Poker is undoubtedly a “social game.” Unlike most other casino games, poker requires players to interact with one another as they compete for pots. And unlike most other card games, poker strategy involves a significant psychological component that often highlights personalities and character traits.
This revealing of character can cause conflict at the poker tables, especially when personalities clash or otherwise prove incompatible. This phenomenon can also work in the other direction, making a poker game a ready context in which to make friends and build community. Romance has also sometimes been ignited at the poker tables, with the machinations of the game itself capable of providing an introduction leading to meaningful relationships.
Since poker reflects life in so many ways, the game’s actions and the terminology used to describe it often present all sorts of metaphorical possibilities. “Poker as war” is probably the most common analogy employed to describe the way players battle one another at the tables. “Poker as romance” might be a close second, though, as there is much that happens in a hand that can be said to resemble the art of seduction, if one wishes to go that route.
This overlapping of poker’s social component and the suggestive nature of the game itself has led some to explore comparisons between poker and love. After all, when we have a big hand and wish to encourage an opponent to commit chips to the pot, we often — in a way — enter into what could be called seduction games with our betting actions and table talk to lead our opponent to fulfill our desire.
It must be said this topic is often treated in a humorous or non-serious way. Among the many poker puns with which most players are familiar are many that fall into the “double-entendre” category of sexual innuendo ranging from innocuous poker pick up lines to more ribald associations (we’ll let you think about examples of those).
In truth, one doesn’t have to go too far back into poker’s history to find examples of overtly sexist “how to” guides instructing poker players — all assumed to be men — how developing their poker skills can help them wow the ladies.
For instance, if one looks back in history at prominent men’s magazines, it isn’t surprising to find many articles teaching readers how to play poker as well as how to talk about poker with instructions designed to help them learn the lingo of the game. Among those articles are ones not only teaching readers poker rules and how to win money, but how to win a romantic partner as well — that is, instruction in a kind of seduction poker that conflates skills to win with skills to wow.
Meanwhile there are also examples of women’s magazines that have included articles about poker as well, with some of these also interestingly presenting the game as an avenue toward romance. Often these pieces suggest to women that by learning how to play poker as well as picking up the lingo to make them sound like a knowledgeable players, they can either find men as romantic partners or reinforce the romantic relationships they already have.
As you can see, in both cases these articles draw upon poker’s long history as a so-called “man’s game” and thus tend to reinforce traditional gender roles. For the articles targeting men, they promote learning how to play poker and sound like a pro as necessary skills for reinforcing one’s masculinity. For the ones targeting women, they also tend to promote traditional (and often chauvinist) ideas that learning the game and poker strategy is a way for women to support their men by taking an interest in their recreations, thereby reinforcing narrow ideas of femininity.
In any case, it’s still safe to say that there is at least one way we all can agree poker and seduction overlap — that is, the way poker has seduced many of us!