Poker Night: Book Club For Men?


Every Tuesday night for seven years, I gathered with four or five of my good friends for a low-stakes poker game. Five bucks and a six-pack of brew would get you through the game, even if you didn’t win a single hand. I proved that point many a time.

Seven years. Every Tuesday. We survived two DUI’s, one divorce, a handful of “career changes,” and four births, including a couple of Surprise Offspring. Anyone who plays poker with friends on a regular basis knows that the card game is beside the point. No, it’s the abuse that we show up for. The mockery, the ribbing, the taunting, the good natured eye-poking. You always hurt the ones you love. And then you take their money.

The only reason this worked for so long is that last hand was at 10:30, no exceptions. Occasionally, say, when some liquor or other (less legal) weapons-grade logic-impairing substance made an appearance, this 10:30 rule may have saved a marriage or two. Or another DUI. Or a murder. The starting time was kind of hazy (“sevenish”), but that last hand was hard and fast.

Of course, all good things must end (although some stupid crap seems to go on forever, like Bro Country). When two of the regulars stopped coming, the weekly game became monthly or bi-monthly, whenever all of us could slip away on the same Friday night.

My wife Barb belongs to a book club. She meets with her female friends about once a month to drink wine, eat a nice potluck meal and complain about their husbands. Like the poker dudes, they also talk about everything under the sun, sometimes even the book they’re reading. She’s been with the same book club for ten years now, and the gals are really tight. They’ve seen a couple of busted relationships, half a dozen births, but, curiously, no DUI’s. And she’s always home by 10:00.

Occasionally Barb will recommend to me a title that her book club has read. This is how I came to read “The Brothers K,” one of my favorite books ever. I actually finished it before they had their gathering to discuss it, and I begged Barb to let me crash her book club so I could share my feelings about the story. She couldn’t (or wouldn’t) let me penetrate the Estrogen Curtain, so I had to bore the guys at the poker table with my take on the dynamics between the church-going mom and her scattering brood. “Shut the #$!% up and deal,” they’d say. “What do you think this is? Book club?” Yuk yuk. Snort.


You gotta know when to hold ‘em, and know when to slap your cards down in a petulant display of disgust.

So poker is poker and book club is book club, and never the twain shall meet. Believe it or not, I think I could fit in. I could whip up a fine batch of stuffed peppers, go and sip wine with the lay-days, and try to figure out Jeannine’s problems with her erratic menstrual cycle. Yes, Bob has a soft, sensitive side. He even enjoys a bubble bath now and again. Especially after a chili dinner.

But with the guys, the chatter at the poker table can get so silly and/or offensive that there’s no way any woman worth her stuffed peppers would put up with it. Seated around the poker table, we can all revert to the 14-year-old boys we really are. And believe me, we do. Gross jokes, slapstick gags, bathroom humor (usually centered around the anus) and unfiltered barroom language buzz around the game like flies on a dog turd.

But we also play cards.

Over the years we’ve gravitated to the same five or six types of games, and most of them involve wild cards. On occasion a “serious” card player has sat in with us, only to recoil in disdain at the childish rules and liberal use of wild cards. One game, called “The Usual,” features deuces, one-eyed jacks and the man with the ax as wild cards, and a pair of natural sevens takes it all. When the dealer announces “the Usual,” we put down our beers, place our hands over our hearts (or badges, depending on the player), and recite the list of wild cards like a bunch of drunken Gregorian monks.

Serious card players usually do not come back a second time.


Photo circa 2007, one of only two photos in existence of Bob Wire wearing a doo-rag. The player on the right has just delivered some unpleasant news in the form of a large raise, calling Bob’s bluff.

Much as I love poker night, I’m a little jealous of book club. During one poker game I tried to drum up interest in an Existential Book Club. I suggested books like “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” “On the Road,” “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” and a few other counterculture titles.

“How often would this Existential Book Club meet?” asked one guy.

“How often is often? Do we have to get together to meet?” I asked, existentially.

“Shut the #$!% up and deal,” he concluded.

As I dealt out the hand, I imagined how the Existential Book Club Poker Night might go:

“Alright, boys, last hand. Seven-card stud. Queens are kings and kings are queens. If you get a one-eyed jack, you have to state one of the thematic elements of ‘The Naked Lunch.’ A joker means your hand reverts to an alternate reality, and you get seven cards from another deck.”

I think I’ll stick to regular poker. Besides, stuffed peppers give me gas something awful.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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