Thursday, October 07, 2010

Seeing Poker “Out in the World”

Poker is on the map“Played poker when I arrived in Reno, now trying to buy the band back for the show tonight.”

Saw that on my Twitter feed last night, a tweet from Steve Martin, comedian, actor, and banjo player. Martin is currently touring with a bluegrass-playing outfit, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As that tweet indicates they just had a gig in Reno. (Martin is relatively new to Twitter -- follow him @SteveMartinToGo, if yr innersted.)

Not the first time Martin has made a humorous reference to poker. Some might remember his appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman” (back in February 2009) when he told a story about playing online poker under the influence of Ambien. I wrote about that here in a post titled “Steve Martin Is a Card,” including linking to a clip of him telling the story. Funny stuff.

By now, references to poker in popular culture have become quite commonplace. I thought it was interesting at the time to note how the story Martin told on Letterman -- a story that involved his betraying a familiarity with online poker and not really having to explain it at length to the audience in order for his joke to be understood -- could be taken as another piece of evidence that poker (and even online poker) had “surfaced” in the mainstream.

There have been at least a couple of other items of late which one might say further exhibit poker’s prominence in popular culture. Last week Vera Valmore and I were watching “The Office” when an allusion to the World Poker Tour popped up kind of surprisingly, eliciting a laugh of recognition from us both.

Pam uses strategy learned from the 'World Poker Tour' on 'The Office'One of the episode’s storylines involved Pam, the former receptionist now salesperson, struggling to make any commissions in her new position. She comes up with a plan -- a kind of bluff, if you will -- to embellish her salary. She tells Gabe Lewis, a coordinating director for Sabre, the company that has taken over the one for which Pam works, that she is the “Office Administrator” and has not seen payment on her checks for her duties as such.

Toward the end of the episode, Gabe calls Pam for a meeting and explains to her that he’s searched through the last three years’ worth of records and has found nothing to indicate the position she claims to have exists. Yet he’s reluctant to accuse her of anything untoward.

“Can you just admit... admit...?” he impotently utters. He can’t say it. “Admit what?” Pam replies with defiance. He ultimately backs down, unable to come right out and call her bluff. Afterwards, Pam explains how she approached the situation.

“The first lesson of watching World Poker Tour at 2 a.m. -- you play the opponent, not the cards,” she explains.

Kind of unexpected, that, but an apt application of the oft-repeated bromide from the WPT and other poker commentary dating back many, many years before.

Map of Online CommunitiesOne last item to share, another indication of poker’s continuing emergence into the mainstream -- this neat, newly-updated “Map of Online Communities” that some of you might have seen getting referenced a lot yesterday.

The map attempts to represent graphically the amount of "social activity" happening in a given community, something the mapmaker explains isn't necessarily demonstrates by the number of members but by other indicators of how much the sites are actually used to facilitate social interaction. Thus, the larger the community on the map, the more socializing that is happening there.

Clicking on the picture (or here) gets you to a larger version, where you can more clearly see Facebook’s dominance and the emergence of Twitter and Skype being illustrated by their relative size. And if you look in the lower right corner, you’ll see a section for “Forums,” where the poker forum Two Plus Two actually rates a small little island situated in between the similarly-sized Lay It Low (a site for “lowriders”) and the larger gaming and trading community D2JSP.

For poker even to show up on the map is noteworthy, I think. Although, like I say, we’re starting to become accustomed to seeing poker “out in the world” (so to speak).

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