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"All In" Review

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TitleAll In: The (Almost) Entirely True History of the World Series of Poker
AuthorJonathan Grotenstein & Storms Reback
Skill Levelany
ProsDetailed run-throughs of every World Series of Poker Main Event, including many hands from the final tables.
ConsFocused on the stories, so it's hard to jump to a particular year or find out who finished in what place. A few minor errors.1 Only covers up to 2004.

Table of Contents
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xiNote from the Authors
7Two the Hard Way1
25Fading the White Line2
46Texas Dolly3
61Whiz Kids4
80The Kid5
99The Lion Has His Day6
139The Orient Express and the Poker Brat9
158Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?10
173Silver and Gold11
184Family Feud12
202Two Princes13
213Cinderella Stories14
230Five Days Is a Long Time15
249Prime Time16
275Afterword: To Infinity and Beyond

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Bits and pieces of the history of the World Series of Poker had previously appeared in books, usually one year at a time,2 but All In: The (Almost) Entirely True History of the World Series of Poker was the first comprehensive volume to cover them all.

After a brief history of how the WSOP came to be, the 35 festivals through 2004 are chronologically presented in seventeen chapters. For most years, the number of preliminary events and the size of the Main Event field are stated to indicate how the WSOP continued to grow almost non-stop, but the book is more about stories than numbers. Details of some preliminary events are occasionally given, then the Main Event is described, usually including each day of action with more hand recaps and stories starting from the final table.

Almost every player who made a deep run in the Main Event gets some ink; most get a short biography and a general evaluation of their playing style. Many are quoted talking about their play or their opponents.

As a sideline, the history of Binion's Horseshoe and the Binion family is updated throughout the book, from Benny Binion's exile from Texas to the family squabbles that ensued after his death.3

Overall, it's an engrossing and well-written narrative of the first 35 WSOPs that almost feels too short despite running almost 300 pages.

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