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Once I hear the clatter of chips I almost go into convulsions,” said Dostoyevsky, while Anatole France wrote, “The gambler is driven by the fascination of danger at the bottom of all great passions.” The characters the reader meets in Players — chess grand masters, poolroom hustlers, or street-hardened practitioners of the short con — are all alike propelled by the ecstasy of risk. “The stake is money,” France wrote, “in other words, immediate, infinite possibilities.” In fact, as the reader hooks up with David Mamet in the poker room and meets Damon Runyon’s Bookie Bob, Saul Bellow’s immortal Yellow Kid, and learns from Herbert Asbury about the antics of Izzy and Moe, and from David Maurer about the discreet charm of the confidence man, Walter Tevis on Fast Eddie Felson and Minnesota Fats on the seductions of nineteenth-century gambling dens, high lives and low will merge and the world of gambler and con-artist will blur. Selected writings by Jorge Luis Borges, Hunter S. Thompson, Nick Tosches, and many others are featured.
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