More Post-Gazette Buffonery

Friday, November 17th, 2006, 2:51 am

I haven’t seen Casino Royale yet (it doesn’t open here for ten more hours) but after returning home after an evening of volleyball and beer I hit the PG website to see their review. I’ve read a dozen reviews so far, all of them full of praise. Plus Ryan commented in my previous post that it’s perhaps the best Bond ever and the poker action is pretty good too. I’m gonna see it tomorrow.

Anyway, I read the PG review. Now, there’s an old saying that goes like this–“Ignorance is bliss”. This is in fact total nonsense–ignorance sucks. Oh, maybe ignorance about the fact that your girlfriend is banging Kevin Federline would be pretty blissful (especially if you’ve just eaten dinner), but 99% of the time you’re better off knowing stuff than not knowing stuff. Knowledge is power, that’s another old saying.

Anyway, just because you don’t know squat about a subject doesn’t mean that you should trumpet that fact. Which is what Barry Paris does in his review of Casino Royale. Writing about the poker game that Bond and the villain play, Paris writes the following:

The million-dollar card game in the original novel was chemin de fer, but that has been updated for the new millennium to Texas hold ’em poker, a complex and not intrinsically or visually suspenseful game. Compared to baccarat, it’s a bit declasse. The serious poker players I know are apt to scoff at it.

But it’ll do.

“A complex and not intrinsically or visually suspenseful game”. Has there ever been a sentence written about Hold-Em more wrong than this one? Hold-Em, while a devilishly difficult game to get really good at, is not “complex”. As the saying goes, “It takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master”. I could teach my cat to play Hold-Em. The rules are that easy. But although tests have shown my IQ is in the 99th percentile and I have an MBA and I’ve been writing about Hold-Em for three goddam years, I still suck at it. The complexities aren’t in the rules. The complexities are in the play. Which goes a long way to explaining why it’s so popular.

Hold-Em is not an “intrinsically or visually suspensful game”? Tell that to the folks at the Travel Channel and ESPN who have been televising poker for the last four years. Paris is a film critic–is it possible he doesn’t own a television? Perhaps. While Hold-Em isn’t as exciting as, say, nude female roller derby (what is!), it can certainly be presented as an exciting game full of drama.

Especially when compared to chemin de fer. To argue that chemin de fer (or baccarat, which CDF is a variant of) is MORE dramatic than Hold-Em is ludicrous. Read the description of chemin de fer from Wikipedia and decide if that game is intrinsically more dramatic than Hold-Em. I say, no way. If you need further evidence, examine the scene in Thunderball when Bond is playing baccarat against Largo. The dialogue goes something like this:

Largo: Carte

Dealer: Banco suive

(Pause)

Largo: Eight

Bond: Nine

Crowd: (oohs, ahhs)

Dealer slides cards across the baize

Largo: Six

Bond: Seven

Crowd: (oohs, ahhs)

This is dramatic? Perhaps, but that’s because of the tension between Bond and Largo (and Domino). But is the game itself dramatic? I think not.

Is poker “declasse”? Eh, OK, if you consider a pastime enjoyed by the unwashed masses “declasse”. Me, I’m not an elitist. I like the fact that 50 million Americans play poker. I like America.

Paris saves his most ludicrous statement for last, and it’s a humdinger:

The serious poker players I know are apt to scoff at it.

“The serious poker players I know are apt to scoff at it”! I would like to say something to Barry Paris and the “serious poker players” he knows. Please, PLEASE, invite me to your next poker game. Let me quote a few “serious poker players” who have said some interesting things about Hold-Em:

“Hold-Em is to stud what chess is to checkers.”–Johnny Moss

“No-limit Hold-Em is the Cadillac of poker games”–Doyle Brunson

I don’t mean to scoff at games like Stud and Omaha. Every poker game presents its own unique challenge. But scoffing at No-Limit Hold-Em? First of all, read the two quotes above. Secondly, it’s the most popular poker game out there right now. Meaning that, for the good players, it’s the most profitable poker game out there right now. The vast majority of fish out there school at Hold-Em tables. Unless you really hate Hold-Em, or you’re a Stud savant or an Omaha overlord, scoffing at Hold-Em is going to cost you money. Wow, felt like I was channeling David Sklansky for a second there.

So the analysis of the poker action sucked, and sucked large. Like I said, I’ll probably go see the movie tomorrow (or, maybe not, as I have a busy day planned and a party that starts early in the evening. And, oh crap, it’s already like 2:30AM). But I’m looking forward to the flick. I’ll let you know what I think when I see it.

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2 Responses to “More Post-Gazette Buffonery”

  1. Scott Says:

    Yeah, I saw that and raised an eyebrow. I wondered if he really knew what he was talking about, since Hold-Em is VERY suspenseful.

    Although I’ll disagree with you on one thing – it IS easy to learn, but difficult to play VERY well. It takes time, reading, and lots and lots of practice.

    But I’m sure you knew that!

  2. Drizztdj Says:

    I love Omaha and there are more decisions involved, but Hold Em’ still hurts my head more.

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