James McManus’ New Las Vegas Adventure, 20 Years Later

April 16th marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of one of the most classic poker books: Positively Fifth Street by James McManus. To celebrate, the author plans to travel to Las Vegas to play some events during the 2023 WSOP and then write a new book detailing his experience at the festival.

We got in touch with him to hear more about his new adventure in Las Vegas and to discuss his famous book on its 20th anniversary.

The Anniversary of a Classic Poker Book

Younger players may not be familiar with the Jim’s book, so we asked him why they should read it. He told us: “If they have any interest in what the World Series of Poker was like in 2000, or in the murder of its host, Ted Binion, or in how an amateur prepared to play against pros to reach the final table of the Main Event, my book will tell them about it. If they’re interested in the rest of poker history, they should also read my other book, Cowboys Full.

We had read that Jim’s book was going to be turned into a script for a television series, and he had some news on that topic, too. “The showrunner is Benjamin Cavell, screenwriter of the TV series ‘Justified’ and other shows. The writing and other aspects of production were on hold during the WGA writers strike, but he will ramp up again this week.”

James made the WSOP Main Event final table 23 years ago, so we asked what memories he had have of that final table in particular. “Since it was my first tournament ever, it felt normal to be at the final table, but of course it wasn’t normal at all. After being chip leader late on the previous evening, I never won another hand, so after three days of playing well and running good, the last day was a nightmare and huge disappointment. It took me a while to understand how lucky I’d been during days 1-3.”

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Chris Moneymaker‘s triumph in the 2003 Main Event. In reflecting upon poker’s resurgent popularity over the last couple years, Jim said that “Three years of pent-up demand have led up to this point. And with all the new ways to cheat online, live tournaments, especially WSOP and WPT events, are sure to become even more popular.”

We asked what memories he had about the late Doyle Brunson, to which Jim replied “He amazingly spanned the eras of the Texas road gamblers, helping to bring No Limit Hold’em to Vegas and introducing state of the art poker strategy in his books, through the early days of the WSOP, through the internet boom, to today, always among the best living players for seven decades. And he always did it with class and generosity. That is simply astonishing.”

A New WSOP Main Event and a New Book in the Works

You have plans to write a book about your experience at the 2023 WSOP. Tell us a little about it and what it will be about. “I’ll begin reporting on my action on June 15. It will definitely include lots of examples of how different the tournament is today from 2000, from the tiny Horseshoe venue in downtown Vegas to two huge hotels in the center of the Strip. Very few cell phones then; now everyone has one. Back then there were no GTO solvers or online training sites. They used to award 20 bracelets; now it’s almost 100. Players can even bring their dogs to the table.”

What events do you plan to play? How can those who are interested buy a percentage? “At least 10 events, mostly No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha with buy-ins less than $5K, as well as the $10K Main Event. To buy a percentage, please go to my Facebook page, right at the top. The markup is 1.2″.

James McManus

Jim’s post on Facebook

Today the Main Event has a new venue and thousands of players. We asked Jim if he felt ready to play it considering his increased experience, to which he replied: “Today, far more players are competent at NLH, so it’s harder to build a big stack. To make the final table, you have to play well and #rungood for nine or 10 days instead of three. But I hope 23 years of study and playing tournaments gives me some advantages, though like everyone else in the field, I’ll be an extreme longshot to make the final table.”

Its believed by many that the 2006 WSOP Main Event attendance record of 8,773 could be broken in this year’s edition of the Main Event. Jim concurred. “All signs point to the record being broken, though unfortunately there are no more one-table $1k satellites, which is how I won my seat in 2000 (and many other times). Because of the idiotic UIGEA, American players also have fewer chances to win seats online than players in most other countries.”

To end off our conversation, we asked Jim what he likes most about poker, to which he responded: “I like many things about it. It’s our national card game, and increasingly the world’s. Tournaments let me compete for high stakes with a fairly modest buy-in investment. As a popular and potentially lucrative mind sport, poker satisfies my competitive urges long after I got too old to play physical sports. The WSOP is genuinely a world gathering, a chance to meet and compete against people of all ages and backgrounds, from every inhabited continent.”

Remembering the 2000 World Series of Poker Main Event

In 2000, James McManus traveled to Las Vegas to cover the Ted Binion murder trial and the WSOP Main Event. He tried his luck in a $1K Main Event satellite and with three players remaining he accepted a deal to win $6K and paid the difference to play in the tournament he had always dreamed of playing.

A total of 512 players signed up, surpassing the 1999 edition by 119. The best 45 participants would make it into the money and the champion would instantly become a millionaire, with a top prize of $1.5M. Jim started the day with 10K in chips and went into Day 2 with 35K. During Day 2 he was able to double up with K-K and was seated at a difficult table with Kathy Liebert, Daniel Negreanu, Mickey Appleman and Hasan Habib. He was able to survive the bubble by playing his favorite hand (9♥️8♥️) and bagged 276K for Day 3, ranking third in the chip counts.

James McManus

Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and Jim

On Day 3 Jim shared a table with Mike Sexton, Annie Duke, T.J. Cloutier and Jeff Shulman, among others. Chris “Jesus” Ferguson had an incredible run, and after eliminating Shulman, the final table of six players was formed. Chris was the runaway chip-leader with 2.8M and in second place was the humble journalist playing in his first Main Event, with 554K in chips.

How did James do at the final table? To find out, we invite you to read the excellent book “Positively Fifth Street“. While 23 years have passed since that tournament, in just a few days McManus will play it again and possibly have another legendary story to tell about another deep run.

Good luck in Vegas, Jim! 🍀



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Santiago Garcia Mansilla
Written By.

Santiago Garcia Mansilla

Santiago is a longtime veteran of the poker industry, having written primarily about the game in Argentina since 2009. He has published hundreds of articles in Sudamerican Poker and Pokerlogia, and has provided live media coverage at the WSOP Main Event in 2015 and 2019. In addition to being a former columnist in PokerFace Magazine, […]

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