The late Walter Matthau described poker as exemplifying’all of the worst aspects of capitalism that have made our country so great’, Along with Hollyvvood road movies, the images of the ‘rambling-gambling man’ and the poker-playing cowboy, willing to risk all on the turn of a card, are abiding metaphors for the free¬spirited American ideal, A recent Hollyvvood film, Rounders starring Matt Damon, realistically portrayed the game with all of its thrills and excitement. Set in New York’s underground poker world, Rounders tells the story of a card player who attempts to leave behind the poker-playing rounds for a legitimate career and a chance for a new life with his girlfriend. However, the new life is short on the buzz of high-stakes poker games and the Damon character is soon drawn back to the poker table.
Rounders gives one perspective on the game of poker, but often poker games are played by groups of friends purely for enjoyment, with winning or losing being secondary to the social experience, and with the stakes often nothing more than matchsticks, Inventor Sir Clive Sinclair is perhaps the best known of all the players who have appeared on Channe14’s Late Night Poker series, and he plays socially in a private game. For him, poker is an opportunity to meet friends and pass an enjoyable evening, Sir Clive has played poker for about ten years and for a recreational player he has acquitted himself very well against the ranks of professionals in the series. I am not alone in believing that if he played as much as some of the rest of us, he would become a very formidable player indeed.
However, I would contend that to experience the true thrill of poker it should be played for stakes that matter to the players. If you are playing for a sum of money that is meaningful to you, your sense of excitement will be heightened, your palms will start to sweat, the adrenaline will start to pump in your bloodstream and you will experience a sense of risk rarely encountered in everyday life.