|Title||Take Me to the River|
|Pros||Vicarious ride to and through the World Series of Poker ending with the Main Event.|
|Cons||Alson neglects to finish telling the story of the 2005 WSOP Main Event, misspells a few player names, and occasionally loses track of position at the table.|
|10||Vegas From the Air||1|
|26||Heart of Ice||2|
|48||A Thin Slice of Nothing||3|
|79||The Troglodyte on the Couch||4|
|107||Something Bright and Shiny and Worth the Pain||5|
|119||The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter||6|
|140||Seduction, Fantasy, and Getting Lucky||7|
|165||Almost All of Them Are Tough||8|
|188||Strangers When We Meet||9|
|210||A Senior Moment||10|
|226||The Perfect Path||11|
|239||The Quick and the Dead||12|
|257||The Might Casey||13|
|267||The Single Most Depressing Day of the Year||14|
Some players scrape up $10,000 to buy directly into the Main Event, some satellite in, and apparently at least once a year, a writer bamboozles a publisher to get paid to play it.
Alson acknowledges The Biggest Game in Town by Al Alvarez (who would write about the WSOP a second time from a player's perspective in Bets, Bluffs, and Bad Beats), Big Deal by Anthony Holden, and Positively Fifth Street by James McManus, but each writer brings his own perspective to the task. Alson was inspired by Alvarez to play poker, and over a quarter century later, to try to qualify for the Main Event via a PokerStars online satellite a la Chris Moneymaker.Alson provides the requisite summary of the history of the WSOP from the early days up through Greg Raymer's 2004 victory, which was the final full event at the Horseshoe1
In 2005, only the last two tables of the Main Event took place at the Horseshoe, with everything else having moved to the Rio.
Alson is good friends with pro Shane "Shaniac" Schleger, having met in New York, and they trade a percent or two of each other's action when they play in the same tournaments.
The story returns to Las Vegas, starting with the cliche flying-into-Las-Vegas chapter. Alson had been to the WSOP way back in the late 1980s to cover the World Series of Poker (and the Super Bowl of Poker) for The Village Voice and Esquire and played in the Media Tournament a few times without reaching the final table. He finally played in an open event in 2001 and cashed in one preliminary event; he even played in the Main Event but didn't cash.Alson's actually a pretty good player who honed his game at New York City's Mayfair Club among others.3
The V.F.W. (Thirtieth and Madison) and the Diamond Club (Twenty-Eighth off Seventh).
One of the most interesting tidbits in the entire book is relegated to a footnote. Alson administered the Gambler's Anonymous 20-question compulsive gambler test to his tablemates, and they averaged 14 positives, two more than Alson and double the amount needed to be considered a compulsive gambler.
Of all the writer-gets-paid-to-chronicle-playing-in-the-WSOP books, only two have truly happy endings: Positively Fifth Street ends with McManus's excellent finish, and Alson's tale, albeit not because of his play in the Main Event. He ends up playing a dozen or so satellites and six WSOP events. You can read the book to find out how he did, but if you've followed poker for a while, you already know he didn't get far enough in the Main Event to turn pro as a poker player. If you seek inspiration though, Alson's "Wayward and Perilous Journey to the World Series of Poker" (as it's subtitled) is worth reading more for the trip than the destination.