In the World of Television, there exists One Man willing to go where other poker players dare not tread. This is the land where poker and television meet, not at the Rio or on ESPN, but some place much darker. The Blind Spot of television poker.
This time around, we have two mainstream poker references, both of which lack the depth of play or content to make micro-analysis worthwhile, but they do offer the mainstream audience a glimpse of our silly little game, while offering us a glimpse into what non-poker players think about, well, poker.
Treme is a series on HBO by the creators of the HBO masterpiece series, The Wire. The first season, which recently ended, followed the lives of probably a dozen or more New Orleans citizens in the weeks leading up to the first post-Katrina Mardis Gras.
I had traveled to New Orleans in the past year and had my own experience with the local poker scene, sharing some strong words with a local who insisted that I did not know with whom I was messing. The poker room was part of a Harrah’s casino in the middle of the city, and there was action hopping at a variety of limits in the relatively large room during the afternoon and early evening hours.
At the time Treme takes place, the N.O. Harrah’s was still not in existence (from what I know; EDIT: Thanks to Edgie who pointed out that Harrah’s was, in fact, up and running when Katrina hit. Whoops!). Instead, the poker is merely a backdrop in a couple of scenes in which a struggling musician with a baby and a baby’s momma to feed, blows most of his night’s pay playing poker with the other musicians and a random female proprietor of the establishment where they played. The poker in and of itself is minimal, but the mere exposure of the game to the general public is a good thing.
Poker, in Treme, was really a backdrop to show the character’s irresponsibility. While this is not exactly the ideal way for poker to be portrayed, there are some silver linings. The female proprietor turns out to be an experienced player and wins the majority of our musicians’ funds. So, poker may be irresponsible if you lack money management (musician), but if you are skilled, it can be a consistent money maker (proprietor). Not incidentally, when the proprietor sits down to join the game, one of the other players note how she always wins.
The Wire actually had a theme in one season where poker was prominently featured. In that show, poker was played by various groups of different socio-economic classes, suggesting that it is a game for everyone. In Treme, poker is not so much used as a universal connector of mankind as it is simply a backdrop for seediness and irresponsibility, so it is a definite downgrade from the Wire to Treme. But it isn’t as bad as the next one.
True Blood is another HBO series. It is based on romance novels about a world where Vampires are “out of the closet” once a Japanese company invents True Blood, a blood substitute. One character, Sam, is a shape shifter who was adopted as a child. In a recent episode, he finds his biological family, from which he hopes to learn more about his past and his abilities. Unfortunately, the family are white trash. How do we know this? Because the father likes to drink cans of beer while watching TV and sitting on the couch in his tighty-not-so-whities. And what is he watching? The shorthand for low class, apparently: the WPT.
This one kinda annoyed me. Poker was on the screen for maybe 2 seconds at most, but it was shorthand for “low class.” Well, my grandmother likes to watch poker on TV, and she’s not low class (and if you say otherwise, she’ll likely stab you with a broken bottle).
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for poker to be used to show seediness or a lack of class. I suppose watching poker looks even worse. Playing poker can be shorthand for irresponsible. Watching poker is shorthand for irresponsible and broke.
I swear, if it weren’t for Anna Paquin’s naked breasts, I might even reconsider watching True Blood in the future. But love (of breasts) conquers all.
There you go, folks. Two more mainstream uses of poker, neither particularly in depth or positive for poker.
Until next time, make mine poker!