Cover image for Read 'em and weep : a bedside poker companion
Read 'em and weep : a bedside poker companion
Stravinsky, John.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper Collins Publishers, [2004]

Physical Description:
xviii, 235 pages ; 24 cm
From The man with the golden arm / Nelson Algren -- "Chan is bluffing (we think)" / Peter Alson -- "Money: the language of poker" from Poker: bets, bluffs, and bad beats / A. Alverez -- "Poker night" from Visiting Mrs. Nabokov (and other excursions) / Martin Amis -- "Tells" from Poker nation / Andy Bellin -- "Frauds in playing and poker sharps" from The complete poker player / John Blackbridge -- "Pug Pearson" from Fast company / Jon Bradshaw -- "Four men and a poker game, or Too much luck is bad luck" / Bertolt Brecht -- "The toughest poker player in the world" / Chris Calhoun -- From Counsel to the President / Clark Clifford -- "Silver dollars" / Billy Collins -- "A poker game" / Stephen Crane -- "How not to play poker" / Russell Crouse -- From Forty years a gambler on the Mississippi / George Devol -- From Deadwood / Pete Dexter -- "The woman with five hearts" / Stephen Dunn -- From The gentlemen's handbook on poker / William J. Florence -- "A disreputable family holiday in Las Vegas" / Hal Goodman -- From Poker faces: the life and work of professional poker players / David Hayano -- From Dragoon campaigns to the Rocky Mountains / James Hildreth -- From Big deal / Anthony Holden -- From From here to eternity / James Jones -- From Telling lies and getting paid / Michael Konik -- "Poker's promise" / Leonard Kriegel -- "A girlhood among gamblers" from Poker face / Katy Lederer -- "No game for a woman" / Mignon McLaughlin -- "Let's get rid of the ribbon clerks" / Robert McLaughlin -- From "Black magic" / James McManus -- "The things poker teaches" / David Mamet -- "Straight flush" / W. Somerset Maugham -- From Shut up and deal / Jesse May -- From "Lowball in a time capsule" / Dick Miles -- "Everything is wild" / James Thurber -- "A game, gentlement, a game ..." / Barbara Tuchman -- "The professor's yarn" from Life on the Mississippi / Mark Twain -- "Poker night" / John Updike -- From Poker, how to play it / Charles Welsh -- From The education of a poker player / Herbert O. Yardley.
Added Author:

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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS509.P62 R43 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



More than 50 million Americans play poker. But poker is much more than a popular game. It is a world unto itself, populated by a multitude of colorful characters -- professionals and amateurs, hustlers and dreamers.

From the rich field of all the writers who have ever loved the game, editor John Stravinsky has gathered thirty-nine best-of-breed short stories, essays, excerpts from novels, and poems: Mark Twain, John Updike, James Thurber, Nelson Algren, Martin Amis, and Billy Collins are among the winning hand of renowned writers in this collection who have mined their personal experiences at the poker table.

Entertaining, enlightening, and essential, Read 'Em and Weep is a stacked deck of pure poker-reading pleasure.

Author Notes

John Stravinsky is the author of five books and has written on sports for a number of publications, including the New York Times Magazine, the Village Voice, the Wall Street Journal, Billiards Digest, and Men's Journal

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Driven by ESPN's coverage of the annual World Series of Poker and the Travel Channel's unlikely hit coverage of the World Poker Tour, poker is now a hot item in American culture. Both of these shows feature a variety of poker known as Hold 'Em, whose virtue, to television audiences and poker players alike, is its fast pace and "action" (the number of bets players can make in quick succession). Watching men and women who can bet $200,000 on nothing and win has captivated a new generation. Poker writer Stravinsky's collection of essays, short stories, book excerpts and poems mines some of this excitement, featuring articles on three-time World Series champion Johnny Chan and colorful Hold 'Em legend Amarillo Slim. Likewise, contributions from Andy Bellin and A. Alvarez, both steeped in the contemporary poker scene, will feel familiar to the television-bred Hold 'Em aficionados. But much of the material, though classic-for example, Mark Twain's rumination on poker in Life on the Mississippi and an excerpt from Nelson Algren's The Man with the Golden Arm-are from a bygone poker world that lacks the intensity of the modern tournament game. Most of Stravinsky's choices fall into this category. The selections are invariably well chosen: poetry by Billy Collins and Stephen Dunn, short stories by W. Somerset Maugham and James Thurber, among them, but they are aimed at an older, more literary audience and will have little appeal to the new, younger poker fans. This collection falters because it is unable to successfully move between poker's romanticized past and its big-money celebrity-driven present. (Jan. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

