What To Read Right Now XXIV: Poker with Colson Whitehead

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Get a poker handle like the old masters.

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Josh Spilker | July 22, 2011

Colson Whitehead eating

Colson eating / EdRants.com

It's true, I check Grantland (Presented by…Bill Simmons!) almost everyday. I like to read Simmons, I listen to his podcast (this is a fact that I'm becoming even more aware of/defensive of…like it's a guilty pleasure, like admitting you've watched every season of Big Brother or something). I've also got the big fat ESPN book on my kitchen table right now, something the Brooklyn Hater already made sociallly acceptable.

Right now the independent “don't call us Page 2″ quasi-behemoth has plucked out an honest-to-goodness novelist in Colson Whitehead to track the World Series of Poker. Whitehead plays, he frets, he sweats, he deliberates too much.

It's pretty entertaining stuff, delived in Whitehead's semi-dead, semi-deadpan winding manner, filled with glorious comma splices. Like this on his Poker handle:

EXERCISE: Get a Poker Handle. The Old Masters of poker, they had truly awe-inspiring nicknames: Amarillo Slim, Sailor Roberts, Pippi Longstocking. So I got to brainstorming. The Slouch: I slouched. Rocket Racer: After the Spider-Man nemesis/ally from the '70s, a black guy on a rocket-powered skateboard. It was a multivalent moniker, alluding to my melanin count, my transportation issues, and “rocket” was slang for pocket Aces. A pair of aces, you better get ready to race if you want to take the pot from me. Five Dollar Colson: Referring, for once, not to my home-game buy-in, but what'd charge for most acts if I ever started hooking. I sell myself short a lot. Finally, I went withThe Unsubscribe Kid. I liked the implied negation of things other “humans” might enjoy. Now all I had to do was get someone to ask me what my poker nickname was.

This is from the second dispatch and there promises to me more to come. I'm pretty interested to see how Whitehead dissects all of this, because he seems really invested, not just some wry-this-wil-be-fun-Gonzo observer.

Oh yeah, he has a book coming out this fall. Should be a good read.

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