By the way, I had a chance to speak with Matt Showell of PokerListings some about the class, and yesterday he posted a nice article about it, “Poker: A Study in American Culture.”
You can also hear me gab about the class with Special K and Falstaff on Episode 20 of the Gambling Tales Podcast, if you’re curious. I also joined the fellas for their latest show, too, Episode 22, to chat about that Rick Bennet novel King of a Small World I reviewed here last month.
And let me mention one other item related to the class. Some of you might know Bellatrix, a blogger who has recently become a limit hold’em coach. She recently launched her own website where one can find information about her coaching, a link to her blog, a forums page, and more.
Over in the forums, Bellatrix has begun a discussion group for the class there, in case anyone wanted to talk about any of the readings or films I’ve assigned. I mentioned before that I didn’t really anticipate writing too often here on Hard-Boiled Poker about the class, although I imagine I will now and then. But I do plan to pop in over there frequently and would be very glad to talk to folks about the assignments. Would love suggestions and advice, too, if anyone has ’em.
Today’s first day of class will mainly be devoted to introducing the course and its goals. I mentioned before how it is an American Studies course, so a primary objective is going to be finding out how studying poker’s history and culture will help us learn more about America’s history and culture. We’ll go through the syllabus today (which I posted here a couple of weeks ago), and take a little bit of time to get to know each other, too.
I also plan to have us together read David Mamet’s 1982 essay “The Things Poker Teaches Us,” primarily to show the students an example of someone writing in a very studious (even “academic”) way about poker. The short piece will also allow us to sound a couple of early notes that we’ll be coming back to all semester, including what Mamet says about winners and losers, his point that “poker is about money,” and his conclusion that poker builds character.
Next week we’ll begin McManus’s book Cowboys Full and read that essay by John Lukacs called “Poker and American Character” (discussed here and here), thereby getting a little more specific about all the ways poker might perhaps be an especially American game that highlights various ideas and values such as individualism, self-reliance, the importance of work, the “frontier spirit,” the “pursuit of happiness,” and so forth.
Like I say, not too much time to prattle on here today. Kind of wanted to talk more about this new “pro-centric” poker league I wrote about yesterday, perhaps elaborating further on the point I was trying to make about how the league seems in a strange way to go against some of the fundamental truths -- including the fact that poker, while certainly a skill game, also necessarily involves luck/gambling, too.
Will have to leave that aside for now, though. School is about to start.