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Posted by on Jun 14, 2013 in Blog, Facing the Firing Squad | 3 comments

Facing the Firing Squad: Jim McManus


(Photo: Jon Randolph/Courtesy of Picador USA)

Meet James McManus (a.k.a. Jim McManus)


Jim McManus is arguably, some would say conclusively, poker’s most naturally gifted writer.  He penned one of the most widely-acclaimed poker books ever with his master work Positively Fifth Street, released in 2003.  He later released what many consider the definitive narrative history of poker with his 2009 release, Cowboys Full:  The Story of Poker.  McManus is also the author of five novels, one of which (Going to the Sun) won the Carl Sandburg Award for Literature.  He’s currently working on a much-anticipated semi-autobiographical novel, about the experiences of a young boy growing up in a strong Catholic family.  McManus currently lives in the Chicago area.  He is a Professor at the School of Art Institute in Chicago.  McManus is also a highly-competitive poker player with many successes and cashes, including a fifth place finish in the 2000 world poker championship.


What are some of the things you stand for?

Freedom of and from religion.  Legal online poker.

What are some of the things you stand against?

Relentless partisanship in D.C.

What living person do you admire the most, and why?

Alice Munro and Stuart Dybek — maestros of the short story.

What historical figure do you admire the most, and why?

As Good Jim and Bad (in “Positively Fifth Street”) I’m fascinated by Good Tom and Bad Thomas Jefferson.

What living person do you despise?

Ted Cruz.

If money were not an object, what profession would you chose?


What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?

35 years teaching young writers.

What is about yourself that you’d like to change?

Irish temper.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

20 minutes in the Oval Office talking poker with President Obama.

What the most unusual time and place you’ve ever visited?

Chicago Bulls locker room after their 1994 and 1997 world championships.

Name a place you’ve never visited where you still want to go?

Goldbraceletville, Nevada  89103

Favorite book, favorite music, and favorite musician?

“Bringing Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel;  “Lost in Translation” by Jack White.

What upsets you the most?

Religious fundamentalism.

What bores you?

Bad beat stories, especially my own.

Do you believe in an afterlife and why do you believe it so?

Uh, no.



Photo — Courtesy of Chicago Magazine


  1. Q: What do you think about players having fun playing poker?
    A: Having fun while playing poker is disrespecting the game.

    • lol, awesome 🙂

  2. Interesting that of all the despicable people who have populated this planet, the worse of human-kind, the Charles Mansons, the Stalins and the Kim Jong-un’s, Ted Cruz is the guy McManus despises? So much for liberal civility and tolerance we so often hear about.

    But I did absolutely love his book, Cowboys Full.

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