Once disreputable, now TV-slick

A. Alvarez reviews two new books on the contemporary culture of poker.

Is poker a game of chance?” someone asks W.C. Fields in My Little Chickadee. “Not the way I play it,” he replies. Fields is an old-style cardsharp and he dresses the part — top hat, white gloves, dingy frock coat. These days professional poker players prefer bomber jackets and baseball caps, but on the question of chance they and Fields would agree: all of them work on the principle that poker, like chess, is a game of skill and the better player will always win in the long run.

Because I love Hold ‘Em with all my heart and spare change, his description of the tournament hucksters renews my sense that the Maud household would be a far sadder (not to mention poorer; Time Warner is probably charging $3,000/month by now) place if it had cable. But Dana’s report on the same subject differs considerably.


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