Independent Pursuits: Gambling
Thursday 20 August 1998
The troubadour of this inner discourse of poker, reciting these fleeting, funny, often painful thoughts like a song-line, is a young American writer named Jesse May. His novel Shut up and Deal is like a stream of consciousness about the game, rather than a story with a plot .
"Yeah, everybody's got their own ideas about keeping a ledger, but one thing's in common - they're personal. I mean a guy might say to you, Yeah, I'm ahead 20,000 this month, or, I lost six plays in a row, or, I've had pocket aces hold up 16 times running, but you're never gonna see that ledger. People keep it to prove to themselves that they should keep playing, that they're ahead. Keep it under their pillow to consult like a Bible on those dark and stormy nights. Like anything on paper is gonna make sense of the chaos of the gambling world, when your stomach jumps in your mouth and your heart's a-pounding..."
And so on. Like many first novels, this is clearly an autobiographical piece - many of the characters in it can be identified as players on the professional circuit. What gives it its special interest is the sweet- and-sour insight it conveys of the poker life, the ups and down (mostly downs) of the emotional switchback seriously addicted players endure. They suffer and, like religious martyrs, they embrace their suffering.
A few years after getting into the poker life, Mickey, the "hero" of the story finds himself with the same guys he started out playing against. "I mean they got different faces and accents and all but I'm sitting with 'em and now they take all my money and laugh loudly at my expense and say as long as I'm around they'll never go broke... I don't know what level I'm on. I just know that I crossed a line somewhere... I'm left sitting alone at the table. Big loser."
Mickey's aim is to survive, with money to play. To him, that's all that's important. It's the only thing. I think there is more to poker than Mickey realises, but his account is a compelling read.
`Shut Up and Deal' by Jesse May (Anchor Books, $12.95)
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 David Cameron refers to 83-year-old Labour MP Dennis Skinner as 'Jurassic Park'
- 2 iPhone 7 (or iPhone 6S) leaked pictures show similarities to older model — but Apple is fixing the biggest issue of all
- 3 Russell Brand condemns moment of silence for Tunisia attack victims as 'minute of bulls**t'
- 4 'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
- 5 Alwaleed bin Talal: Saudi Prince to donate entire $32bn fortune to charity
Game of Thrones season 6: Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke says '50/50 chance' Jon Snow is alive
Amy, film review: Beautiful film reveals ugly truth behind singer's downward spiral
'Dukes of Hazzard' pulled from screens by CBS as outcry over Confederate flag grows
London Has Fallen trailer release branded 'extremely insensitive' ahead of 10th anniversary of 7/7 bombings
What if Nicolas Cage played every character in Game of Thrones?
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert