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Poker is much more than just a popular game. It is a world unto itself, populated with a multitude of colorful characters: professionals and amateurs, hustlers and dreamers. This royal flush of a collection brings together short stories, essays, poems, and excerpts from novels by a host of renowned writers ...
Poker is much more than just a popular game. It is a world unto itself, populated with a multitude of colorful characters: professionals and amateurs, hustlers and dreamers. This royal flush of a collection brings together short stories, essays, poems, and excerpts from novels by a host of renowned writers — from the Wild West to present day — who have mined their personal experience of the game. Entertaining and enlightening, you'll want to ante up for Read 'Em and Weep.
With pieces by ...
Herbert O. Yardley
|From The man with the golden arm||1|
|"Chan is bluffing (we think)"||9|
|"Money : the language of poker" from Poker : bets, bluffs, and bad beats||22|
|"Poker night" from Visiting Mrs. Nabokov (and other excursions)||33|
|"Tells" from Poker nation||36|
|"Frauds in playing and poker sharps" from The complete poker player||46|
|"Pug Pearson" from Fast company||53|
|"Four men and a poker game, or too much luck is bad luck"||61|
|"The toughest poker player in the world||69|
|From Counsel to the president||73|
|"A poker game"||78|
|"How not to play poker"||82|
|From Forty years a gambler on the Mississippi||87|
|"The woman with five hearts"||98|
|From The gentlemen's handbook on poker||100|
|"A disreputable family holiday in Las Vegas"||103|
|From Poker faces : the life and work of professional poker players||108|
|From Dragoon campaigns to the Rocky Mountains||112|
|From Big deal||115|
|From From here to eternity||121|
|From Telling lies and getting paid||129|
|"A girlhood among gamblers" from Poker face||139|
|"No game for a woman"||146|
|"Let's get rid of the ribbon clerks"||152|
|From "Black magic"||162|
|"The things poker teaches"||167|
|From Dealer's choice||171|
|From Shut up and deal||185|
|"Everything is wild"||190|
|"A game, gentlemen, a game ..."||195|
|"The professor's yarn" from Life on the Mississippi||205|
|From Poker, how to play it||219|
|From The education of a poker player||221|
Surrounded by a group of luckless losers, Frankie Machine, the author's drug-addled anti-hero, finds respite in the magic of his talents as a card dealer. The passage is pure Algren at his hard-core, late-40s hipster best, the prose juxtaposing Frankie's reverie with the rhythmic routine of his calling.
Algren himself played high and low stakes poker with little success; according to biographer Bettina Drew, he would routinely pass off his losses at low-life dives to "gathering research." The slumming paid off in literary backdrop -- The Man with the Golden Arm won the first National Book Award (1950) -- and may well have inspired Algren's classic adage: "Never play cards with a man named Doc (and never eat at a place called Mom's)."
Each night he slipped singles and fives and deuces into the green silk bag. Frankie dealt the fastest game in the Near Northwest Side when he was right, and he was more right now with every night; at moments it seemed to him he was faster and steadier than he had ever been. At any second, through all the hours, he knew to a nickel how the pot stood and controlled the players like the deck. They too were aces and deuces, they too were at his fingertips once more.
For like the deuces and aces they all came home to him toward closing time. Turned face up at last, their night-long secret bluffing was exposed at last: the fat florid kings, the lean and menacing black jacks and those sneaky little gray deuces, all betrayed the sucker by morning.
In the early light Schwiefka, with his fry-cook's complexion, called "Change it up!" to the steerer for the last time. And went south with the bundle.
There had been only one serious argument at Schwiefka's while Frankie was in the slot, for Frankie had the knack of anticipating funny business. He sensed the sort of desperation which would tempt a man to slip a single exposed ace around the hole card, flashing it so fast it gave the impression of a pair. It had been that one pulled, for the sake of caution, on the slow-witted umbrella man, in which Frankie had trapped Louie cold.
Everyone knew immediately what had happened -- everyone but Umbrellas. All Umbrellas knew was that Louie had said "bullets" and reached for the pot. Frankie had flipped Louie's cards open before the fixer had had time to get them back into the deck.
"I swear I seen bullets," Louie had pretended casually, and nobody told him he lied. But Umbrellas had gotten the pot and Louie had never quite forgiven the dealer for exposing him. "You'd think it was comin' out of his own pocket," he complained later of Frankie.
Since that time there came a moment every night, before the first suckers started knocking, when Frankie would look uneasily at Louie and say, "I call the hands. What I say goes. That's how it's always been 'n that's how it's gonna stay 'n nobody's gonna change it." He told Louie that exactly as some sergeant had once told it to him when he'd questioned an order. It had worked on Private Majcinek. So ex-Private Majcinek assumed it had an effect on the fixer's narrow head.
And studied each fresh sucker with a practiced eye. Schwiefka sent occasional stooges into the game to keep his dealer straight -- usually one wearing a loudly flowered tie and sideburns; with a habit of finding the dealer's toe under the table to indicate that a bit of co-operation with that deck wouldn't go unappreciated. Good-time Charlies with the usual whisky glass in the middle of the forehead and that certain faraway look which never troubled to count a winning pot to see whether it was right. "We trust each other, Dealer," was the implication of that look.
The dealer trusted no man on the other side of the slot. He had outlasted forty such touts. They didn't call him Machine just because he was fast. They called him Machine because he was regular.
He couldn't risk being anything else; dealing was the sole skill he owned. "The day I get my musician's union card is the day I'll steal Schwiefka blind," he planned in his tough-skinned larcenous little heart. Until that day he would be as straight as one of Widow Wieczorek's ivory-tipped cues.
One by one Schwiefka's shills would give place, as the winter night wore on, the stakes would grow higher as the air grew heavier and the marks grew lighter; to be replaced, one by one, like so many sausages into the same sure grinder.
While at the door Sparrow urged losers and winners alike: "Tell 'em where you got it 'n how easy it was."
Till Frankie would sit back wearily, sick of seeing them come on begging to be hustled, wondering where in the world they all came from and how in the world they all earned it and what in the world they told their wives and what, especially, they told themselves and why in the world they always, always, always, always came back for more.
"More, more, I keep cryin' for more more -- "
Some tattered walkathon tune of the early thirties went banging like a one-wheeled Good Humor cart of those same years through his head as the cards slipped mechanically about the board and his fingers went lightly dividing change in the middle, taking the house's percentage without making the winner too sharply aware of the cut. It was one thing for a player to understand he was bucking a percentage and quite another to see it taken before his eyes. To the mark it always seemed, vaguely, that the dealer might have overlooked the cut, just this once, out of sportsmanship ...Read 'Em and Weep