The One About Poker

Apr 19, 2013
Originally published on January 2, 2014 2:29 pm

Michael Ian Black told us he's a poker whiz, but we wanted to see if he's bluffing. So we pitted him against a worthy competitor, World Series of Poker champion Matt Matros, in a no-holds-barred trivia showdown that covers poker lingo, lore, and the world's weirdest bet.

Plus, Jonathan Coulton rounds out the game with a cover of "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers.

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Okay, Michael, I think we're ready for your ASK ME ANOTHER challenge. Let's welcome back Jonathan Coulton.



EISENBERG: Now, Michael, you told us you're a poker whiz. I hope you weren't bluffing with that.

MICHAEL IAN BLACK: Good poker pun.


EISENBERG: So this quiz is all about poker. And to make it challenging, we found a very special challenger for you. Let's welcome Matt Matros.



BLACK: Hello.


BLACK: Some dude just came onstage and stood next to me.

EISENBERG: Now Matt is a writer and a filmmaker, but he's also a professional poker player, with three World Series of Poker titles under his belt.


EISENBERG: His lifetime tournament earnings total of $2.3 million. He took a helicopter here.


EISENBERG: He's what you call a ringer. Thank you so much, Matt.

MATROS: Happy to be here.

EISENBERG: When is the last time you played poker?

MATROS: I played poker at the Borgata Winter Open in January, in Atlantic City, not too far from here.

EISENBERG: Well, the winner of this will win a special ASK ME ANOTHER puzzle prize. So let's shuffle up and deal.


MATROS: Good luck. That's what I say at the table.

BLACK: What do you say?

MATROS: Good luck to my opponent. So I'm wishing you luck.

BLACK: Drop dead. That's what I say.



BLACK: Good luck, Matt.

MATROS: See, he wants to vanquish his foes. I never thought of that. I should really incorporate that...

BLACK: Yeah, but I'm terrible at poker.


EISENBERG: In Texas Hold 'Em, your two starting cards often have clever nicknames. A pair of eights are called snowmen. A pair of jacks are called fish hooks. If you hold an ace and a king, it's known as the big slick but it's also named after what attractive female tennis star from the late 90s, because like her, ace king looks good but never wins?



BLACK: Anna Kournikova.

EISENBERG: That's correct.


BLACK: You're going to let me win, aren't you, Matt? Don't let me win.

MATROS: You beat me on the buzzer. I can't help it.

BLACK: Don't do that.

EISENBERG: You guys are just like hilarious little old friends.


EISENBERG: A lot of Hollywood actor think they're pretty good at poker, maybe because they have a lot of money to blow and think they're good bluffers. But one actor is the real deal. With 11 World Series of Poker cashes, including a sixth place prize finish at the World Series of Poker championship back in 1980, you probably remember him as a star of a sitcom called "Welcome Back Kotter." Who is he?



BLACK: Gabe Kaplan.

EISENBERG: Gabe Kaplan is correct.


BLACK: It's all about the buzzer.

EISENBERG: I like your buzzer technique. You hold it out and strongly push it.

BLACK: I'm really just trying to prove to the audience that I know it whether I get it right or wrong.


EISENBERG: A piece of poker etiquette you may have learned from the movie "Rounders" is that you shouldn't splash the pot. What's splashing the pot?



MATROS: It's when you drop the chips slowly so they're not all in one stack and you kind of dribble them across the pond.

EISENBERG: Okay. I think I'm going to take that.


COULTON: It's a very florid and poetic description but it's lovely.

MATROS: How are you defining splash the pond?

EISENBERG: I mean, I like the dribbling and the - we were thinking of it more like an aggressive throwing, but either way the point is that you can't count them and that's the problem.

MATROS: Yes, that's the - yes.

EISENBERG: So you had the right problem but your technique is more romantic.


MATROS: I've been told that before.

EISENBERG: Poker players, much like you two, are not always what we call graceful losers.

BLACK: I don't know what you're talking about.

EISENBERG: Let's hear one poker pro pontificate on ESPN after a bad beat at the World Series of Poker.

PHIL HELLMUTH: Idiot players call raises of ten, they don't even know how to spell poker. I mean like this kid has all the chips. He probably won't even make the final 200.

EISENBERG: That was 13-time World Series Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth. And thanks to his theatrical tirades, Hellmuth is known by what nickname?



MATROS: He is, unfortunately, known as the Poker Brat.

EISENBERG: Poker Brat, that is correct.


EISENBERG: For such an aggressive card game, that's sort of a lame insulting name, the Poker Brat.

MATROS: It's accurate for him I think.


BLACK: Oh, snap.

EISENBERG: The old west lawman known as Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back of the head while playing Five Card Draw in a saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. The cards he was holding became known as the Dead Man's Hand. What is the Dead Man's Hand?



MATROS: Dead Man's Hand is aces and eights.

EISENBERG: And technically, of what?

MATROS: Well, it's two pair, aces and eights.

EISENBERG: But what - do you want to add anything to that?

BLACK: Yeah, what suit, Matt?


MATROS: That's pretty much all I could tell you about the hand. I don't know what more you need.

EISENBERG: Okay, we'll give you the...

BLACK: And I don't know either, so how do you like that?


EISENBERG: Technically, they're all black.


EISENBERG: But that's a little something extra to add, but we'll give you the point, Matt. We'll give you the point.


EISENBERG: High stakes poker players love making what are called proposition or prop bets, like betting on who can lose the most weight in a month or offering someone $30,000 to run 100 miles in the Las Vegas desert in a day. But perhaps the most bizarre prop bet of all time was taken by poker and backgammon pro Brian Zembic who won $100,000 from his friends after undergoing what plastic surgery procedure.


EISENBERG: Matt? Oh my god, Michael is about to lose his mind.

MATROS: There's a book with the title "Man with $100,000 Breasts," and I believe he got breast implants.

EISENBERG: Yes, that is correct.


EISENBERG: Well, it turns out Matt you won that round.


EISENBERG: You were a fantastic contestant and you deserved it. I know, Michael, that you knew everything because you had the buzzer going but it was just...

BLACK: That's why I had it up. I was trying to prove to you...

EISENBERG: I know. I know.

COULTON: Yeah, the buzzer was not your friend tonight.

BLACK: Just like the cards aren't my friend at the tables, Matt.

MATROS: You have to make due with the cards you get. That's the game.

EISENBERG: Oh, see, there you go. Matt, we have a ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube for you. I know you've been wanting that.


EISENBERG: And Michael, we might just have an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube for you.

BLACK: All right, I win too.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right. One more round of applause for Matt and our VIP Michael Ian Black.


EISENBERG: Jonathan, how about another song?

COULTON: Yeah. I don't know how I could not play this song. This is by Kenny Rogers. It's called "The Gambler."


COULTON: On a warm summer's eve, a train bound for nowhere, I met up with a gambler. We were both too tired to sleep. So we took turns a staring out the window at the darkness until boredom overtook us and he began to speak.

He said, son, I've made a living out of reading people's faces and knowing what the cards were by the way they held their eyes. And if you don't mind me saying, I can see you're out of aces. For a taste of your whiskey, I will give you some advice.

So I handed my bottle and he drank down my last swallow. Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light. Then the night got deathly quiet and his face lost all expression. If you're going to play the game, boy, you got to learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you're sitting at the table. There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done.


EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton.

COULTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.