The essays take various forms. Some are primarily autobiographical, such as the initial entry -- “Rambling ’n Gambling” -- documenting Spanier’s first forays into gambling and poker as a child and young adult. Others delve into the psychology of poker, such as “Gambling, Joy of,” which begins with Spanier discussing his own poker-related predilections, then moves outward to a more general assessment of why people take risks. There’s a chapter on internet poker (circa late 1990s) which is a bit dated but still hits on a lot of the still important issues, particularly the integrity of the online game. There’s a compilation of reviews of books about Las Vegas. And there’s a rundown of Spanier’s experience playing in the 1997 WSOP Main Event, an event he had covered as a writer pretty much since it began, but in which he had never played.
I was playing pot limit Omaha again today when I was reminded of a passage from The Hand I Played in which Spanier talks about how poker players tend to relate to one another. The passage begins with an analogy between people sitting around the poker table and a group of musicians jamming together:
At the table it is how everyone plays that counts. The same kind of relationship applies to musicians, who do not even have to speak each other’s language. The only criterion in a jam session is how they play. A common language obviously helps: conversations take place at the poker table which players might never venture in ‘real life.’He goes on to talk about how the “social dimension of poker gives it a warmth and value notably absent from other forms of gambling,” and characterizes the relationship between players -- particularly those who have played a lot with one another -- as “far more than a casual acquaintance . . . yet far less than true friendship.”
I was playing on Stars -- $0.10/$0.25 PLO ($25 max. buy-in). I started the table. Have been doing that more and more lately, finding it silly how folks line up four and five deep at tables when it only takes a few hands to build another full ring. Once all of the seats were filled, I sat and basically played a quiet, mostly conservative game -- not chatting, not getting involved in too many big pots. Meanwhile, several of the other players who’d come to the table were very active, doing a lot of wild raising & reraising preflop and also chatting constantly. And all of the chat was in German.
I took a moment to glance around the table to see where everyone was from. The three primary chatters were all from Germany -- Buxtehude, Meckelfeld, Barsbüttel. Another was from Neunkirchen, which could be Germany or Austria, I think. The others were from Pasching (Austria), Sydney (Australia), Helsinki (Finland), and Arlington (Texas). A regular U.N. meeting, it was. Well, sort of.
Like most sites, Stars has an “English only” policy as far as chat goes. An anti-collusion measure. I wasn’t too worried about these guys chatting in German, though -- they seemed to be playing pretty aggressively against one another. I was curious to know what they were saying, of course. Finally, when one called another a “Dummfick” I decided I simply had to know. Where along the spectrum between “casual acquaintaince” and “true friendship” did these guys belong?
I logged out, called up the hand history, and fiddled a bit with AltaVista Babel Fish & my German dictionary. Here is most of what the three Germans said. I’ve changed their screen names to their home cities. To give a little context: Meckelfeld was bleeding chips profusely the entire time I was there, rebuying for $25 at least three times; Buxtehude had a nice rush, building his stack up over $80, then losing it all in a mere six hands; Barsbüttel ended up the big winner of the three, taking a lot of the other two players’ chips and then some. So you can imagine several suckouts and other examples of questionable play going on as these exchanges took place.
The translations are fairly close, I think, if a bit clunky. (I’m likely missing the point of an idiom or two here.)
Meckelfeld: “lucker!” [in English]
Buxtehude: “you are as stupid”
Barsbüttel: “am blond :)”
Meckelfeld: “as stupid as you . . . I am blond”
Buxtehude: “Next to Barsbüttel you are cool”
Meckelfeld: “Oh, I see!”
Barsbüttel: “Buxtehude had a powerfully big hand :)”
Buxtehude: “That is poker.”
Barsbüttel: “correct :)”
Buxtehude: “plus, it was suited”
Meckelfeld: “Gluecksschwein :-)” [which I think means “lucky pig”]
Barsbüttel: “should I watch out for you?”
Buxtehude: “all right then”
Buxtehude: “mmmuuuuaaahhhhhaaaaa” [after raking a $75 pot]
Buxtehude: “that was my first straight flush”
Meckelfeld: “nice” [in English]
Buxtehude: “how much have you already lost today?”
Buxtehude: “since which [time] I am $50 [up] here”
Barsbüttel: “I was just pulling your leg :)”
Buxtehude: “what do you want now”
Buxtehude: “go play”
Meckelfeld: “stop the nonsense rascal”
Buxtehude: “uncle?” [in English]
Buxtehude: “that’s so bad"
Meckelfeld: “lol :-)”
Barsbüttel: “who is the father of your beautiful daughter, Buxtehude? :)”
Meckelfeld: “exactly and drunk”
Buxtehude: “my daughter is not, however, all the same”
Meckelfeld: “Dummfick” [not translated]
Buxtehude: “greetings to your mother”
Buxtehude: “and now stop your [nonsense]”
Barsbüttel: “what did you have, Buxtehude?”
Barsbüttel: “much nerve”
Meckelfeld: “yes!” [in English]
Meckelfeld: “only 3 of a kind” [in English]
Barsbüttel: “are again in the black”
Buxtehude: “this is only small money for me . . . ”
Buxtehude: “got to go, time to work”
Buxtehude: “is 4 hearts not enough here???” [after losing a hand with a four-flusher]
Meckelfeld: “it works nevertheless LOL”
Barsbüttel: “today is Father’s day :)”
Buxtehude: “it looks like at times you are as stupid”
Barsbüttel: “my boss also always says I am dumb :)”
Buxtehude: “I believe you”
Meckelfeld: “you are as stupid sometimes!”
Meckelfeld: “send my greetings to Buxtehude” [after Buxtehude had busted and left the table]
Didn’t understand much at all at the time, but I’d picked up the gist. Guys crackin’ on each other, geben it as good as they took it. (Still not sure what the references to fathers and daughters were about.) A little more than casual, though perhaps less than friendly. In the end, Spanier was right. Didn’t matter so much to the rest of us what they were saying, but how they were playing.
Labels: *by the book