Way, way back, I had the opportunity to begin writing some columns on PokerNews under the title “Poker & Pop Culture.” Then-editor Haley Hintze proposed the idea, and if I remember accurately she did so after I’d written a two-parter here on Hard-Boiled about poker references in Rolling Stone magazine (here those are: Part 1 and Part 2).
For a good while I wrote columns every couple of weeks about how poker popped up in various films, books, television shows, and so on. I think the one I got the most response from both right away and over the years since was one discussing the many references to poker on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
That lasted less than a year, during which time I wrote not quite 20 of those columns. Sometime after that I freelanced my way over to Betfair Poker where I occasionally would write columns in a similar vein, then had a spell writing a similarly-themed column titled “Community Cards” for the ill-fated Epic Poker League site. Then after that I had a nice opportunity to revive the idea yet again for PokerListings, where we called the column “Pop Poker.”
Meanwhile I developed this college course I’ve mentioned here many times, “Poker in American Film and Culture,” which I teach in the American Studies program at UNC-Charlotte. Between all of those columns and the course -- not to mention the many posts here at HBP that have highlighted poker references in non-poker contexts -- I’ve now amassed a lot of material under this heading.
That inspired the “Poker & Pop Culture” revival, with the idea this time being the columns will eventually be collected (along with other material) as a book. I’m doing the series in a roughly chronological fashion, and so after starting with an introduction last week did a kind of “pre-poker” survey of references to gambling and cards today. Then next week we’ll finally get going with actual poker history, starting with the very first reference in print to poker.
If you’re curious to see the first couple, here they are (first one’s headline shares the title of the book):
Would be keen to hear either feedback or suggestions along the way, if anyone has any. These first couple do a lot of stage-setting, and I expect the ones starting next week will each be more focused on telling distinct, stand-alone stories and anecdotes, hopefully in new and entertaining ways.
Poker & Pop Culture: Telling the Story of America’s Favorite Card Game Poker & Pop Culture: If I Gamble, Will I Go to Hell?