TV Poker a Far Cry from the Casino Style

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Commentator Dayvid Figler grew up in Las Vegas and says that the quirky glamour of televised poker games isn't what it's like in the casinos. Dayvid Figler is an attorney in Las Vegas. His new book is available at


Here's another cautionary tale about another great American vice, and the places where you're free to indulge. It's from commentator, Dayvid Figler.

DAYVID FIGLER: My introduction to poker consisted of marathon home sessions with high school friends. In 1983, our coolness wasn't even a question, with skanky cigars, dangling mass consumption of caffeinated beverages, and oversized bags of corn chips. But my hometown was Las Vegas, where we could take it to the next level just down the street.

The night of prom, my best friend and I were already dressed in tuxedos. All too easily, we worked our way into seats at the Landmark Hotel poker room. It was the last bluff of that night that worked. Step right up, the floor man said. Thanks. And then a predictably quick ending, shellacked on one hand from hand for my entire $100 stake.

Certainly, I would never try this misadventure again, right? But the insidiousness of poker rests with the fact that you can lose all your money and still think you had fun. Today's poker revolution, a revolution truly televised ad nauseum, has refashioned it all into sport. A cool but intense pastime, a pop culture trend of celebrities and quirky iconoclasts, guys with reflective sunglasses, Unabomber-esque hoodies, Jennifer Tilley.

The gamblers on ESPN and Bravo and, well, almost every other basic cable channel, are playing poker in much the same way pro-wrestlers wrestle, with not that much on the line. Not to say the outcome is fixed, but appearance fees and endorsement deals take the sting off of losing. Chips are merely points, not money.

Still, some people may be inspired to travel to actual casinos to take their own shot, unaware that the majority of players sitting around the felt battlefield in actual casinos are sociopaths. You may have done well against your neighbors with one-eyed Jacks and the suicide King wild, but take it from someone from Las Vegas, to really do well at poker you have to endure a grind of hours, maybe even days at a time, against sharks, bullies, maniacal yackers. But then again, Jennifer Tilley could be sitting next to you and losing to the bride of Chucky might be all the lesson you need about where good and evil sit at the poker table.


SIEGEL: Dayvid Figler is a writer and a lawyer in Las Vegas.

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