Monday, December 19, 2011


I had a brief hallway poker conversation with a friend the other day at work, and an innocent bystander who overheard (i.e., was subjected to) the conversation later remarked to me that he could not understand half of the words we were using, let alone divine what we were actually saying to one another. Poker clearly has it's own language, with myriad abbreviations (VPIP, PFR, OOP, etc.), specialized terms (open-ended straight flush draw, under-the-gun, etc.), and bizarre slang (big slick, Anna, cowboys, etc.)

I bring this up because, while we may think our game of poker is special (and of course it is!), it's not the only one that uses unique jargon. In fact, pretty much any hobby or special interest activity you can think of has its own specialized language that probably sounds Greek to the outside world. Take Contract Bridge for example.

My local newspaper carries a syndicated Bridge column by Steve Becker. Now, I  know very little about bridge and, frankly, I have little desire to learn the game at this busy time of my life.  I do know that it's considered a "skill" game, and like poker it requires years of study and play to master. I typically skim Becker's column in my paper in the same way I might skim an article on how to peel potatoes, or an editorial on school board politics-- i.e., my eye passes over the piece, taking in the headline and the first few sentences of the article; my brain does a little bit of magic and then tells me that this isn't something I should spend any more time on; then my fingers turn the page, moving my attention to the next article for a similar exercise in triage....

...but occasionally--and usually a full thirty or forty seconds later--my brain tells me to stop, back-up, and re-read something that was rejected. Today was one of those days. Witness this random paragraph from Becker's column:

"...Taking full advantage of this knowledge, [the player] won the spade shift with the king, led a trump to the ace, played a spade to dummy's ace, then led the jack of trumps from dummy and ducked it to West's queen!. In practice, West tried the ace and another club. This allowed [the player] to score three club tricks and dispose of his remaining diamond loser, so the contract was made."

All I could think when I read this paragraph was that I now understood what the bystander at work must have thought when he overheard my hallway poker conversation. Said another way: WTF?!

All-in for now....


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