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The Biggest Game in Town

7.7 Total Score

The Biggest Game in Town, written by Al Alvarez, is considered by many poker players as one of the best books on poker. The extraordinary prose and vivid description of poker players’ lives make it extra enjoyable for the readers. This fantastic work gets into the psychology of those playing absolutely at the top of the poker spectrum…

7User's score
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Author’s authority
Writing style
  • Old downtown Las Vegas atmosphere
  • Easy to understand and beautiful language
  • Awesome, old school pro players descriptions (Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, Jack Strauss, etc)
  • A little bit repetitive
  • No poker strategies included
  • Witten 30 years ago (but for some readers it can be a positive aspect)
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Review - The Biggest Game In Town

The biggest game in town book review

Published by an excellent writer, Al Alvarez, in 1983, The Biggest Game In Town deals with the 1981 World Series of Poker. It introduces Texas Hold ’em to a broad audience for the very first time. This book marks the beginning of the genre of poker literature. The author has covered the life of poker players in the early 80s through various stories.


Al Alvarez, regarded as the father of contemporary poker literature, delves into the seedy and obsessive world of high-stakes Vegas poker. The Biggest Game is known as the bible of poker literature across the globe. One hundred eighty-eight pages of a precise and lyrical portrait of early Vegas poker scenes deals with insights about human nature, poker, and American Society.
As an intelligent analyst of gamblers’ psychology, the author deals with the peculiar rites of professional poker players. They descend every year for the WSOP. The storyline is based on amateur and dedicated poker players in the town of strangers. This book, set throughout a single tournament, portrays both geniuses and madmen ruling high-stakes games in America.

“I felt like I had walked into a Sam Peckinpah movie, in alligator boots, wildcatters wearing Stetsons and Dior ties, gnarled good old boys with eyes like ferrets, who farmed in West Texas.”

The fantastic city feeds, strips, and seduces its people, thus changing their overall reality perspective. The romanticism of poker players, along with an in-depth knowledge of their strategies, is both a blend of fun and knowledgeable piece to read. The combination of the author’s writing ability and comprehensive understanding of the game makes the book a huge success.

“Sometimes, all it takes is a dime and a dream.”


The reader may enjoy going back to the 1980s casino era through a vibrant description of the author. Although the game of poker has considerably changed over time, The Biggest Game In Town will surprise the readers with its quality. Although you might find the book a bit repetitive at some point.

This magnificent work by Al Alvarez, won’t ever make you doubt its credibility. You won’t find poker strategies in this book, but it’s surely going to be fun.


Filled with concrete details, it gets into the psychology of old professional poker players and perfectly describes players like Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, or Jack Strauss.

The winner of the 1970 WSOP Johnny Moss, tells Alvarez:

“Every time I go into a game, the cheaters are there, the thieves are there, the hijackers are there, the police are after you, the rangers are after you….Then you have to get in an’ beat the cards. You have to win an’ get out with the money.”

The Biggest Game in Town is one of the best entertaining poker books out there. The blend of Al Alvarez’s tremendous writing skills and an understanding of the poker game makes this book one of the readers’ favorite. Instead of preaching poker strategies, the author takes us to an almost-forgotten era of Vegas gamblers and their poker game.

Here is a video of Alvarez reading poetry, which is another of his great hobbies. Not really poker related video, but it can give you the picture image of the author

About The Author

Al Alvarez author of The Biggest Game in Town

Al Alvarez between 1984 and 1994 played regularly in the WSOP, and once, in 1994, he played in the main event. Al Alvarez was a poet, novelist, literary critic, anthologist, and author of many highly praised non-fiction books on topics ranging from suicide, divorce, and dreams – The Savage God, Life After Marriage, Night – to poker and mountaineering. He died in 2019.



“Money is no longer money to the professionals; it is like a wrench to a plumber—a tool of the trade.”

Johnny Moss, winner of the inaugural WSOP Main Event in 1970, tells Alvarez, “’Every time I go into a game, the cheaters are there, the thieves are there, the hijackers are there, the police are after you, the rangers are after you….Then you have to get in an’ beat the cards. You have to win an’ get out with the money.’”

Like all computer games, poker online is a lonely, two-dimensional pas-time and I miss the social interplay—the chance to mix with people I might  otherwise not meet, see how they behave under pressure, and watch them for those little telltale gestures that indicate strength or weakness.’


“Probably the best book on poker ever written.”
The Evening Standard
“A classic . . . There is no better book on America's national pastime.”
James McManus
Author of Positively Fifth Street
“Conveys an understanding of gamblers and their milieu that can appeal to someone who has never seen a casino or doesn't care to.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A magnificent book. Beyond the straights and fullhouses, Alvarez has written a book about people who are extremely good at what they do, and about America.”
San Francisco Chronicle

Book Details

Number of Pages: 191
Game: Tournament, NLH
Live/Online: Live
Required Skill Level: Beginners
Format Available: E-book, Paperback
Free with Kindle Unlimited: No
Free with Audible: N/A
Publication date: 1983
Reprinted: Yes, October 2009
Special Features: N/A
Languages: English
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


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