McManus is best known as the author of the book Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker (ISBN 0-374-23648-8). The book is based on his trip to Las Vegas to cover the progress of women in the 2000 World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the death of Ted Binion.
He used his advance to enter a satellite tournament for entry into the Main Event, defeating the likes of Hasan Habib to qualify for the seat. He made the final table of the Main Event, finishing in 5th place and winning $247,760. He credited his success in the tournament to the book Championship No-Limit & Pot-Limit Hold'em (ISBN 1-58042-127-X) by T. J. Cloutier and Tom McEvoy. Cloutier, Habib and Chris Ferguson were also at the same final table.
The book is dedicated to his son, James McManus (1979-2001).
McManus made the quarter-finals of the 2006 National Heads-Up Poker Championship, where he was eliminated by Ferguson. McManus continues to play live poker when not teaching and raising two young daughters with his second wife, Jennifer Arra. He also plays online three or four nights a week on Full Tilt Poker.
As of 2008, his total live tournament winnings exceed $740,000.
Going to the Sun (winner of the Carl Sandburg Award)
Out of the Blue
Physical: An American Checkup (2006)
Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker (October 2009) serialized in Card Player magazine
Antonio Salazar Is Dead
He has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Harper's Magazine, and The New Yorker among others.
His Esquire article on stem cell research was featured in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2005 and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award.
He has been the poker columnist of the New York Times and currently writes the history column for Card Player. He has spoken about the game at Yale, Harvard, Google Inc., Goldman Sachs, and on numerous media outlets.
His work has also appeared in The Best American Poetry, Best American Magazine Writing, Best American Sports Writing, Best American Political Writing, Best Erotic Writing in Modern Fiction, The New Kings of Nonfiction, Richter 858, The Book of Irish American Poetry, and other anthologies. He has received the Carl Sandburg Prize, the Peter Lisagor Award for Sports Journalism, fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, and other awards.
McManus pursued undergraduate degrees from Loyola University Chicago and University of Illinois Chicago. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974 and a Master of Arts degree in 1977, both from UIC. He teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the history section of Harvard's new online poker university.