This episode has a theme of sorts -- characters. The Poker Grump kicks it off with a few sketches of characters he’s encountered at the poker tables (both live and virtual). Then the focus shifts to one character in particular, Wild Bill Hickok, best known to the poker world as the U.S. Marshal that got himself killed in a poker game while holding what came to be known as the “dead man’s hand,” aces and eights.
I give a little background on Hickok’s story, then read a poem by the American poet Billy Collins. The poem comes from Collins’ first collection (published back in 1977), which in fact was titled Pokerface. Collins went on to become the U.S. poet laureate, in fact serving two year-long terms (2001-2003). I added some music to the reading that kind of heightens the drama a little bit, I think. (And the humor, too.) Then I play an installment of the old time radio show Frontier Gentleman which dramatizes the killing of Hickok.
I might have included Bob Dylan’s song “Rambling, Gambling Willie” in this episode, but I didn’t. The song isn’t exactly about Wild Bill Hickok, but does feature the protagonist getting killed while holding aces and eights. I left it out, though, as I’ve been trying to stick to songs and radio shows that are well clear of any copyright restrictions.
And while I do talk about some of the background of Hickok’s story, I don’t spend any time at all wonderin’ about what the fifth card in his hand was. Des Wilson explores that question at length in his Ghosts at the Table, if that sort of thing intrigues you.
As always, if you happen to listen to the show, please send along any feedback -- either here, on the show’s blog, or via email at shamus at hardboiledpoker dot com.