Since I was up anyway, I found myself watching some late night television as well. Looked in on the U.S. Open some, surprised to see that Roger Federer match start just before midnight. I also did a little channel surfing and ended up catching Annie Duke’s guest spot over on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.”
I don’t watch Ferguson’s show regularly, but have enjoyed it well enough whenever I do. He seems to have that love of absurdity and non sequitur that works well sometimes in the absurd, non-sequential format of late night talk shows. I did take note a few months back when Ferguson devoted much of his opening monologue to discussing poker and Black Friday, something I wrote about a little in one of my “Community Cards” columns over on the Epic Poker site.
Duke appeared near the show’s conclusion, her visit only lasting 5-6 minutes or so. They began by asking each other “How are you?” and when Ferguson said he was was “very well” he then asked Duke if she knew whether he were telling the truth or not. That led to some initial small talk about reading people’s faces at the poker table.
Later they’d revisit the topic of tells, with Duke mentioning how licking or pursing one’s lips is supposed to be an indication that one was lying.
“Or coming onto you!” answered Ferguson.
They discussed how players often wear sunglasses or hoodies to help hide their expressions. When Duke mentioned how players wearing hoodies resemble the Unabomber, the crowd laughed, indicating how most people don’t think about Phil Laak as much as some of us might.
They only talked briefly about the Epic Poker League. Was interesting how when the league was brought up Ferguson noted “I thought poker became illegal or something.” “Only online,” Duke explained. Seemed to me that Ferguson was making the comment with tongue partly in cheek, knowing full well that poker isn't (utterly) illegal. I think it was also pretty clear that Ferguson was referring primarily to Black Friday -- which he talked about at length in that monologue last spring -- and that in her response Duke was simply clarifying that what happened in April did not concern live poker or the EPL.
They then spoke a little about Decide to Play Great Poker, the book she has co-authored with John Vorhaus.
"It's kind of complicated," Ferguson said after about a half-minute of strategy talk. "I kind of like playing cards, but I don't have patience to learn," he added, putting the book down as he did.
There was a little about Duke’s four children, with Ferguson asking if they played poker (no). Then Ferguson ended things by having Duke play a game I’ve seen him do with other guests, although I think the latter choice is a new option: “Awkward Pause, Mouth Organ, or Touch My Glittery Ball.”
Duke chose “Mouth Organ” -- an easy opening for various innuendo (“Which end do I blow?”) -- and the pair played harmonica together before saying good night.
A brief glimpse of poker in the cultural “mainstream,” then -- if we want to identify Ferguson’s show (airing at 12:35 a.m. Eastern time) as such. I suppose we could spend some time reading into it, talking about how poker was presented -- as vaguely illicit, as “complicated,” as a training ground for better reading others’ sincerity -- although doing so would probably be making more of it than was really there.
Still, it’s always interesting to see how poker gets discussed and presented in such contexts. Today many in the poker world will be looking to see how goes that second EPL main event which starts a little under a half-hour from now. There’s a much larger world, though, in which poker signifies all sorts of things of which we often make little note.