Monday, January 26, 2009

Pokerback Writer

Have arrived at another centennial here. Seven hundred friggin’ posts. Damn lot of scribblin’ that.

Vera Valmore came up with that phrase -- “pokerback writer” -- some time ago to describe whatever it is I think I’m doing here (and elsewhere) writing about poker. This whole idea (to write about poker, that is) started on a whim, of course. As these things tend to do. Over two-and-a-half years later, and I’m writing about poker, either here or elsewhere, just about every single day. And when I’m not writing about it, I’m thinking about writing about it.

Oh, and I’m playing it, too. But even then I’m thinking about writing about it.

Last week I was referring to Vicky Coren’s interview over on Wise Hand Poker (the 1/14/09 episode) and mentioned how she had offered some thoughts in there about the relationship between writing and playing.

“I think every poker hand is a story,” she began. “My favorite situations in poker are [in a] cash game or a deep-stacked tournament, you know, and there’s an awful lot of chips... and maybe it’s on the turn and somebody’s made a big bet and you have to work out what to do. And at that point, you look back through the whole story.”

Coren is obviously not the first to make that observation about the story-like nature of poker -- how the game is constantly suggesting these tales to us over and over again, affording us countless plots, settings, characters, conflicts, themes, and differing points of view. We’re all familiar with the way the game produces such an effect, allowing us to live out all of these tales as ourselves but also as someone else.

Say, a detective.

“You know, you’re like Hercule Poirot, [doing] the detective thing,” Coren continued. “Going back over the entire sequence of events.... And you’re piecing together this great narrative, [reviewing] tiny little incidents, [asking yourself] what happened that I didn’t notice at the time but subconsciously I did? I mean it’s very poetic. It’s like reading a book, every time you sit down to play.... Watching the action is like reading a story, but it’s up to you to determine the ending.”

I like the stories poker produces. I like experiencing them. I like reading about them. And apparently, if we are to regard all this scribblin’ as evidence of something, I must like to try to write about them, too.

I also like that last bit Coren suggests, that we have a say in determining the endings of these stories. Of course, at the table, the cards ultimately tell us our fate, making our stories into comedies or tragedies. That we cannot control. Not fully, anyway.

But we don’t have to let the stories end there, do we? We can keep them going, playing another hand, making what just happened not the denouement but yet another element of the rising action, the climax, or the falling action. Or afterwards, even after we leave the table, we can continue to tell our stories, scribblin’ those hands into a larger narrative.

So thanks once more, all, for coming around again and again to follow this here story. And for telling your stories, too. We’ll all determine our respective endings eventually, I suppose.

Not just yet, though. Still a few more clues to find.

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Blogger Jennifer said...

Congratulations on 700 posts! Looking forward to many more... :)

1/26/2009 11:14 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, Jen. You know, I actually came close here to referring to your interesting post from over the weekend about blogging & negotiating w/oneself over what to convey and what to keep to oneself. Interesting stuff, and most certainly an ongoing issue w/these here "stories" we're tellin'!

1/26/2009 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Angry_Bert said...

Shamus, Congrats! another nice milestone to add to the cobbled road.

FYI, Bart Hansen from Poker Road's Cash Plays has moved over to Deuces Cracked with his podcast. He currently has 2 podcasts up for January, I think they are still doing a weekly show.

Thanks for the great Blog!


1/26/2009 12:02 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, Bert! And thanks for the tip re: Hanson's podcast. I'd heard about the move, but have yet to hear the new show. Looking forward to it, as his was a good one.

1/26/2009 12:04 PM  

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