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Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker by James…
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Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker

by James McManus

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Showing 5 of 5
Royal Flush. ( )
  kcshankd | Jan 16, 2015 |
As other reviewers did, I found the introductory chapters to be rather patience trying. The evolutionary psychology (we are hard wired to gamble! Proof? And even that granted, so what? There are so very many books where genetics and EP get used as distracting explanatory crutches!) he uses is both weak and fails to fully address the really interesting evolutionary issues (bluff as an evolutionary strategy for instance). He attempts to get at this through his treatment of Presidential poker playing--competition is less fighting than elaborate signaling and strategic stakes raising/folding--but doesn't quite do the job of focussing our attention properly, which is what the introductory chapters are supposedly here for.

But once we arrive at real poker in antebellum America, we arrive at the books virtues--it is very well-researched and McManus knows how to tell a story. Even if he isn't so adept at distilling its significance for us, the story is more than worthwhile in and of itself. ( )
  ehines | Apr 26, 2012 |
When I recommend this book to my poker buddies, I inevitably give them a warning regarding "having to endure the first couple of chapters". But once McManus gets rolling, it is a very good read. You can't really compare it to his "Positively Fifth Street" because they're two different styles, with this one leaning much more toward factual data support rather than simple story-telling. Nonetheless, a fun and interesting read.

If you're a poker buff and enjoy the fascination and growth of the game over the past decade, you'll find this worth your while. ( )
  Hammer56 | Apr 24, 2012 |
For some reason I had a really negative reaction to the first 30 or so pages of the book. Random flipping of the rest of the book convinced me to read on though. The issues with the beginning is that it goes a little too long into comparing Presidents Obama & Bush and how Obama is a poker player whereas Bush is not and how it might have affected their policies. Couple that with a weak (although occasionally humorous) section on "pre-history" of games and gambling and it quickly becomes the worse part of the book by far.

However, once the author actually starts getting into the history of poker the book gets far more interesting. The descriptions of card sharks, gamblers and the Mississippi especially comes off well. The book has a lot of research behind it and covers a lot of ground.

The style and topics are a bit diverse and loosely structured This doesn't bother me, but it might bother others. The book probably could have used a bit heavier of a hand of an editor, particularly the first section.

So if you like games, poker, or American history I'd recommend the book. Just be warned, you might find yourself skimming ahead during certain parts of the book ( )
  JonathanGorman | May 3, 2011 |
Good survey of one of my former favorite pastimes. A bit too much detail in the middle of the book with endless descriptions of Texas Hold 'em tournaments. ( )
  Doondeck | Jan 15, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
“Cowboys Full” is so entertaining, informative and genial that McManus can be forgiven for occasionally overplaying his hand.
 
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Epigraph
The Kid laid down a full-house --- three kings and a pair of treys --- which make Fallon's aces look small. As The Kid hauled in the mountain of chips he'd won, he announced, "That's the last poker-hand I'll play! I'm cured!"
Kenneth Gilbert, Alaskan Poker Stories.

With bluffs so much easier to make and threats so much more portentous than any previous tim in history, it is essential not only for our own State Department but for the entire world to understand what bluffs and threats mean; when they are appropriate;whether they should be avoided at all cost; in short, what is the sanest way to play this deadly, real-life version of poker.

Oskar Morgenstern, on the subject of nuclear diplomacy
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JAA
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Poker skill didn't vault Barack Obama into the Presidency.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The story of poker, from its roots in China, the Middle East, and Europe to its ascent as a global--but especially an American--phenomenon, braiding history with poker's relevance to our military, diplomatic, business, and personal affairs.

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