I discovered 'Poker For Fun and Profit,' one of the early books about how to play poker, in an obscure used book store in Hollywood, CA. more than 30 years ago. The author Irwin Steig had also written an earlier book, 'Common Sense Poker', and was a freelance magazine writer and journalist who had been published in many magazines including Esquire.
Since I was a fledgling poker player at the time, I devoured the book from cover to cover. Steig, who lived in New Jersey and who played in Atlantic City, made a lot of sense in his approach to playing poker. His brother, a cartoonist, illustrated the book.
I was working as a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner when I read the book. On impulse, I decided to try to run down this author to get a better idea of who he was.
And I found him.
Steig and I began corresponding with one another through emails. He was a pleasant man in his 80s when we began our correspondence.
In those days, poker was limited to seven-card stud, variations of high-low poker, and games the players would invent like Spit in the Ocean or low spade in the hole gets half the pot. People did play the game for fun as well as profit. And while there were few Indian casinos operating, you could find a friendly game of poker for money in fraternal lodges like the Elks Club, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the local American Legion Post. America's military men didn't spend all their time fighting wars. They played a lot of poker whiling away those hours when they were assigned to a foreign post.
I was an aspiring freelance writer as well as a journalist and picked Steig's brain on writing. He was very open about poker and authorship and we got along very well. He even became philosophical with me and spoke about the ducks that came to a pond outside his home every spring, noting that as the years passed there were fewer ducks to show up for his morning feedings. He noted sadly that time is cruel and age spares nobody from the consequences of living.
In one of my emails I asked him if he planned to write any more books on poker.
'I'm working on one,' he wrote back. 'It will probably be my final book. I'm planning to call it 'Poker For Blood.'
Sadly, Irwin did not live to finish the book. I sent several emails to him without getting a response. One day I received an email and it was from his wife informing me that Steig had passed away. She complimented me on my friendship with her husband and added that he was an honorable man and that it had been a pleasure being married to him for so many years.
I found myself wondering about the title to Steig's proposed last book, 'Poker For Blood.'
In the heat of a poker tournament when the blinds keep doubling every 15 or 30 minutes, things can get pretty frenzied. And, yes, 'Poker For Blood,' becomes a reality that only a person caught up in such a frenzy of accumulating chips and surviving the attacks of other players can understand.
I have often played poker for blood. It carries an excitement that is difficult to explain. The only way to understand it is to experience it as I did the other night when I came a couple of positions short of making the final table in a tournament at Talking Stick Casino near Scottsdale, AZ.
You can pick up a used copy of 'Common Sense Poker' or 'Poker For Fun and Profit' by doing some on-line shopping. I highly recommend the books. While some of the games Irwin Steig wrote about are no longer played in legal card rooms, you will enjoy his writing and it will expand your poker world. Rest in peace, Irwin. And thanks for the ducks story.
Author: Geno Lawrenzi Jr.
(Geno Lawrenzi Jr. is an international journalist, magazine author and ghostwriter and poker player who lives in Phoenx, AZ. He has published 2,000 articles in 50 magazines and 125 newspapers. If you want to share a gambling story or book idea with him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org ).
29th of September 2017
18th of September 2017