far too much writing, far too many photos

Friday, at the gym: walking into the locker room, post sweaty exertions, I stumbled through a conversation in progress. Two gents talking about a poker game. (The gents: Andy, a blind, balding, 50ish fella, maybe 5′6″ tall, with some accumulated weight he’s gradually working off; and a taller, older guy, balding in the way that leaves a ring of hair around the cranium, graying hair in his case, bushy, angling out so that it looks like his head has grown a pair of goofy wings.) They chatted, I eavesdropped, until Andy mentioned the name Mamet and I realized they were discussing a legendary poker game, an event that took place on a more or less weekly basis for many years, based in this section of Vermont and counting among the regulars one of the pre-eminent living American playwrights, David Mamet. I butted into the conversation to ask if that was actually what they were going on about, Andy confirmed, smiling — me also smiling, pleased to find myself hearing a first-hand report on that bit of local lore.

Andy briefly described the life arc of the game: a relatively low-stakes gig founded and attended by friends, joined by Mamet at some point — the playwright first experienced, Andy affectionately noted, as an arrogant kid from Goddard College (”Which made us love beating him.”) — after which the game developed legs, evolving into a happening of almost mythical stature: the premier all-night Vermont card game, featuring food, booze, cigar-smoking. As Andy described it, “We’d start gearing up for it during the day, get together in the evening, play all night — well into the next morning — and need the next day to recover. It ate up two days of every week.”

At some point, he said, a crop of new guys joined the game. “Sharks,” he elaborated, the smile on his face becoming rueful, “playing for high stakes, and they began cleaning us out on a regular basis.” The game took on a whole different character, the fun began bleeding away for the original members, the event began a long drift toward its eventual demise.

I asked if William H. Macy, a Mamet cohort of long duration, ever took part. A negative headshake from Andy. “But,” he said, “there were a couple of times when Mamet was filming and we joined him on location for a game. Some big name actors sat in.” He didn’t specify who, I didn’t ask.

[continued in next entry]

EspaƱa, te echo de menos.

3 Responses to “poker, part I”

  1. Mouse

    Whilst I was dating an American I flew all the way to Boston to experience his monthly poker game.
    In my defence I have to say that I was jet-lagged, it was, according to my body-clock, 3am when we started to play and I do not have a ‘poker face’ (plus they gave me beer!) so I lost all my chips in 5 minutes, was a disgrace to my country and retired to sleep ina corner… great fun though… maybe I will establish a monthly poker evening in France, care to teach us?

  2. rws

    Well, the truth is I’m not an exceptional poker player — overall I tend to break even, and I don’t find it a whole lot of fun unless I’m really enjoying the group I’m playing with. I tend more card games like hearts.

    Despite all that, if I make it back to Madrid later this year, meaning I’d be on your side of the Atlantic for somewhere between two and six months, I might take you up on your poker invite.

  3. Mouse

    Do you know the game Spit?
    That is, I’m afraid, more my kind of thing…
    If you make it to Madrid you would be most welcome at the FVH… I intend that ‘mes portes’ will be ever-open to friends, old and new.
    There will be drinks, dinner, a bed in the ‘maison des amis’ at the bottom of the garden…

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