Slow poker

One of the most surprising cultural eruptions of recent years has to be poker’s arrival as a television sport. Talk about strange bedfellows: poker, when you play it right, is slow; TV is all about speed. In fact, impatient TV producers have favoured the fastest variant of poker and tweaked the rules to make it even faster. But is something being lost in all this acceleration? Victoria Coren, an English journalist and poker aficionado, thinks so. In an article published last year, she laments the way the need for speed is warping her favourite game. Here is her take on it (I don’t understand half the jargon either, by the way): “When a tournament is moving quickly, you have to gamble. In many cases, a re-raise before the flop would put a player all in. There isn’t time to let the cards tell a story, to try “feeler bets” for information, or make a good fold: you just can’t afford to leave chips behind. So, on TV, you often see people gambling in a way that negates much of poker’s thoughtfulness and sophistication – the speed favours luck over skill.” Yet there may be a backlash brewing. Coren writes about the emergence of “slow tournaments” that allocate a full day per game and give the best players the time to strut their stuff.