Essays by a diverse group of writers capture the joys, regrets, friendships, philosophies, and adventures experienced through neighborhood poker. This collection of 52 original pieces features a section of practical and impractical tips for home poker games and a cornucopia of fascinating facts about poker paintings, poker movies, poker books, and other poker-themed masterpieces of popular culture. An interview with Edie Adams demonstrates Ernie Kovacs’s poker obsession; Nick Tosches reveals Lester Bangs as a sucker; Chris Ware illustrates Bert Williams’s “Darktown Poker Club”; Bill Zehme discusses Johnny Carson’s celebrity poker game; and Neal Pollack discloses how his grandfather brutally introduced him to the game. With far more humor and clarity than a formal poker guide, these essays encapsulate the experience of spending a long evening drinking beer and playing pasteboards.
From the Sacramento Bee:
“52 juicy poker tales … all are informative, all are amusing.”
From Publishers Weekly:
“There’s no such thing, of course, as a friendly game of poker,” says James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street, in a blurb for this entertaining collection. So perhaps it’s best to play as Ira Glass does-online. Glass also poses the central question: “if poker’s so wrong, why does it feel so right?” Greg Dinkin describes the agonizing, moment-by-moment thought process of playing a hand. Bill Zehme explains why Johnny Carson, who hates parties, attends sessions of the Gourmet Poker Club (“the card game becomes secondary the minute somebody has a good story to tell,” says fellow player Carl Reiner). And David Quantick and Karen Krizanovich explain why Americans prefer poker and the British prefer bridge (poker is more democratic). Anyone who’s ever been in a weekly poker game will find much to identify with in this delightful volume.”
The weekly poker game is an American phenomenon, and this collection of essays reflects that provenance as well as the special passion Americans bring to the game. Of course, there are several pieces relaying poker anecdotes, such as “He Who Steals My Purse Ain’t No Friend of Mine,” by Nick Tosches. But those make up only the first section, called “Table Tales.” There are also sections called “Practical and Impractical Tips” and “Poker in Culture” (where Dan Kelly, in “Poker for Bastards,” relates how one book taught him the Machiavellian art of bilking friends out of their hard-earned money). The essays are short and pithy, often silly, and usually just plain funny. As the editor says in “Fifty-Two Poker Terms,” “Part of what makes poker night fun is acting like a bunch of knowledgeable low-life big shots.” A nice, light offering to complement the hundreds of how-to poker books.