Miles Kington: A poker-faced challenge to my readers

I toyed with chess, but realised that if a game dragged on for weeks, the readers would get bored
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They must have thought that it was a brilliant and original wheeze.

It has, however, already been done.

Twenty years ago.

By me.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was I who pioneered poker in a paper.

Twenty years ago I was writing a humorous column for The Times. In those days The Times was a serious newspaper written by serious people about serious things, with no puns in the headlines and not a lot of fun to be had anywhere, so I was given a small corner of the place in which to put on paper hats and cut capers.

However, The Times was also owned by Rupert Murdoch, which may explain why The Times suddenly decided to play bingo with its readers.


Why bingo?

I can only assume it was because nobody in those days knew about Sudoku.

Or perhaps Mr Murdoch had done some secret research which proved that, under their apparent solemnity, Times readers were really longing for a knees-up, a pint of whelks, a silly hat and an evening in the bingo hall.

Or even that Mr Murdoch had asked the editor of The Sun to play readers' bingo, and the editor of The Sun had refused because it was beneath his dignity, so he had got The Times to do it instead.

Whatever the reason, The Times started printing daily bingo numbers, and indeed I believe was copied by other papers.

As a humorous writer, I felt I had to make a muted protest against this vulgarity, so I decided to introduce a game of my own into my column, with which to challenge my readers.

I toyed with the idea of chess, but realised that if a game dragged on for weeks and weeks, the readers would get bored. I tried to devise a way of bringing darts to a newspaper. I toyed with ways of doing cribbage in a column. I experimented with pontoon. But finally, reluctantly, I settled on poker.

I say "reluctantly", as it was not a game I liked or even knew how to play. This was because my father, an expert gambler, had introduced me to his set of poker dice at an early age and taught me how to play the variant of poker called "liar dice", about which all I could remember is that I kept losing and he kept taking money off me. (An excellent parental gambit. I was stung by this early experience and have avoided gambling games ever since.)

Still, I looked up the rules of poker and devised a game in which I dealt a card to the reader every day for a week, and a card to myself, urging the readers to bet more and more money, and at the end of five days I revealed that I had four aces, and asked the readers to send me their losings, that is to say, my winnings.

Not one did so.

I have had a very low opinion of Times readers ever since.

(To be fair, the features editor of The Times at the time, Mr Anthony Holden, who has subsequently written brilliantly about poker, told me afterwards that the hand of poker I had devised was technically impossible. I can't remember why. Anyway, it is the job of a features editor to tell you these things beforehand, I would have thought.)

Well, it is never too late to dig an ice-axe into the rock face of history and hang on, so I have decided to make one last attempt to be ahead of the game.

Starting next Monday, I shall be using this space to introduce a game which has never before been featured in the fuddy-duddy old world of newspapers.

Only in this column, next week - Daily Dominoes!

Yes, all you'll need is a pair of scissors and a pot of glue as you prepare to cut out and assemble the lovingly crafted dominoes I shall be bringing you.

Then we shall be ready to match skill and throw money at each other.

Are you up for it?

I can't wait!

See you Monday.