Poker Omnibus W50P

Home Up

"Ghosts at the Table" Review

[Hide Overview]

TitleGhosts at the Table: Riverboat Gamblers, Texas Rounders, Roadside Hucksters, and the Living Legends Who Made Poker What It Is Today
AuthorDes Wilson
Skill Levelany
ProsGreat storytelling and myth-busting from poker's past up to 2007.
ConsChapters cover a random assortment of topics of varying importance. Publication should have been delayed a few weeks to finish the story of the 2007 WSOP Main Event.

Table of Contents
[Hide Table of Contents]

viiPreface: The Four Ages of Poker
The first age of poker: Fact or fiction on the frontier?... an investigation into the mythology of poker's past
3Aces and Eights... Death in Deadwood1
25Poker in the Old West2
57Drama on the River3
The second age of poker: Fadin' the white line... the life and times of the Texan Road Gamblers
71Poker in the Lone Star State4
The third age of poker: Las Vegas
123The Godfather -- Part I5
153The Godfather -- Part II6
171The World Series of Poker7
219Bobby Hoff's bad beat... and Hal Fowler -- the champion who vanished8
239Million-dollar hands... The world of high-stakes poker9
The fourth age of poker: The twenty-first-century phenomenon
269Poker takes off: Card rooms in cyberspace10
301Ghosts and guardians at the 2007 World Series11
321Appendix: 2007 WSOP ME Top 9 finishers
322Appendix: Stop Press
323Appendix: My thanks to...
324Appendix: Photography
326Appendix: A simple guide to Texas Hold'em
328Appendix: Notes (footnotes)
331Appendix: Additional reading

Note: Some chapters actually have longer descriptions.

[Hide Review]

Poker has a long history of colorful stories and tall tales that have grown taller with each retelling. In Ghosts at the Table: Riverboat Gamblers, Texas Rounders, Roadside Hucksters, and the Living Legends Who Made Poker What It Is Today, Des Wilson debunks some myths about Wild Bill Hickok's "Dead Man's Hand" and the multimillion-dollar Nick Dandolos-Johnny Moss match. The former may have been made up out of whole cloth later, while the latter was probably played a much smaller game than folklore has it.

On the other hand, Wilson passes on as truth many other poker stories of the Old West (including the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone), riverboat gamblers, mid-twentieth century road gamblers, Benny Binion, and Doyle Brunson. He even does some serious detective legwork to figure out what happened to Hal Fowler, who basically disappeared from the poker world after winning the 1979 World Series of Poker.

Wilson also covers online poker and high stakes poker and includes a relatively short section on women in poker, mostly discussing their history at the World Series of Poker. The WSOP gets its own long chapter with stories about his eight favorite Main Event final tables. The final chapter of the book returns to the WSOP but unfortunately ends as the 2007 Main Event final table is set.

Because Wilson traveled all over the U.S. to interview people, he has some unique insights, especially regarding Fowler. Although not as comprehensive1 as James McManus's Cowboys Full - The Story of Poker, which was published the following year, Ghosts at the Table is equally worthy of your time.

[Show Errata]