Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Holodeck Poker: Who makes the cut when the chips are down?

I’ve seen my fair share of Star Trek episodes, though I’m not exactly a Trekkie. I’m squarely in the “The Next Generation” generation: Too young to have a pre-ironic appreciation of Shatner, and too over it to get into Voyager.

Data plays poker with Hawking, Einstein, Newton

Data plays poker with Hawking, Einstein, Newton

I grew up watching Picard, Data and LaForge battle the borg. For this history and science geek, second only to Picard’s “Engage!”, the iconic Star Trek TNG moment is Data on the Holodeck, simulating a poker game with his three scientific heroes: Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking.

Because I’m currently living on one of the most remote places on the planet, surrounded by parsecs of water, forests and fog, I feel no less isolated than Data, on the Enterprise, out near the Romulan border, and today I found myself imagining my own holodeck poker game. Which three would I invite?

Interestingly, my mind went first to living persons (Rachel Maddow, Johnny Depp, Richard Dawkins), but they’re aliveā€”I could just beam them up to the transporter room. No, to be true to the established traditions of holodeck poker, they would have to be simulated real dead people. Data spent time on the Holodeck solving mysteries in the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes, but for poker and conversation, he preferred real but extinct personalities.

So who would it be? Sadly, I am primarily monolingual. So like Data, computer translations notwithstanding I’ll stick with speakers of English. How about…

Benjamin Franklin

Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Katherine Hepburn

I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.

Robert Ingersoll.

My creed is that: Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so.

Who are your Holodeck Poker partners, alive or dead?


  1. Wow, great question. I am torn between those I just want to meet and those who would be fun in a game of poker . . . Here’s my answer today:

    Tupac Shakur

    I don’t have no fear of death. My only fear is coming back reincarnated.

    Jacques Derrida

    Certain readers resented me when they could no longer recognize their territory, their institution.

    Anne Hathaway (1556-1623)

    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players

  2. An intriguing trio, but given Tupac’s fear, how do you think he would feel about being literally reincarnated on the holodeck?

  3. Dead:

    Cleopatra – I would expect to be trounced by her.

    Ceasar – I would expect him to be trounced by Cleopatra too.

    Albert Einstein – Would proabably be sticking his tongue out at everyone every time he lost a hand.

    Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorn Clemens) – I wouldn’t care if I was being trounced by Cleopatra. I would be laughing too hard. And he’s the dark horse. Being from the old west he might trounce Cleopatra.


    Chris “Jesus” Ferguson

    Howard Lederer

    Daniel Negreanu

    Scotty Nguyen

    Phil Hellmuth

    I would totally get trounced. But to sit at a table with all of them in person would be such a great story.

  4. Window stole one of mine:

    Derrida- “To risk meaning nothing is to start to play…” I assume he means play poker.

    Shakespeare- she must have been one hell of a woman.

    Parmenides- mostly to get him to clarify his ‘one and the many’ nonsense.

  5. Actually, I stole two of yours. Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare’s wife, who, as we all know, wrote all of his good stuff.

  6. Yeah, I would definitely have to work my way back into his good graces. Hopefully he would find the whole thing too exciting to notice: “Addicted to drama/so even Mama couldn’t save me.”

  7. ooh, you went with actual poker players. I sense a game breaking out.

  8. Vincent Van Gogh

    There is no blue without yellow and without orange.

    Regina Spektor

    Maybe you should just kiss someone nice or lick a rock–or both. Maybe you should cut your own hair (cause that can be so funny. It doesn’t cost any money and it always grows back–hair grows even after you’re dead).

    Shel Silverstein

    If you are a dreamer,come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!

    I’m thinking we’d only get to shuffling the cards. Then we’d leave them to go outside and play instead.

  9. Not a great poker game, but you’d have a lot of fun.

  10. I taught this (Shakespeare actually being Anne Hathaway)to a class of tenth graders I substituted for. It blew their minds. And yet they seemed to instantly think it made sense.

  11. I’m going to go with…

    Gandhi–he wouldn’t play aggressively and he would never bluff, but somehow he would end up with all the chips.

    “Stonewall” Jackson–his game would be pretty traditional, though a little quirky, but he would never lose a battle.

    M.C. Escher–he would bring a completely different perspective to the game. You would never know what angle he might try next.