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Read’em and Laugh is a fascinating book by Max Shapiro, poker writer/columnist/reporter and humorist, who created the nefarious fictional Big Denny.

I was fortunate to acquire a copy when Max introduced poker celebrity Barbara Enright before her “chat with the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group and guests.” Reading Max’s book, it was hard to lay it down so I could drive to a local casino and try out some of the winning poker secrets Barbara told us about.

With Max’s permission, I’ll share with you some of his “zany stories” about our poker world.


Max describes poker pests as “bugs and beasties at a picnic” that are practically unavoidable. From time to time, you are bound to encounter these at your poker table.

For example: “Snails” – poker players who wait until the action reaches them before looking at their hole cards; “then they stare at them blankly forever.”

They recheck their hole cards every betting round – “either because they’ve forgotten what they were, or to make sure they haven’t changed.” That slows down the game and irritates the other players.

But, in defense of the “snails,” waiting until you must declare to look at your hole cards gives you more time to look for tells as your opponents peek at their hole cards. You are less likely to give a tell about your own cards.

Sure, it’s best to look at your hole cards just once and then remember them the rest of the hand. But, as we age, that becomes a task. Better to recheck your hole cards than to make a costly mistake.

On the other hand, there is no defense for the “happy wanderers” – players who “continually play one round and disappear for three.” Max notes that they could be anywhere.

“More often than not, they’re playing a few hands at the pai gow table.” I’ve seen tables break up when several “happy wanderers” take breaks at the same time.

Then there are the “Russian dealers” – casino dealers who “are always rushing you to act.” Max explains: “Speeding up the game (and tokes) is one thing. It’s quite another when they repeatedly hit the table, point at me, and nag, ‘On you sir,’ a split second after a card is dealt.”

He compared these “Russian dealers” to car drivers who blow their horns behind you the instant a (traffic) light turns green.” My guess: “Russian dealers” get fewer tips, as the players resent their actions.


The “ultimate pest” almost every poker player will agree is the “Card Thrower!” If playing live-action poker, you are bound to experience one of these from time to time.

Max declares: “This is the one character who is held in my lowest esteem.”

That’s saying a lot from the man who puts up with characters like Big Denny and Ralph the Rattler – even the members of the “Bust-Out” Indian tribe. Not even players who go on tilt and lose their cool when frustrated at the poker table would approve of such behavior.

Max likens the “Card Thrower” to “the spoiled child who always got what he wanted from his mommy if he cried long and loud enough.”

Max elaborates: Sometimes the thrown cards can cause injury to another player – or the dealer; “even worse, they can land on your cards and foul your hand.”

So true.

Next issue: Our own “Poker Pest” for Max’s list.

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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