You've Got to Know When to Hold 'Em
Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: June 2009
I'm a terrible poker player. When I was younger I was quite certain, (probably due to my interest in and experience with acting), that I was able to keep my face blank and calm in the face of any emotional storm. However, as I got older I was told time and time again that whatever I was feeling was always quite clear with just a glance at my face, posture, etc. The first time someone told me this, I confess I simply didn't believe them. I dismissed it as them not knowing me well enough. But after years of occurances which affirmed and reaffirmed the fact that I really couldn't hide my emotions, I've learned to accept it. It allows me to show up in any situation and lay my proverbial cards on the table, (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on the situation). One small downside is that like I said before, I'm terrible at poker. Because of this, I'm often intrigued by insights into the mind of a poker player.
Proposition Player is one such insight. Joey Martin is a proposition player living and working in Las Vegas. For the uninformed, a “proposition player” is someone hired by a casino to join poorly attended card games. Joey Martin is the very epitome of a jaded Vegas dweller. His on-again, off-again girlfriend Lacy gets the brunt of his unpleasant nature, and is all too happy to help his friends take advantage of him one night. In an attempt to make a point, Joey convinces his friend to sell him his soul for the price of a free beer. However, at Lacy's encouragement, thirty-one more people buy into the deal, leaving Joey with thirty-two scraps of paper with signatures, signing over their souls to him. Shortly thereafter, Joey is contacted by representatives from both Heaven and Hell wanting to buy the souls from him. He almost sells them immediately, but due to his vast poker experience realizes that since both parties want the souls, it would be in his best interest to hold out and wait for them to raise the stakes.
Created by the same mind as the Fables series, (Bill Willingham), Proposition Player is an interesting look at how a religion could, theoretically be created. Originally released in 99' by Vertigo Publishing Company, the artwork (by Paul Guinan) is very typical of 90's artwork, but doesn't compromise the story too much. There's a good deal of attention to historical detail, and all in all it's a very interesting read.