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Chutzpah & Hearts: MARTHA FRANKEL,
Author of Hats & Eyeglasses

SS: You wrote in your book that you found yourself doing interviews, nodding, not listening, like an alcoholic wanting to get back to business.

MF: Yes, I’d be thinking, “Nice, nice, that’s nice. Let me get back to my game.” Poker is the new smoking. They can’t advertise smoking anymore, so they found something that can make them just as much money, that they can advertise and make it look pretty.

SS: Doyle Brunson just backed Barack Obama for president. Poker players are what, a five-million-strong voting block? Obama isn’t against online poker, so players feel the legislation would go more in their favor. Are you for more or less regulation?

MF: Well, Obama’s a player. I’m definitely not an anti-gambling zealot — just the opposite. I believe the government should have less to do with our lives. But. Somebody has to regulate this. So that, if you’re playing at home online, the other five guys you’re playing with aren’t sitting together in one place. And someone has to make sure that the kids who are doing it are over 18. That’s my bottom line. I gamble, I still go to the casinos, I still play live poker. If the government does as good with a war on Internet gambling as it's done with the War on Drugs, it’ll just keep getting better and better. [Laughs]

SS: In your book you mention a UCLA study that says there’s an actual genetic proclivity for gambling as an addiction. That there’s no bottle and no needle, but...

MF: I’ve been getting an unbelievable amount of email from addictive gamblers, and one of them is a surgeon. He’s completely addicted to online gambling. He’s playing for three days in a row and then walking into the operating room. At one point he said, “But at least I’m not hurting anybody.” And I said, “What are you talking about, you’re not hurting anybody? Honey, I hope you’re not my surgeon.” He is saying to me: When I play, I don’t pee, I don’t eat. And I know that. I used to find myself, at five o’clock, I’d still be wearing my coat and hat. I wouldn’t have peed, I wouldn’t have eaten, I wouldn’t have drank.

SS: I watch kids 12-tabling, playing up to 12 games at once online.

: It’s so neurotic. You don’t even know what you’re doing. At one point you’ll raise and you realize, that’s not even the hand you meant to raise on! It’s the other one! It is self hypnosis. Nothing matters, nothing comes in. It was a little harder for me, because I did it in the dial-up age. So it was so slow. I’m getting a lot of feedback from those kids, and they say, “Fuck you, you’re just a loser.” And I say, all right, that’s fine.

SS: Well how would they know? They learned online. You learned live.

MF: That’s what the guys at Ante Up were saying. They’re saying that these kids that learned how to play poker online? Not only do I think stud is going to come back, but I think Knock Rummy’s going make a big comeback. I think poker’s going to wane a little bit.

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