It is estimated that over 50 million people in the United States play poker, and this collection of short stories, poems, articles, and book excerpts is aimed at the readers among them. Edited by Stravinsky, who has written on gambling for a variety of publications, including Newsday and the Village Voice, and with an introduction by poet-novelist James McManus, it includes fiction by Nelson Algren, Bertolt Brecht, Stephen Crane, James Jones, W. Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain, James Thurber, and John Updike; excerpts from poker manuals like attorney John Blackbridge's The Complete Poker Player; portraits of famous poker players; and descriptions of high-stakes games by writer-gamblers. Contributors of nonfiction include Peter Alson, Chris Calhoun, Clark Clifford, David Mamet, and Barbara Tuchman. The collection is varied and well balanced, though some of the articles presume a fairly thorough knowledge of the card game in its various forms. A good bet for public libraries.-William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Read 'Em and Weep A Bedside Poker Companion From The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren Surrounded by a group of luckless losers, Frankie Machine, the author's drug-addled anti-hero, finds respite in the magic of his talents as a card dealer. The passage is pure Algren at his hard-core, late-40s hipster best, the prose juxtaposing Frankie's reverie with the rhythmic routine of his calling. Algren himself played high and low stakes poker with little success; according to biographer Bettina Drew, he would routinely pass off his losses at low-life dives to "gathering research." The slumming paid off in literary backdrop -- The Man with the Golden Arm won the first National Book Award (1950) -- and may well have inspired Algren's classic adage: "Never play cards with a man named Doc (and never eat at a place called Mom's)." Each night he slipped singles and fives and deuces into the green silk bag. Frankie dealt the fastest game in the Near Northwest Side when he was right, and he was more right now with every night; at moments it seemed to him he was faster and steadier than he had ever been. At any second, through all the hours, he knew to a nickel how the pot stood and controlled the players like the deck. They too were aces and deuces, they too were at his fingertips once more. For like the deuces and aces they all came home to him toward closing time. Turned face up at last, their night-long secret bluffing was exposed at last: the fat florid kings, the lean and menacing black jacks and those sneaky little gray deuces, all betrayed the sucker by morning. In the early light Schwiefka, with his fry-cook's complexion, called "Change it up!" to the steerer for the last time. And went south with the bundle. There had been only one serious argument at Schwiefka's while Frankie was in the slot, for Frankie had the knack of anticipating funny business. He sensed the sort of desperation which would tempt a man to slip a single exposed ace around the hole card, flashing it so fast it gave the impression of a pair. It had been that one pulled, for the sake of caution, on the slow-witted umbrella man, in which Frankie had trapped Louie cold. Everyone knew immediately what had happened -- everyone but Umbrellas. All Umbrellas knew was that Louie had said "bullets" and reached for the pot. Frankie had flipped Louie's cards open before the fixer had had time to get them back into the deck. "I swear I seen bullets," Louie had pretended casually, and nobody told him he lied. But Umbrellas had gotten the pot and Louie had never quite forgiven the dealer for exposing him. "You'd think it was comin' out of his own pocket," he complained later of Frankie. Since that time there came a moment every night, before the first suckers started knocking, when Frankie would look uneasily at Louie and say, "I call the hands. What I say goes. That's how it's always been 'n that's how it's gonna stay 'n nobody's gonna change it." He told Louie that exactly as some sergeant had once told it to him when he'd questioned an order. It had worked on Private Majcinek. So ex-Private Majcinek assumed it had an effect on the fixer's narrow head. And studied each fresh sucker with a practiced eye. Schwiefka sent occasional stooges into the game to keep his dealer straight -- usually one wearing a loudly flowered tie and sideburns; with a habit of finding the dealer's toe under the