Reaching, Gathering In, Relinquishing

My newfound interest in poker is thriving… the more I play and learn about this game, the more it delights me.

To that, here’s a passage from John Updike‘s short essay My Life in Poker from Due Considerations, a compilation of his essays and criticism.

I am careless, neglecting to count cards, preferring to sit there in a pleasant haze of bewilderment and anticipation. I am timid, tending to fold in the face of a relentless raiser. Yet I am also hopelessly optimistic, hanging in, feeding the pot quarters when only one card left in the deck can possibly help my hand. Poker’s charm for me, beside which bridge seems fuzzy and gin rummy picayune, lies in its rapid renewals of opportunity — that, and the actual presence of money, visible and tangible, on the table, flowing into pots and back out again. My one short story about poker ended with the image of the players’ aging hands, reaching, gathering in, relinquishing.

And one more:

Always being in  character is a bad ploy. Never making a mistake is a mistake. A failed bluff may pay off a few hands down the road, when you really have the goods, and everyone, remembering the failed bluff, stays against you. Poker, like statecraft, tends to steer by the last miscalculation, trying to avoid it this time. Which can also be a mistake.


8 responses to “Reaching, Gathering In, Relinquishing

  1. Pingback: Reaching, Gathering In, Relinquishing

  2. A P

    I had a query regarding your post at . Can you please reply to me via email?

  3. Ritesh

    Man you are being ruled by poker it seems now…

  4. Vishal

    Not addicted to it though… I am just loving it!

  5. “Bridge seems fuzzy”?? Bridge is widely recognised as the most intellectual card game ever. Poker is a fun game, or more serious if played for big stakes, but it does not need the brain power of a good bridge player.

  6. Vishal

    Yes, it does… the “rapid renewals of opportunity” and “actual presence of money”, (as Updike mentioned in the quoted article) are the two reasons that come to mind.

    “Most intellectual card game ever?” Says who? 🙂

    In any case, this is not about which game is better than the other (or which one is the best), it’s about which card game I enjoy playing the most.

  7. Jigar Doshi

    I started playing poker 5 years ago and right from the beginning the game fascinated me for the same exact reasons you mentioned. As lot of people consider poker as gambling but I beg to differ. How can a game that is based on continuously changing probability and mind control be considered gambling only because money is wagered. I doubt if all the other games like baseball, tennis, soccer would be played with same gusto if the prize money is removed. I went a little off topic.
    I enjoy playing poker and may be when we guys meet next should decide on having a poker party.

  8. Vishal

    Yeah, sure! Let’s bring it on! 🙂

    Money, by the way, is not an integral part of those outdoor sports (like tennis, baseball) — unlike poker, which involves money by design (of the game).

    True, many of these sports have become commercialized and prize-money-oriented lately, as you said. But I think one can not possibly enjoy a game of poker-sans-money, in the way one can enjoy playing a game of cricket, for instance, that doesn’t involve money…

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