Monday, August 01, 2011

The Poker Cult

Rocky HorrorLast Friday Vera and I went to see a stage version of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show. We’d seen the film many times, of course, although it had been a while. Was a ton of fun, with a lot of clever staging decisions and some truly inspired performances among the cast. (Here’s a review.)

We went with another couple, one of whom had never even seen the movie. A “virgin,” as it goes. Kind of wondered what exactly he thought of the whole spectacle, particularly since the already twisted plot was perhaps made even less coherent in this version.

Incidentally, at this particular performance of the stage show (which predates the film, actually, and I believe includes a couple of songs not in the movie), the audience was instructed to refrain from the various antics that have always come with the midnight movie screenings. So no scripted shout-outs or newspapers or water guns or rubber gloves or party hats or what not. A few folks still dressed up, though, and many couldn’t resist doing the “Time Warp” and singing along with other numbers when they came around.

At dinner prior to the show, Vera and I tried to summarize the story to our friend who wasn’t familiar with it so as to help him know what to expect.

“It’s kind of an homage to the old ’50s sci-fi and horror movies,” I said. “So there’s a couple and their car breaks down and they end up at this weird castle full of characters....”

'The Rocky Horror Show' programThat was about as far as I got with regard to explaining the story. “But everything is over the top and it’s from the ’70s, so there’s a lot of sex, too,” I added, thinking in the back of my mind how the film brings to the surface all of those not-so-carefully hidden subtexts of the old horror and SF films. Was glad later I’d mentioned that, as the live show if anything was more explicit than the film in that regard.

Over the weekend I thought a little further about Rocky Horror and the whole idea of any sort of cultural production or practice that can be regarded as having a highly devoted or “cult” following. Had a chance also to spend some time visiting with family, and thus once again found myself having a few conversations here and there about poker with “non-poker people.”

Perhaps it was because of having seen the show on Friday, but I realized that in a lot of ways poker resembles something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or other films, books, bands, or areas of culture that have their own specialized vocabulary and set of customs and other idiosyncracies that necessarily seem alien to the “virgins” or those on the outside.

Last week I mentioned I had been reading Tommy Angelo’s new book A Rubber Band Story and other Poker Tales. I managed to finish the book -- it is terrific -- and to review it for Betfair Poker, if you are curious to read more about it.

Angelo includes a piece in there titled “Broken Down English” in which he highlights the highly specialized -- or downright weird or “cult”-like -- language of poker. Illustrating his point, he imagines a monologue from the perspective of a non-player:

'The Rocky Horror Show' cards“Some guy limped in with rags, suited up. I woke up with two cowboys, so I popped him. I'd been beating him up all night. He was stuck like a pig and tilting bad. I put the cap on, of course. I hit my hand hard when a king flopped along with two clubs. Then I picked up a house on fourth street. And if that wasn't good enough, he flushed up on the river and started pounding me!”

It all means something, of course. But really, it’s easy to see how to some it makes as much sense as elbow sex.

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Blogger John G. Hartness said...

Glad you liked Rocky. I have several friends in the cast. Hope you and Vera can make it out to see The Irish Curse, a comedy that I'm performing in over the next three weekends. We open Thursday.

8/01/2011 10:40 AM  
Blogger Random Table Draw said...

"...makes about as much sense as elbow sex." Great wrap up.

8/01/2011 11:09 AM  

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