Robert Ludlum, and poker

March 31, 2008

I had been away for a few days, so no poker played. It’s interesting to note that I still required a poker “fix”. I didn’t take any poker books to read so the only way I could get a fix was via imagination, and I recall more than one instance of playing poker, either as I started to drift off to sleep or during an actual dream.


Another interesting thought to note was when I was killing some time in a bookstore. I picked up a recently published Robert Ludlum novel and read the first couple of chapters to see whether or not I had read this particular book.

Robert Ludlum, if you don’t know, wrote high speed, high tension action thrillers. Usually his plot line involves mysteries encased within mysteries so that just when you think the story is done, you realize that you’re only halfway through the book and then it picks up it’s pace again. He passed away in 2001 and since that time the publisher has released some “Covert One” novels; novels written (badly) by others trying to use some elements of his style, as well as some novels that were (supposedly) written by Ludlum but unpublished when he died. I suspect Eric Van Lustbader, who has written some good novels of his own, of having a hand in some of these. Jason Bourne of “The Bourne Identity”, “The Bourne Supremacy”, and “The Bourne Ultimatum” movies is a character of Ludlum’s creation, though the movies have very little from the original novels in them other than the basic character and the titles. Lustbader also wrote two extension novels of the Jason Bourne situation.

What struck me as I read the first chapter (I’m a speed reader, so one chapter of a fast paced novel doesn’t take long at all) is that all that suspicion, tension, action creates the same high that I get playing poker. You don’t know for certain what is going on, you don’t know what is the truth, what is an exaggeration, and what is an outright lie. You get hints that you have to interpret, and surprises. Nothing goes exactly as you expected it to go and you have to be on your toes to react properly. You have some structural knowledge (ie. the rules and relative hand strength), you have your experience in similar situations, you have your reads on the particular opponents, you narrow down the likely holdings, then you guess what is your best move.

Like a Ludlum novel, making the wrong interpretation or the wrong move could be costly. Even making the right read and move can still end up being costly, but that’s variance, as well as life in the world of spies and hard decisions.

I’ve requested that book from the library, so I’ll do some more comparison/investigation when it arrives.


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