Obscuroscope: Column three (Pokertox)

A NEW YORK doctor has come up with a concept he has dubbed ‘Pokertox.’ Dr. Jack Berdy’s service offers Botox and facial fillers which will hide any facial emotions or ‘tells’ which give away a poker player’s hand.

Botox is an extremely divisive subject. Some argue that it makes people look inhumane and emotionless. However, if someone is shallow enough to pay for Botox simply to make them a better gambler, they should look inhumane and emotionless. Because that’s a reflection of the type of person they probably are.

Far be it from me to doubt a doctor, but if you are so bad at gambling that you have to pay for Botox in order to win, you shouldn’t really be attempting to gamble in the first place. In fact, you shouldn’t even be allowed near a lottery ticket. That’s how bad a gambler you would have to be: you couldn’t be trusted with a lucky dip.

Obviously, Botox isn’t cheap either. In order to fund Pokertox, you would have to play in extremely high-stakes poker games. And if you need Pokertox to play poker… well, you are never going to get anywhere near a high-stakes poker game or stand a chance of winning.

Many prominent poker players are sceptical that Dr. Berdy’s idea will really work. Josh Hale (no, I’ve never heard of him either) believes that Berdy is ‘15 years too late’ with his gimmick. It is somewhat ironic, however, that a man who plays in a ‘sport’ where the majority of competitors wear sunglasses indoors is labelling something ‘outdated’. A less elaborate way to make clear you’re an eejit than wearing sunglasses indoors would be to get the word ‘EEJIT’ tattooed on your forehead. Another way players have traditionally chosen to shield their faces is by playing with their hoods up. Unless your ears wiggle with excitement when you’ve got a great hand, I fail to see how much good this can really do. If one good thing is to come from Pokertox, let it be that it stops people wearing sunglasses and hoods up whilst sitting at a table!

Dr. Berdy says he requires clients to disclose what their ‘tells’ are in order to help him apply the correct facial fillers in the correct places. The most common ‘tells’ apparently include furrowed brows and curling the corners of your lips. A nuisance? Yes. But here are a few cheaper, more practical suggestions for high rollers: wear a balaclava to poker tournaments; buy toilet roll and wrap it around your face leaving the tiniest slit for your eyes; maybe even buy a ninja outfit and wear that. My suggestions would help to lighten the mood at poker tables. Turning up dressed like a mummy to find people in reflective sunglasses can only be fun. Live a little when you are surrounded by people who look like poor impersonators of Neo from The Matrix.

The strangest aspect of this Pokertox furore is the stance that the American judicial system has adopted. They are worried that criminals could abuse the service to eradicate any evidence of a guilty face. Surely criminals in America aren’t charged based on whether or not they look like they feel bad? Is a man deemed guilty because he takes a beamer when the charges against him are read out? If someone has eyes like Puss in Boots from Shrek, does this make them automatically innocent?! Of course not.

It’s bemusing that people are worried about this. If someone is an astute enough criminal that they have enough money to pay for Botox, I find it hard to believe they will waste their money making sure they don’t look guilty.

For now, American crime fighters can sleep soundly at night. Dr. Berdy has yet to have anyone sign up for Pokertox more than a week after its launch. If any of his target audience have the slightest degree of self-respect, it will stay that way.

By Michael Scobbie, columnist
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