The new gold rush isn’t golden

David Soler

There is a boom going on in the United States.

There is some unprecedented amount of interest in a particular human activity. It’s not about Britney’s latest wacky banality or la vie Parisiene being arrested again. You might know its name: Call me Texas, Texas Hold’em.

If chess is the touchstone of the human intellect, then poker might be the touchstone of human nature. Think of it. Poker emboldens the best and worst passions of man. You can chat and you can brag; you can lie and you can’t lie. Honesty and deceit are just at one’s discretion.

And then there is, of course, the Hold’em variation. Even if there is a fixed array of rules, your range of mobility in the game is just limited by your imagination. Theoretically, anything goes.

But why this sudden frenzy about a variation that according to the legend was first played in Robstown, Texas, nearly a century ago? America, besides being the land of business is also the land of democracy, that Holy Grail that the founding fathers envisioned to rule human society successfully.

Poker appears to unleash a mysterious egalitarian touch. Anyone can win and anyone can lose no matter if you are a rank novice or a hard-core professional. As a matter of fact, the 2003 champion of the World Series of Poker, Chris Moneymaker – one of the cleverest aptronyms ever created – proved this principle when he won $2.5 million after qualifying from a $39 satellite tournament.

But that might not just be enough to keep the flamethrower afloat. After all, poker has been played in the United States since the age of Mississippi’s steaming boats.

The influence of online gambling can be cited, and television and films – notably the movie Rounders – might be responsible for the boom. But what’s that rooted cause, that hidden presence that seems to fuel the topless interest, the growing addiction? Could it be the present State of the Union?

We know the U.S. economy is in a vacation for a while, so this translates in widespread risk-encouraging activities. We also noticed that in an ever increasing level, the ruling class is forbidding all types of enjoyable life pleasures. No smoke and no alcohol. Of course no drugs and no sex for money. The only unrecommended pleasurable activities left seems to be workaholism and “reasonable” gambling (the videogame addicts may excuse me here, but you deserve a full column.)

So, what’s the upshot? A massive exploit of a human activity with the potential of collecting a lot of legal green Benjamins for federal purposes. Actually, it might be just a matter of time that even the puritan Ohio allows its gambling order to lessen its fiscal deficit; the Republicans just fell some votes short of it in the last midterm elections.

But all of this is just a hypothesis, and the real cause could be as harmless as a coincidence of a “W” of doves in the sky. Meanwhile, though, those of us lucky enough to have been endowed with a poker face can enjoy the activity, while we lose some money and make some money, scuba-diving among human passions.

David Soler is a biomedical sciences graduate student and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].