Professional poker player and writer Victoria Coren was in Hay to talk about her love affair with the game, as described in her memoir ‘For Richer, For Poorer’. The soundtrack to her book wouldn’t be the upbeat and dancey ‘Poker Face’ but the much more ominous ‘Hotel California’. Poker sucks you in, and not in a good way – as the song says, you can check out, but you can never leave.
However, this Friday night event concentrated on the silly side of the game. The way Coren tells it, there are no ‘normal’ people in poker – everyone is quirky and borderline dysfunctional. She began playing at the tail end of the old school era, which has been completely turned upside down by tv and the Internet. She described the bemusement of shabby Texas cowboys wandering the halls of Vegas casinos, who cannot understand the rise of the Scandinavian maths geek in their slightly disreputable game. Coren doesn’t have much time for people who claim the romance has been lost, though – as she says, the game is much less seedy and much safer, and what’s not to like about that? And poker is a game of skill – no matter how good you are at maths, in tournaments you still have to be able to read people.
However, psychology was secondary to comedy in this discussion – it was Friday night, after all, and Coren said, her father’s advice had always been, why make a serious point if you can make a joke? People laugh if you are funny, whereas there is no noise to say, what an astute point you have made.