunned down holding a decent pair, but his anecdotes are no less enjoyable for such scepticism. He adds life to his stories by actually visiting the places where poker's myths were supposedly born; his drive along the 'white line' in Texas is particularly engaging.

One element of poker we sometimes forget when playing in an online freeroll or sit-and-go is just how much violence surrounded the game in its evolutionary days. Wilson is excellent at describing this and several of the characters who appear to have enjoyed getting involved in a fight almost as much as playing - or cheating.

Yet perhaps the book's greatest appeal is this: you do not need to be a poker aficionado to appreciate its content. The infamous cash games between real estate millionaire Andy Beal and the team of players known as the Corporation, which included Phil Ivey and Jennifer Harman, are pure fiction - except they're not. They actually took place. Nevertheless, readers do not need to be well up on whether a flush beats a straight to enjoy the Beal - Corporation tale and a host of others, thanks primarily to Wilson's engaging writing style.

Almost out of duty it feels Wilson profiles the game's contemporary stars and charts poker's phenomenal rise, both online and on television, but it his detective-style pursuit of poker's age-old myths which makes this book so gripping.


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