Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Noble Hustle

I've just started reading The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death, by Colson Whitehead. It's another in the growing genre of poker books chronicling the authors' first experiences at the World Series of Poker. A magazine offered to pay Whitehead's entry fee for the WSOP Main Event in exchange for his writing up the experience, but it turned into a book.

I'm not finding myself a big fan of his style generally, but I admired his opening sentence: "I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside."

I also liked this early paragraph. ("Anhedonia" is a medical term for the inability to feel pleasure.)

I was gonna play in the Big Game and give it my best shot. It was not the National Series of Poker, it was the World Series of Poker, and I would represent my country, the Republic of Anhedonia. We have no borders, but the population teems. No one has deigned to write down our history, but we are an ancient land, founded during the original disappointments, when the first person met another person. I would do it for my countrymen, the shut-ins, the doom-struck, the morbid of temperament, for all those who walk through life with poker faces 24/ 7 because they never learned any other way. For the gamblers of every socioeconomic station, working class, middle class, upper class, broke-ass; for the sundry gamers twelve stories below, tossing chips into the darkness; for the internet wraiths maniacally clicking before their LCDs in ill-lit warrens in Akron, Boise, and Bhopal, who should really get out more; for all the amateurs who need this game as a sacred haven once a month, who seek the sanctuary of Draw and Stud, where there are never any wild cards and you can count on a good hand every once in a while. For Big Mitch and Methy Mike, Robotron and the Lady with the Crimson Hair, the ones who would kill to go to Vegas and will never make it there, my people all of them. Did I sound disdainful of them before? It was recognition you heard. I contain multitudes, most of them flawed. 

Monday, February 23, 2015