I had been playing poker with Martha Frankel and her crew up in the Woodstock area for well over a year before I learned she was semi-secretly writing a memoir about, among other things, poker. For a while after that, I didn’t hear anything more. Martha was an extremely experienced magazine journalist, but I knew how hard writing a book can be – especially your first book, and a memoir to boot (something I’ve never dared). And I knew too how long the odds can be against getting published.
But Martha landed an agent – and then a deal. And when Hats and Eyeglasses, as the memoir is called, came out in hardcover last year, it got loving reviews.
Now it’s out in paperback. I rarely read memoirs, but I’ve read this one and recommend it. Am I biased? Sure. Is it good anyway? Yes. Is it about poker? Yes – sort of. It’s more about family and about sticking together, even under the worst of circumstances. I won’t say too much more except to give you just a paragraph from one of my favorite scenes in the book. Martha has traveled to Ft. Lauderdale to visit her cousin Keith, who (a) is a cook, and (b) is going to teach her poker.
So now we’re in his kitchen in Florida, and he’s telling me about straights and flushes, but he refuses to divulge whether it’s capoccolo or prosciutto that gives his lasagna such a zing. “Why should I tell you?” he taunts me, hiding a jar of red pepper flakes. I ignore him and stare at “the list” I’d made up for myself.
Keith hates the list and doesn’t understand why I need it. “Because I can’t remember what comes between three-of-a-kind and four-of-a-kind,” I whine.
“You better remember, because those are the hands that are going to win you money.” He lights a cigar and holds the match under the list. “You’re smart,” he says as it bursts into flames. “Just remember the fucking thing.”
P.S. If you’re the cautious type and want to know a bit more about Martha before investing your $14.95, you can check out this profile in The New York Times.