License to Deal: A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent By Jerry Crasnick ($24.95). A behind-the-scenes look at the life of a baseball agent.
Ron Kittle's Tales from the White Sox Dugout By Roland Hemond ($19.95). On and off the field with the '83 White Sox.
The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova By Johnette Howard ($24.95). Two women from different worlds find rivalry and then friendship on the women's tennis circuit.
The Perfect Pafko By Robert Booth ($15.95). A middle-aged man's passion for baseball helps him through difficult circumstances.
Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters By Ben Green ($24.95). A look back at the Globetrotters, from the Depression era to today.
Just For Openers
The first few lines of Inside the Cage by Wight Martindale Jr. ($22.95):
Nobody at West 4th Street in New York City is famous. No one is rich. No one is important. Or influential. Or politically connected. But a summer basketball tournament has been going on down here for over 25 years, and the same guy who started the tournament is still running it.
Five Under $5
Think words are cheap? These books won't break your bank (prices from barnesandnoble.com):
My Prison Without Bars By Pete Rose ($4.98). At long last, Rose admits to betting on baseball.
Joltin Joe Dimaggio By Richard Gilliam ($3.98). Biography of the Yankee Clipper.
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs. the United States of America By Howard Bingham and Max Wallace ($4.98). A study of America's reaction after Ali refused to serve in Vietnam.
Tiger Woods: The Grandest Slam($4.99). A collection of articles and photos from Tiger's four straight major victories in 2000-01.
Three Strides Before the Wire: The Dark and Beautiful World of Horse Racing By Elizabeth Mitchell ($3.58). Story of Charismatic as the colt trie to win the '99 Ttriple Crown.
SI.com's Book Club will feature an excerpt each month from a recently published sports book. Below is an excerpt from The Professor, The Banker and The Suicide King, written by Michael Craig (Warner Books, $24.95).
An hour outside Las Vegas, Ted Forrest called the Bellagio poker room. This call was part of a ritual whenever Ted returned from California. If the action was big enough, he would drive straight to the casino and play. Otherwise, he would go home and call again that evening.
Ted Forrest was a professional poker player, and he played for the highest stakes in the world. Even though he lived in Las Vegas, he chased the action around California, along the East Coast, and sometimes through Europe. The biggest games in Vegas were $1,500-$3,000, or maybe $2,000-$4,000, but those games popped up only occasionally. To keep himself in action, he commuted almost weekly to L.A. to the Bicycle Club, the Commerce Club, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt's house, or Flynt's Hustler Casino, for high-stakes poker.
When a poker player is playing well, every game looks like a good game, and Forrest was playing very well. He had won over $2.3 million in the first ten weeks of 2001. Most people would say there is no way such results could continue. What distinguishes a professional like Ted Forrest, however, is his focus on making those results continue for as long as possible. He did not want to turn down any opportunities to play while things were going so well.
His car, a Lincoln Mark VIII, was practically destined for this route. Tom McEvoy, the 1983 World Champion, won the car as the best all-around player at the Bicycle Club's Diamond Jim Brady Tournament in 1994. Phil Hellmuth, the 1989 World Champion, was backing McEvoy at the time and ended up with the car. Ted later staked Hellmuth, and bought the car from him. Ted Forrest possesses the perfect disposition for this lifestyle. On the outside, nothing about Ted gave the impression that he was one of the best poker players in the world. He was thirty-six, of average height and weight. His face was youthful, his features unlined. His brown hair was always neat, though he sometimes grew it a little long. He almost never raised his voice or got angry. He looked like a new teacher at a prep school. Even at the poker table, his blank expression and vague smile confused opponents and onlookers. He looked like he didn't have a care in the world, or like he was stoned.
This exterior package hid that Ted Forrest was not someone to be trifled with, physically or mentally. He could do a standing back flip, run a marathon, or drink ten beers in thirty minutes. (He did all these things to win bets.) When he could find an opponent who was willing, he would play poker for over 100 hours at a stretch. He called these "death matches."
Only Ted's eyes hinted at the fires burning within. They were narrow and gray and, though he did not try to stare down opponents, those beady pupils behind the slits made the rest of Ted's appearance look like a mask he was peering through.
"High brush, please."
Ted did not have the poker room on his speed dial, but he dialed it so frequently he could push the buttons on his cell phone without taking his eyes off the road. The Bellagio spreads games of many different sizes, and different employees have the responsibility over different parts of the room. In one corner, up two steps, is the high-limit area, and the floorperson (nicknamed the brush after the floorperson's unglamorous responsibility of cleaning up messes at the table) supervising these five tables is known as the high brush.
"What's the biggest game in the room?" Ted expected to hear that an afternoon $400-$800 game was getting started, which would have been just big enough to draw him into the room.
After a pause, the floorman said, "Ten-and-twenty-thousand Texas Hold 'Em."
Ted must have heard wrong. The biggest game ever at the Bellagio had been $4,000-$8,000, and this was more than twice that size. A game that large doesn't just materialize on a Wednesday afternoon.