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Positively Main Street: McManus on Poker’s History

Submitted by on October 12, 2009 – 12:15 PMNo Comment

cowboys fullA fascinating article by Jame McManus that outlines just what makes poker such a natural fit for the American psyche, while arguing for its greater inclusion in popular consciousness.  ”The national card game,” McManus notes, “still combines Puritan values—self-control, diligence, the slow accumulation of savings—with what might be called the open-market cowboy’s desire to get very rich very quickly.”

The game has a central place in politics (Barrack Obama bonded with fellow Illinois legislators over a backroom poker games), business (Bill Gates funded and brainstormed the thematic ideas of Microsoft over poker games), and the law (“[Harvard Law School professors Charles Nesson] trains lawyers ‘to see in the game a language for thinking about and an environment for experiencing the dynamics of strategy in dispute resolution”‘).

And yet, it is still often times viewed as seedy and incompatible with mainstream values, even when it shouldn’t:

“The latest edition of the New Oxford American, for example, fails to include flop (as a poker term), hold ‘em, Omaha (as a game), and World Series of Poker. (Terms deemed fit to appear include floptical, holdall, Pokemon, and World Heritage Site.) Similar omissions occur in Merriam-Webster, thefreedictionary.com, encarta.msn.com, and other online lexicons. Such cultural blind spots persist in the face of poker’s expanding global popularity, as well as abundant evidence that the game has helped not only ordinary citizens but numerous movers and shakers make their way in the world.”

This is all well and good.  But it’s a mere appetizer.  Apparently much of this article will also appear in McManus’ next book, a comprehensive history of poker called “Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker“.  The author of the much-beloved “Positively Fifth Street” — still my all-time favourite poker book — looks to still be in fine form, when it comes to dissecting and understanding our great game.

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