Sun Ra - Column for 2/14

Card Games

Yes, I've been slacking. Sorry about that. Here's your column.

I'm not in the mood for a political rant this week. Too burned out. I think, living as I do in Washington D.C., that I am getting overexposed to the subject. I have a gruelling commute of between an hour and a quarter and two hours, during which I listen to the radio; mostly news and talk radio. And since the country is pretty distinctly going to Hell in a handbasket, and there's really only one group of folks to blame, it tends to get me worked up.

However, I shan't take it out on you this week. This week, I shall write about something else. Something like... er... something... think, Sun Ra... something like...

Cards. How about cards.

Card games are a recurring theme at my family gatherings, and have, I suspect, been so since time immemorial. Bridge is the particular game of choice - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, you name it, if people aren't actually eating odds are good they are playing bridge. I like bridge a great deal, although I play a relaxed and intuitive style and am thus far from professional. Professional bridge players seem to take the fun out of the game, wrapping it up in rules until there's no initiative left in the game. Luckily, I don't play with them.

So I like Bridge. The family has historically also played a lot of cribbage and pinochle, but I don't remember how to play those and haven't played them for years. Hearts I can play, but it isn't a favorite. It's a little too cruel and a little too random. Plus, people always make shit up like "no points on the first trick", which is stupid and only pussies play that way. I'm not a fan of shafting people with the queen - as I say, I don't like hearts much - but it's part of the game and if someone successfully shorts clubs they deserve to hand you a big fat 13 right out of the gate.

There's a rather more complex game called Spite and Malice, although I originally was informed it was called "Spittin' Alice" and thus still call it that, which involves different sorts of card stacks, the reduction of one of which is the object of the game. It's much to complex to describe here but I enjoy it greatly.

As for games traditionally associated with gambling, I do like poker. Blackjack is a little to simplistic for my tastes, but poker is good fun. Five-card draw, Texas Hold 'em, whatever. Some local friends have recently been holding Texas Hold'em tournaments; they are fun, but although I enjoy playing cards greatly, I don't like gambling. I don't think it's immoral or any such thing, I just don't enjoy it personally. I hate losing money and I don't like taking other peoples' money, so there's no upside. I do enjoy the card playing though.

What else? Played lots of King's Corners as a child, and can certainly recommend that one any time you might be trying to entertain a pre-teen. Gin (or gin rummy or rummy or whatever) is also a good game, though it becomes frustrating if you play with more than two people. Nothing like sitting there with two sets of three and watching your necessary fourth cards pass by the player before you and get irretrievably buried in the stack.

War is stupid.

I enjoy solitaire, though if I'm alone the chance that I will be playing cards is essentially nil. But if I'm waiting for someone to join me at the card table, I'll play a few games. The old fashioned sort, seven rows of different sizes, flip the stack in threes, is good, but I prefer the more cerebral lay them all down and try to stack them sort of solitaire games, such as spider solitaire.

I don't like go fish. Keep your damn hands off of my cards.

Old Maid and Crazy Eights don't do anything for me, either. Pass.

Never learned Euchre or Whist.

I would like very much to learn how to play Baccarat. But the setting needs to be right, i.e., I need to be able to picture myself as James Bond. A high-class casino, a tuxedo, hot babes in slinky dresses angling to drop knockout tabs into my martini. One day it will happen.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra