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16/04/2007 No. 22
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday April 16, 2007

I was disappointed by Desperate Housewives last week. Don't worry: this is my tomboy poker space, and I won't use it to detail my disappointment in Lynette's red gown (too flowing) or Gaby's new boyfriend (not sexy). While my girlfriends have telephones, you're safe.

No, it was a relevant problem. The poker scene is a staple of American TV serials; there was always a home game going on in Roseanne's kitchen. But one expected certain errors back then. In 2007, with poker enormous all over the world, the writers of Desperate Housewives seem to be the last people on earth who don't know the rules.

During an evening of five-card draw (an unlikely choice of game, but I'll forgive it), two love rivals got involved in a big hand. Mike bet. Ian string-raised. Mike reraised; he had more chips than Ian. "Would you take a cheque?" asked Ian.

"You know I can't afford that," said Mike, who is poorer than Ian. So they agreed to play for exclusive access to Susan, their mutual sweetheart. Television still does not understand the concept of table stakes! This nonsensical scenario may be dramatic, but it's highly misleading. Be very clear: during each hand, players may only bet a maximum of all the money in front of them. Stakes may only be increased between hands.

Neither was this scene true to the gambling spirit, though it reminded me of an old story that is. Adam and Phil played gin rummy together for 30 years. One night, Adam confessed that he was having an affair with Phil's wife Sarah. Heartbreak and fighting raged for hours, until they finally agreed to decide the issue with a rummy game. The winner would have Sarah's love for ever; the loser would never see her again. "It's the best way to do it," sobbed Phil. "And to make it interesting, let's play for a pound a point."


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