How to play poker like a grown-ass lady

Helen Ellis’ book of short stories, American Housewife, is out today. It’s deliciously funny and smart. To celebrate, we’re thrilled to publish an essay of hers on the fine art of playing poker. 

You’re not going to play every hand. You’re not going to win every hand. You’re going to lose. It’s okay. Losing makes losing easier. Losing makes you fearless. What’s the worse thing about losing? It stings. So, you’ll wince.

But if you don’t play, you’ll feel nothing.

And if you win, the thrill is—quite honestly—orgasmic.

So fork over your money and get your chips. Count your chips. Recount your chips. If there’s a shortage, say so, and the dealer will fix it. If the chips are filthy and stick together, accept it. The chips are always filthy and stick together.

Poker is dirty.

Don’t put your fingers in your mouth. Keep your smartphone in your purse. Sit up straight. Dress nice. Hoodies and headphones and sunglasses are for cowards.


If someone acts weak, he’s probably strong. If someone’s a bully, he’s probably weak. If someone shouts, he’s dangerous. If he invades your space, get away. If you can see someone’s cards, look. If someone tells you what he has, believe him. It’s not cheating if an unfair advantage is put in your lap like a kitten.


If you have a good hand, bet. If you have a great hand, raise. If you know you’re beat, fold. If you think you can win, win as much as you can.

Let the power and pleasure and profit wash over you.

Tip the dealer.


[Image courtesy Doubleday]