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Introduction to Poker & Pop Culture by Martin Harris )

Introduced shortly after the United States declared its independence, poker’s growth and development has paralleled that of America itself. As a gambling game with mass appeal, poker has been played by presidents and peasants, at kitchen tables and final tables, for matchsticks and millions.

First came the hands, then came the stories – some true, some pure bluffs, and many in between. In Poker & Pop Culture: Telling the Story of America’s Favorite Card Game, Martin Harris shares these stories while chronicling poker’s progress from 19th-century steamboats and saloons to 21st-century virtual tables online, including:

  • Poker on the Mississippi
  • Poker in the Movies
  • Poker in the Old West
  • Poker on the Newsstand
  • Poker in the Civil War
  • Poker in Literature
  • Poker on the Bookshelf
  • Poker in Music
  • Poker in the White House
  • Poker on Television
  • Poker During Wartime
  • Poker on the Computer

From Mark Twain to “Dogs Playing Poker” to W.C. Fields to John Wayne to A Streetcar Named Desire to the Cold War to Kenny Rogers to ESPN to Star Trek: The Next Generation and beyond, Poker & Pop Culture provides a comprehensive survey of cultural productions in which poker is of thematic importance, showing how the game’s portrayal in the mainstream has increased poker’s relevance to American history and shaped the way we think about the game and its significance.

This book had to be written, and only one person could write it. Poker’s place in our culture has been Martin’s passion and expertise as long as I’ve known him. Poker is a story of a thousand stories, and they’re all here.

Tommy Angelo, author of Elements of Poker and Painless Poker

A thorough, well-informed and highly entertaining exploration of the cultural riches bred by poker, explaining why the game remains so quintessentially American while growing ever more universal.

Anthony Holden, author of Big Deal and Bigger Deal

Martin Harris’s Poker & Pop Culture is a lively, well researched, highly readable account of the game’s hold on the popular imagination, revealing its history – from Shakespeare to ESPN, Flash Kate to James Bond, Tony Soprano to Daniel Negreanu – with 1,001 telling details. A+ Americana, and then some.”

James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street and Cowboys Full

Heralded or condemned, in good times, bad times, dead or alive, poker has been through it all, and proven itself to be the ultimate survivor. Kudos to Martin Harris for his staggeringly in depth look at its intriguing history. Poker & Pop Culture holds all the cards and knows where the bodies are buried. So I highly suggest you pull up a comfy chair and deal yourself in for a terrific read!

Joseph Walsh, actor, screenwriter and co-producer of California Split

Poker & Pop Culture is more than the most detailed history of America’s favorite card game I’ve read yet. Martin Harris has written a monumentally readable, always engaging look at how poker has appeared in literature, television, movies, and other places. Filled with fascinating anecdotes about real-life and fictional poker games, this book is worth reading and re-reading. From John Wayne to William Shatner, Mississippi riverboats to online sites and countless places in between, Harris covers it all.

David G. Schwartz, author of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling

I always wondered what ‘exhaustively researched’ really meant. Now I know. Harris has unearthed a staggering array of juicy poker facts and lore from literature, movies, television, music and history, but his accomplishment goes far beyond its remarkable thoroughness, giving context, stature and meaning to America’s game, conveying it all in a delightfully elegant prose that is as heady and surprising as hitting a one-outer on the river. Poker & Pop Culture is a fist-pumping winner of a book.

Peter Alson, author of Take Me to the River and co-author of One of a Kind

That the beautiful game of poker has spawned the tales of cheats and cardsharps and the most unsavory of muckrakers for me only adds to the allure. Poker is a game about character, after all, and what would character entail if not the basest things about us? Martin Harris swims in the details, glowingly, unflinchingly, and boldly peeling back the layers on the narrative of our game. I salute him for compiling these stories, for we who love the beautiful game of poker, we are the sons and daughters of riverboat gamblers, the descendants of presidents, and the sixth cousins of the baddest Stetson to ever pull a six-shooter from their waistband when laying down a paltry two pair. This tome is the definitive fabric of poker.

Jesse May, author of Shut Up and Deal

I’m insanely jealous of Martin Harris. At major poker events where we worked together side-by-side, Martin always seemed to arrive first, and leave last – long after the workday was done. His tenacity usually paid off with outstanding content. Martin got the stories the rest of us missed. Now, Martin has penned a new book about poker and culture packed with brilliant insights. Damn you, Martin Harris!

Nolan Dalla, poker writer and co-author of One of a Kind

Do not believe the absent-minded professor shtick. Martin Harris is the smartest person in poker. Like all great professors, he has the uncanny ability to boil down complex subjects and unravel tangled history to present a succinct timeline and understandable narrative of events.

Paul “Dr. Pauly” McGuire, author of Lost Vegas

Whether you’re interested in either poker or American history, Poker & Pop Culture delivers in spades. I couldn’t recommend it more and honestly believe it deserves a spot on every poker player’s bookshelf.

Chad Holloway,