Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 282- Hold 'em

Dear Mr. President,

I learned to play Texas Hold 'em because I didn't want to feel left out. The boys I went to High School with had begun having weekly poker nights, and it was strictly No Girls Allowed. I'm still not sure what made them change their minds and include us; maybe playing a guys-only game just wasn't as fun? Maybe they just wanted more sources of money in hopes of increasing their winnings? For whatever reason, the boys broke down and let a few of us girls join. We played late at night, small-stakes, unlimited re-buying and way too much of Mrs. Yunker's delicious coffee and snacks keeping us up sometimes until dawn. Later in the summer, seeking the thrill of higher stakes and the greater glory of taking money from strangers, we moved our weekly nights to a limit game in a local casino. When Teddy Roosevelt said "walk softly and carry a big stick" he probably didn't imagine that decades later an 18 year old girl would adopt it as her mantra for hustling poker tables full of 40-year old drunks. (It was a very good summer, in some respects.) The whole poker culture fascinated me, especially at the world series, where the ancient celebrities clashed with the young turks learning the game online.

These days I only play for fun, an occasional night game with friends, like tonight. Coworkers, new friends and total strangers, we gather around a too-small table in a motley assortment of chairs, trading banter as we bond over junk food and movie references. A game like poker will quickly give a table full of strangers the familiarity of friends or even kin. You play the person, not the cards, I'm told. This strategy appeals to me, as does the way the tides of fortune change. At any point the weakest player can take on the strongest and win. Tonight I've already won and lost more money than I care to think about, but I'm still pretty confident that I'll manage to claw my way back to a tidy profit.

So, strangely enough, this has me thinking about the filibuster. Domestic policy is not dissimilar from poker, in that strategy tends to trump substance. The strength or wisdom of policy proposals is secondary to the wrangling, bluffing and bullying institutionalized in both houses of congress. Maybe that's part of the fun, part of the challenge. And I won't claim more than an amateur observer's expertise in the finer points of political strategy, but, as a poker player, I feel like Democrats have great cards and rarely, if ever, know how to play them. Just the other day a friend asked me about filibusters and why the threat of a filibuster is enough to hold things up. Why don't the Democrats just let them filibuster and see how bad they look doing it? I didn't have a satisfying answer for her.

Anyway, I should probably go focus on this game, if I'm ever going to scrape my way back into the black. Not to beat the whole metaphor to death or anything, but it is long past time to call the Republican's bluff. I will add my voice to the chorus of those on the left who want to see these Filibuster threats acted on. I suspect that the Republicans are just bullying; I'd bet that the first display of strength from the Democrats and they'd back down. But I'll stick to playing cards and leave such musings to those more qualified to offer them. I hope you're enjoying your weekend.

Respectfully yours,


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