Thursday, July 12, 2018

"The Ethics Of Poker"



What are the odds that a Chico State University student would graduate with a degree in philosophy and then go on to become a philosophy professor at McNeese State University at Lake Charles, Louisiana? Maybe it was always in the cards for that to happen to Todd Furman, who seems to have a special interest in no-limit Texas Hold'em.

That's evident in Furman's book, "The Ethics Of Poker" ($29.95 in paperback from McFarland; also for Amazon Kindle). It's a witty discussion, packed with thought experiments, of some of the issues of right and wrong raised by the game itself. (It's a reflection on sinning, not winning.)

For poker neophytes, Furman offers an extensive glossary of both poker and philosophical terms (including "Bad Beat Jackpot" and "Veil of Ignorance"), a section on the rules of Texas Hold'em, and a ranking of hands (from Royal Flush to One Pair). 

Here and there he loves to talk the talk: "With everyone's attention focused on him, Mike shuffles, cuts the cards, and deals one more hand face down. Turning over his cards, Mike has Pocket-Rockets; the next hand is Cowboys, followed by Siegfried and Roy, and so on. Mike is a mechanic."

But once you know that a "mechanic" is a slight-of-hand artist, it's clear that the other players would not exactly congratulate Mike on his no-holds-barred skill but rather insist that Mike had acted immorally and demand their money back. See? Setting the formal rules of the game aside, poker raises a host of issues, such as whether it's morally acceptable to play with someone who's drunk, or play with a compulsive gambler.

The book is divided into three sections. The first considers the morality of poker itself and how much harm it causes society (maybe a lot, but less than alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, which are also legal). The second deals with actions within the game (such as informed consent--what if the table stakes game turns out to be open stakes?). The third is how casinos ought to operate (so the taxes they pay should reflect actual costs to society, such as "additional crime and bankruptcies").

Will readers learn something? It's a safe bet.


Thursday, July 05, 2018

"The Trumpeter's New Clothes"



Paradise blogger Robyn Alana Engel's satirical retelling of "The Emperor's New Clothes" comes with a warning: "Not for those who lean Orange."

There's an intriguing personage at the center of her word play. "From Queens arose a King," we're told. "Golden towers housed his bling./ Dim of wit and rich in wealth,/ he told crazed tales about himself/ … A shameless trumpeter was he." 

Effervescently illustrated by Paradise's own Steve Ferchaud (with the cover design by Bryan Pedas), "The Trumpeter's New Clothes" ($12.99 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle, with more at rawknrobyn.blogspot.com) tells the story of "a huge bellied brute ... colored orange, just like the fruit." 

Folks in the kingdom can't stand his soulless trumpeting. "He punished people with brown skin/ and those who didn't worship him./ He broke up families, taxed the poor;/ stole from the ill and old,/ and many more."

As a sign in one of the illustrations shows, he spends much time at his MeLargeEgo Country Club--and there the golfing double entendres begin: "He did work hard, I might say,/ at carving-out large times to play./ One of the King's most favored/ things of all/ was to swing/ long rods at tiny balls."

The plot thickens when, in Putinontheritz Land, "Rushing Brides strategized/ a sly get-rich plan/ to trick and deceive/ the bigly orange man," offering the King a magical "see-through orange jumpsuit" sure to improve his game and attract damsels by the dozen. Of course, there is no actual garment, but that doesn't stop the King. "He debuted his new jumpsuit/ all around town,/ like a naked parade/ of one proud circus clown."

Then, after a tragic school shooting, one courageous teenager points out that the King is not only not wearing any clothes, but he has failed to protect the kingdom. Millions of others join the school kids and the King, downcast, is no longer the center of attention. But not for long.

"'Watch me!' said the King,/ needy as could be./ 'I'm a covfefé cannot ball.'/ He squeezed into a bigly cannon./ 'Look-see! Look at me!'" But no one did.

Engel's goal? To let the chip shots fall where they may.