söndag, augusti 07, 2005

Hold "Em High

"My three children—Howard, Annie, and Katy—grew up in a house of games. Almost from the time each of them could sit up straight in a chair, their mother, Deedy, and I taught them to play verbal challenges, like ghost, hinky-pinky, and Scrabble, and board games such as checkers, chess, and Monopoly. Mostly, we sprawled in the TV room and played card games: war, spit-in-the-ocean, go fish, oh hell!, and hearts. Within that bonded circle gleam some of our most enduring memories as a family.

Let the child psychologists curse us: Deedy and I never faked losing so that the children could win. For years they could never beat us, and they sometimes burst into tears and threw their cards at us. But as time stretched out, they began winning often. We grew awestruck by their insights into the nature of games and gaming.

Now two of my children—Howard and Annie—are national poker champions. They're the only sibling pair to ever reach the final day of a World Series of Poker, and they've won a trophy case of international tournaments and millions of dollars."

Full House, by Richard Lederer, AARP, The Magazine,

Richard Lederer's next book will be Comma Sense, written with John Shore (St. Martin's Press, August 2005). He cohosts A Way With Words on public radio.

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We grew up with cards, too, but my mom would let us win. My mother and grandmother would toss subtle hints across the table, “Are you sure you want to do that?” Or my mom would throw off. She was especially kind to my youngest brother. He would sit at the table with Mom and my merciless brothers. It was a tough room. He would never win. Then he would cry. So my mom would pass him a winning card on occasion. My grandfather had a soft spot too. If a questionable card were thrown he would look at us, askance. Of course, he was always looking at us askance, so maybe we were imagining that he had a heart at all, now that I think about it. With my grandmother he would charge, “Now why the hell did you throw that card?” then mock her for three or four minutes before getting up to pour another manhattan. Ahhhh. Summer and memories.

This poker phenom feels different, somehow. We took pride in the fact that we did not watch tv and actually enjoyed spending hours with each other in a constant challenge. Not much seems to be actually held in Texas Hold 'Em, and our card games had no association with money (we had none) or alchohol (ditto). Still, we thought it was cool that our mother was completely capable of going for the jugular when she wanted to, so maybe I should unwrap a new pack and shuffle up in my wrong-handed style.

Open to you.