The Poker Players


Fiction - Drama
166 Pages
Reviewed on 09/01/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

The Poker Players by Edward Dreyfus takes us deep inside the male psyche, especially fashioned by the era of the mid-20th century prevailing attitudes. Growing up in the 50’s, there were two cardinal rules for men: 1/ Big Boys Don’t Cry and 2/ You Are What You Do for a Living – men are defined by their profession. Dreyfus examines these paradigms through the eyes of five septuagenarians, who all live in New York and have been meeting regularly for the past thirty odd years for their weekly poker game. When George announces that he is dating, the other four are shocked – after all, he’s married, how could he be dating? After George explains that he and his wife got divorced six months earlier, everyone begins to realize how little they actually know about their poker buddies’ lives outside of the game, despite meeting every week for over thirty years. What starts out as a pact to open up and share more with each other soon turns into a weekend away in the Catskills, where these five “buddies” will seek to open up to each other and maybe share some of the more intimate details of their lives and even long buried and frightening secrets from their pasts. Will these five “buddies” become real friends through this experience or will their instinctual, playing their cards close to their chests tactic be the norm?

As someone who is not too far removed from the age group of these characters, the novel indeed hit close to home for me. I was able to identify with the angst they all felt at revealing their innermost feelings to each other – hey, this just something we men of this generation don’t do. The Poker Players was a truly inspirational read and author Edward Dreyfus has manufactured a wonderful selection of characters that perfectly portrayed the inner turmoil most men of a generation conditioned by their parents, their peers, and society in general carry inside. The emotion, the gut-wrenching fear of revealing their inner selves and the horror these men felt at being thought less of was palpable throughout the entire read. What I particularly enjoyed was the idea that just because these men were in their seventies, life didn’t have to be a process of “waiting for God” to take them. They were vibrant, vital human beings who still had a lot to offer each other and society. In this world of dross, angst, and division, a story like this is so uplifting and I commend the author on his insight into the emotions of men and the male psyche. This is definitely not a book exclusively for men. Everyone can benefit from reading it and gain insight into the male psyche, plus it has a real New York humor and vibe, which I enjoyed. A book that lingers long in the memory after one has finished reading it, The Poker Players is a book of true quality.

Viga Boland

The Poker Players by Edward Dreyfus is a rather innovative approach to understanding human beings and what lies beneath the faces they present daily to their family, friends and work associates. The story’s protagonists...five of them...are in their seventies and enjoy getting together weekly for poker, food, wine and the usual small talk about things of interest to men. But one evening, they suddenly realize how shallow their chatter is and how little they know about each other after 30 years of poker nights.

Their decision to spend a weekend away getting to know each other better leads to sharing secrets they’ve hidden from their nearest and dearest all their lives. Their reasons vary from shame to fear of rejection...the fears men don’t want other men to know about. After all, unlike women, men are raised to believe tears are for sissies and to keep their cards close to their chests. The result of such secrecy becomes increasingly burdensome as we age, and the relief of finally telling someone you trust the real truth about yourself can be so liberating, even exhilarating. This is something women seem to know instinctively, but men actually have to learn in order to tear down the self-protective walls life has taught them to build.

Despite some of the almost shocking truths each of these five septuagenarians reveal, each learns more about himself, as well as the others. The truths they share change each of them and the lives of their immediate families for the better, leaving them wondering why it took them so long to realize that, despite what they’ve done, they are still worthy of love. What are some of those secrets? Not a chance I’ll spoil your read by telling you anything more than this: I cannot recommend The Poker Players strongly enough. It’s only a short book but it is long on wisdom, loaded with insights into humanity and interesting philosophical and psychological concepts. Most of the book consists of dialogue, making it a quick but unforgettable read. Add this one to your night table.

Vincent Dublado

In this poignant and realistic novel, Edward A. Dreyfus explores the inner workings of the aging mind to bring a thought-provoking fiction story to life. Join Dave, Richie, Louie, Max, and George--five poker buddies in their septuagenarian years--in The Poker Players. In their waning years, they go on a retreat to a mountain cabin for a weekend of poker and getting to know each other. They find it ironic that they have been playing cards together for thirty years yet know very little about one another. This, they feel, defeats the concept of lifelong friendship. It surprises them to discover that one of them had a divorce six months ago, or that one of them had prostate surgery. They lock their aches and pains inside out of fear of being seen as whiners. As they agree to become more transparent during their retreat, stark revelations about the secrets they keep test their friendships. It alters their lives, including those of the people they hold dear.

Mr. Dreyfus was a practicing clinical psychologist for more than fifty years, and this adds credibility to his exploration of the human psyche. He had the privilege of entering the minds of people from different walks of life. The Poker Players is a close examination of aging, wisdom, and relationships. It vividly demonstrates how caducity affects the way the seniors among us look at life when their prime has left them. Mr. Dreyfus shows us that youth and middle age are mere preparation for us to enjoy the realities and pleasures of our golden years. His dialogue-driven plot makes for outspoken characters and gritty storytelling. He presents a balanced, educated conversation among characters that never get long-winded. The subject he touches can strike our nerves, but it renews our impulse to live longer.