Book Review: "Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker" By James McManus

In his latest book, James McManus has given the reader a comprehensive look at the history of poker from its early origins in Chinese dominoes around 900AD to becoming an American national craze by the Civil War to the global phenomenon it is today.
More than just a historical account,‘My goal is to show how the story of poker helps to explain who we are,’ McManus states, and then sets about showing the influence poker has exerted on national culture throughout history, with particular emphasis on America. Poker provides a perfect context to the American ethos, he asserts, ‘as energetic risk-taking, restless curiosity, and competitive self-promotion.’
In ‘Cowboys Full’ the author argues that the unique intricacies of poker has elevated it from its gambling associated past to evolve into a streamlined game, respected and played by presidents with a part to play in even the political and military arenas. Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, was an avid fan of the game, while President Obama, to quote McManus, is one of the many presidents to “have used the card game to relax with friends, extend their network of colleagues, or even deploy its tactics and psychology in their role as commander in chief.”
The reader is also introduced to a wide range of courful characters forever associated with the game, such as Wild Bill Hickok, Doc Holliday and Poker Alice and explains how the ‘card’sharps’ of the past have now been replaced by a new breed of legitimate and professional poker players.
In “Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker” the prize-winning author has once again written a witty and insightful book masterfully blending history, politics and strategy to produce an excellent definitive historical guide to the ‘national card game.’

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