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10:48 a.m. - July 26, 2006
Poker? Darn Near Killed Her! (OK, That's Lame...)
I’ve kept on top of pop culture, somewhat, and I’ve kept on top of what’s big in sports, somewhat.

Oh, for sure, some of the reality shows that are trendy and hip don’t appeal to me. But I guess a 40 year old male in BFE-land isn’t the target demo for “Project Runway”, anyway.

And the X-Games and other extreme sports aren’t in my wheelhouse either. Hey you kids, you’re going to hurt yourself by doing that!

But one phenomenon has my totally mystified, and yes, it’s been around for a while, but it seems not to be waning at all.

You guessed it, it’s poker.

Now, I’ve played a few hands of poker in my life. In fact, one of my favorite memories involved a poker game at my old place that I shared with Sid, where I alluded to Mac’s cousin’s future bride as a “Cruiserweight” and he laughed so hard his beer started to foam in his mouth.

(Ok, I was only 22 at the time, and in context it makes no sense, but it was funny. You had to be there. Sigh…)

I enjoyed the camaraderie and the good times. What I didn’t enjoy was the losing of money. I was OK at poker, but not great. I would seem to turn off my head and bet with my heart, and that would cause me to lose more often than not.

My propensity to make bets with my heart is why my one foray to Vegas resulted in a huge credit card bill, and probably the iciest greeting at the airport known to mankind.

Back in the olden days of television sports, when on Saturday you watched Wide World Of Sports (Jim McKay was the MAN) because there was nothing else on, they would show the World Series of Poker on occasion, and it seemed interesting. Of course, back then it was hard-scrabble old-school pros that eked out a living playing cards, no doubt hustling a few schmoes on the way.

But for some God-forsaken reason, a few years ago ESPN started showing this tournament, and when some no-name guy won it all, and then it became a huge thing.

Around here, a few of my friends are into it, hardcore. Sid always has these poker events at his house, and every once in a while he’ll describe his latest exploits using all of the proper jargon and nomenclature.

Of course, I try to follow it all, and I hope I’m being polite instead of what is actually going through my head.

Listening to him talk makes me realize how outsiders really blanch when I talk about my Fantasy Football team.

The husband of Niece Nurse always wants me to come up there and play with him. He says it’s low stakes (it is) and I don’t have to bring anything, just my $20 or $30 or whatever.

My issue is two-fold.

1. I would again bet with my heart and my head, and probably lose pretty quickly.
2. I would get mad at myself and want to keep playing, and I really don’t need another obsession now, do I?

So, I’ve been sitting on the sidelines for the poker revolution, and you know, that’s OK by me.

But what I really don’t get is the popularity of televised poker.

You’re watching other people play cards! On television!

Remember how when you were a kid, and your parents had a card party but you couldn’t play in it because you were too little. That was about the boringest thing known to mankind, watching them play Euchre.

To me, this is the same thing. Sure, the nature of Texas Hold ‘Em, with its common cards that can make or break a hand when they are slowly revealed can add drama, but again, you are watching other people play cards on television.

And there’s not Oscar or Murray the Cop or anything like that to add comic relief. (Yeah, it’s an Odd Couple reference, but that was a fun poker game they had going there!)

Right now, you have a bunch of self-important people who are wearing shades and all kinds of other things in order to try to ‘psych’ out their opponents while sitting on pocket deuces. (Oh, wow, I used poker jargon. Help!)

Wow, hold me, thrill me, kiss me!

Like I said, poker is fun to play! I would play it if I could trust myself a little (or a lot) better, but I can’t so I won’t. But watching others play poker, when they’re not your friends and you can’t razz them good naturedly? Nah.

What are even sillier are the celebrity poker tournaments. They’ve replaced game shows as destinations for the B-list and C-list to get back on TV for a while. They also have celebrity blackjack as well. I have a softer spot in my head for watching blackjack, if only because I remember the TV game show “Gambit!” starring the immortal Wink Martindale.
And now it’s spreading. ESPN is showing domino tournaments, so they can diversify the boredom. They’re now showing dart tournaments, and again, that just screams out “zzzzz” to me.

Darts can be cool when you’ve been drinking, because there’s always the intrigue if you will cause damage with a wayward throw, but as a TV sport? Nah.

Anyway, I do realize poker is quite the popular thing right now, with ESPN showing a bazillion (technical TV term) hours of coverage. I’m just not going to watch it.

But if they keep this up, why not televise me playing my computer baseball game? That’s got strategy, drama, and intrigue as well. And I work cheap, too!


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