Some Came Running

“Aesthetic medicine” practitioner Dr. Jack Berdy has figured out a way to beat the game of poker by selling Botox injections to mid- and high-stakes card sharks to eliminate their “tells.” He calls this “Pokertox,” and while it’s really just a gimmicky repurposing and promotion of a ho-hum cosmetic, what it says about Berdy’s clientele is fascinating.

As Berdy deadens his patients’ faces to prevent nervous ticks, twitches, jumpy eyebrows, frowns, trembling lips, and other obvious signs of relief, annoyance, elation, or fear, he essentially removes all traces of the life they’ve lived from their expressions. On the one hand, if he’s successful and the other players are unable to read that face, Berdy will have replaced his client’s actual “character” with the character of a “winner.” He or she will, after all, have “won,” right? Since these days a receipt for that win is all that matters, whoever’s counting the pot at the end of the game is the clear victor here. It’s just funny that we’re talkin’ about adding or removing character with a syringe to triumph in a game traditionally viewed as a test of one’s mettle.

It’s kind of like how your boss is an incompetent, hollow fucking shell, but because he or she holds a certain position the assumption of skill, experience, and proficiency is made. Never mind that their last held title is what got ’em the gig or that their “tells” are mental laziness and a penchant for shortcuts or blame: the shell looks too good to fail. For today’s poker players, all that matters are the bragging rights, regardless of the route. Never mind how fun it must be to play cards with a bunch of expressionless rubber masks. Probably as good as getting roped into said boss’s baby shower or bachelor party.

Ask Berdy about his customers and he’ll probably say, “Some came running.” Why? Because the world is full of suckers, that’s why. And if you ask me, most poker players top the Great Pyramid of Chumps. (Gambling finds the bettor, not the other way around.) So Berdy might as well be taking candy from a baby: can we blame him for carving out a profitable little niche market for himself in the process?

I’m no tournament pro, but as it pertains to Berdy’s clients, who make their faces as limp as their dicks, here’s something I’ve seen, survived, and swear by: weakness and desperation always find another way to surface. Again, it comes down to get character or become one: these players reduce themselves to mere characters, weirdos with blank faces who leave behind a trail of face-transplant jokes and cheater rumors.

Poker hinges on the character and life experience of its players in that you don’t win by sheer will. You win with patience, strategy, time, luck, and the ability to size another guy up. None of those things can be purchased or simulated. Mostly, though, you win by making it difficult to be sized up in the first place — and that’s entirely psychological and spiritual. If you can’t own your own or transcend your mistakes (and your “tell”) what good are you?

The best poker players in the world are painfully honest with themselves. The rest — no matter how many times they visit Dr. Berdy — are read and tossed aside like yesterday’s newspaper.

But some suckers do come running.