Memo to America: OK, THAT'S ENOUGH POKER, THANKS.
It's funny how these weird, sudden obsessions spring up. I mean, three years ago, "scrapbooking" was four middle-aged suburban women sharing a gluestick, and now there's an entire billion-dollar industry devoted to ugly-ass teddy-bear frames being stuck around a Polaroid of some grandson asleep on a couch. I have a number of vague, unformed theories about why scrapbooking is actually a Satanic ritual, but they'll have to wait for another day, because today, we're talking about poker. Specifically, Texas Hold 'Em.
Now, I admit, I have mellowed from my original position on televised poker, which was "Who the FUCK would want to watch POKER on TELEVISION". My position is now the much more refined "Who the FUCK would want to watch THIS fucking MUCH fucking POKER on TELEVISION." As you can see, wisdom develops over time. As do poker shows on basic cable.
But where wisdom accrues slowly, like the buildup of wax in the ear, basic-cable poker multiplies like ebola*. In the next two weeks**, if you wished, you could watch televised poker matches one hundred and thirty two times. That means that if you turn on the TV, and can't find a poker match, WAIT AN HOUR. That's too much poker.
There's Celebrity Poker Showdown, whose fault this all arguably is. Celebrity Poker Showdown is not without its charms, but would be much more interesting if I were in charge. First, celebrities would be betting their own money. And second, the amounts risked and betted would be weighted by the stars' individual successes. So when, say, Gabe Kaplan lucks out on the river, getting his straight flush draw, he takes Ben Affleck for more than a bit of charity chump change. Put some danger into the game. Some drama. I want to see sitcom stars and celebrity chefs at each other's fucking throats, don't you?
That's another thing. I should not be able to throw out phrases like "river" and "straight flush draw". And neither should you. But we can, because the poker in inescapable. We're channel-surfing, and before we can even say "Hey, is that David Cross in a bathrobe?" we've absorbed half-a-dozen bits of vocabulary that we otherwise would have to pawn our kidneys in Vegas to have learned.
But if the allure of famous people just distracts you from the intricacies of the Card Game of Kings Du Jour, don't fret. There's the World Series of Poker, the World Poker Tour, Championship Poker at the Plaza, the Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament, reruns of the World Series of Poker from ten years ago, and even the Strip Poker Invitational, which I'm sure uses a fairly unique variant on "Hold 'Em".
Coming soon are the Superstars of World Poker Tournament Invitational, the Showdown Poker World Challenge, and a very special episode of Veggietales in which Jimmy the Apostate Radish bluffs on a six-two off-suit, loses all his money, curses God from a cardboard box in an alley, and eventually ends up selling himself on the street for ten bucks a tossed salad.
You know who I feel worst for? (Well, besides the whoring radish, of course.) The poor, overworked poker players. With all the touring and invitationaling and championships, I bet they never even get home to see their families anymore. Plus, I can only imagine what this fearsome schedule is doing to their unlit cigar and funny little hat budgets. Not to mention the harried souls at the International Poker Nickname Registry, who are forced to tell people at least thirty times a day that "Moneybags" is taken, as is "Bling" and "The Hammer", and perhaps they could settle for "Fishtank", "Germanium", or "Peel-N-Eat".
Of course, if you're sick of watching poker on TV and have digital cable, you can always watch Celebrity Blackjack! Yes, if all that pesky strategy of poker gets on your nerves, and you just want to sit and watch semi-famous people be handed random cards until one of them cheers, presumably having won, then Celebrity Blackjack is for you. Make sure to catch it before the FTC forces them to put quotes around "celebrity". I mean, the only Baldwin they could get was Billy, and I'm pretty sure the charity Kevin Nealon is playing for is the Kevin Nealon Is Really Really Hungry Foundation.
* Normally, a sentence like this would end with a situation where ebola would thrive even more virulently than it normally does. But I think ebola pretty much just has the one level of near-instantaneous horrible bleeding death.
** Why, yes, I used online television listings in the course of writing this article, why do you ask?