table to indicate that a bit of co-operation with that deck wouldn't go unappreciated. Good-time Charlies with the usual whisky glass in the middle of the forehead and that certain faraway look which never troubled to count a winning pot to see whether it was right. "We trust each other, Dealer," was the implication of that look. The dealer trusted no man on the other side of the slot. He had outlasted forty such touts. They didn't call him Machine just because he was fast. They called him Machine because he was regular. He couldn't risk being anything else; dealing was the sole skill he owned. "The day I get my musician's union card is the day I'll steal Schwiefka blind," he planned in his tough-skinned larcenous little heart. Until that day he would be as straight as one of Widow Wieczorek's ivory-tipped cues. One by one Schwiefka's shills would give place, as the winter night wore on, the stakes would grow higher as the air grew heavier and the marks grew lighter; to be replaced, one by one, like so many sausages into the same sure grinder. While at the door Sparrow urged losers and winners alike: "Tell 'em where you got it 'n how easy it was." Till Frankie would sit back wearily, sick of seeing them come on begging to be hustled, wondering where in the world they all came from and how in the world they all earned it and what in the world they told their wives and what, especially, they told themselves and why in the world they always, always, always, always came back for more. "More, more, I keep cryin' for more more -- " Some tattered walkathon tune of the early thirties went banging like a one-wheeled Good Humor cart of those same years through his head as the cards slipped mechanically about the board and his fingers went lightly dividing change in the middle, taking the house's percentage without making the winner too sharply aware of the cut. It was one thing for a player to understand he was bucking a percentage and quite another to see it taken before his eyes. To the mark it always seemed, vaguely, that the dealer might have overlooked the cut, just this once, out of sportsmanship ... Read 'Em and Weep A Bedside Poker Companion . Copyright © by John Stravinsky. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Read 'Em and Weep: A Bedside Poker Companion by John Stravinsky All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Nelson AlgrenPeter AlsonA. AlvarezMartin AmisAndy BellinJohn BlackbridgeJon BradshawBertolt BrechtChris CalhounClark CliffordBilly CollinsStephen CraneRussell CrouseGeorge DevolPete DexterStephen DunnWilliam J. FlorenceHal GoodmanDavid HayanoJames HildrethAnthony HoldenJames JonesMichael KonikLeonard KriegelKaty LedererMignon McLaughlinRobert McLaughlinJames McManusDavid MametPatrick MarberW. Somerset MaughamJesse MayDick MilesJames ThurberBarbara TuchmanMark TwainJohn UpdikeCharles WelshHerbert O. Yardley
Prefacep. xiii
Introductionp. xv
from The Man with the Golden Armp. 1
"Chan Is Bluffing (We Think)"p. 9
"Money: The Language of Poker" from Poker: Bets, Bluffs, and Bad Beatsp. 22
"Poker Night" from Visiting Mrs. Nabokov (and Other Excursions)p. 33
"Tells" from Poker Nationp. 36
"Frauds in Playing and Poker Sharps" from The Complete Poker Playerp. 46
"Pug Pearson" from Fast Companyp. 53
"Four Men and a Poker Game, or Too Much Luck Is Bad Luck"p. 61
"The Toughest Poker Player in the World"p. 69
from Counsel to the Presidentp. 73
"Silver Dollars"p. 76
"A Poker Game"p. 78
"How Not to Play Poker"p. 82
from Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippip. 87
from Deadwoodp. 91
"The Woman with Five Hearts"p. 98
from The Gentlemen's Handbook on Pokerp. 100
"A Disreputable Family Holiday in Las Vegas"p. 103
from Poker Faces: The Life and Work of Professional Poker Playersp. 108
from Dragoon Campaigns to the Rocky Mountainsp. 112
from Big Dealp. 115
from From Here to Eternityp. 121
from Telling Lies and Getting Paidp. 129
"Poker's Promise"p. 135
"A Girlhood Among Gamblers" from Poker Facep. 139
"No Game for a Woman"p. 146
"Let's Get Rid of the Ribbon Clerks"p. 152
from "Black Magic"p. 162
"The Things Poker Teaches"p. 167
from Dealer's Choicep. 171
"Straight Flush"p. 178
from Shut Up and Dealp. 185
from "Lowball in a Time Capsule"p. 190
"Everything Is Wild"p. 194
"A Game, Gentlemen, a Game ..."p. 199
"The Professor's Yarn" from Life on the Mississippip. 209
"Poker Night"p. 216
from Poker, How to Play Itp. 223
from The Education of a Poker Playerp. 225
Permissionsp. 233