Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched"

I just read a short story by that title, by Steve Almond. It's in Best American Short Stories of 2010, which you should be able to find at any library.

It's an interesting tale about a difficult relationship between a poker-playing psychiatrist and his patient, a professional poker player. The patient might be based on somebody real; he's egotistical, trash-talking, lives in the San Francisco area, a past WSOP winner, who has his own line of poker-themed clothes, and who is married to a psychiatrist. Sound like anybody you can think of?

The tension in the therapeutic relationship spills over onto the green felt, predictably. I'll leave it at that.

Unlike many poker-themed short stories, this one does not betray an author's underlying ignorance of the game by misuse of terminology or unrealistic situations or reactions. I do have to ding it, though, for messing up the cards in the dramatic showdown hand: a king of diamonds on the flop suddenly has become the king of hearts by the turn (though that doesn't affect how the hand plays out). The title, by the way, is the pro player's motto, his reminder to himself not to try to play too fancy.

The story is less than 20 pages long, a fast read, and worth the effort next time you're in a library.

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