You also burn calories if you sit and stare. At your cards. Intently. For at least an hour. If you stare long and hard enough, shuffle them around, for over three hours, Shelby Stidham (whoever she may be) promises you’ll be `353 calories lighter. And if you develop a nervous tick, shake your legs or sweat profusely out of sheer excitement at the cards fate and the dealer have dealt you, who knows how many more calories you may burn?
So the next time your parents, your doctor or your dearly beloved advise you to get off your pancake posterior and do some exercise, inform them that the Supreme Court of India, I repeat, the Supreme Court of India, has ruled that playing teen patti, rummy or bridge is a “physical sport”.
Earlier this month, a Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, H L Dattu, declared what all blue-blooded card players know to be true: “When you play cards, you use your hands. It can be a physical sport, why not?” Why not, indeed. When Viswanathan Anand is hailed as one of India’s greatest sportsmen — not gamester, mind you — for checkmating a king with his thumb and forefinger, then those of us who make or play tricks with 52 cards deserve to be known as champion sportspersons too.
And we have our championships: the next Bridge World Cup Championship is to be held in — wait for it — India this October. There’s also a WSOP in Maryland USA right now, featuring the best poker players in the world.
Take that Mr Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi for disparagingly calling them “parlour games”. He probably meant “kitty party” — men are so sexist, even about cards — since the only parlour we see these days is in Downton Abbey (Star World).
Games, sports, what’s the difference? According to that know-it-all so-and-so, BBC, there is one: “Sports are activities which require physical effort and ability to some degree, and some degree of mental skill usually.” For card games, “not so much, if any, physical ability or skill is needed”, states BBC’s Roger on its website in response to a reader’s question. Evidently, Roger has never played a game of cards. If he thinks sitting in a chair, still as the wood inside the chair and holding up your cards for up to three hours can be achieved without “physical effort and ability to some degree” he’s never sat still in a chair for three hours.
Take a game like teen patti. To play it successfully requires tremendous “mental skill”: you have to assess the three cards in your hand, keep a straight face at all times — when you bluff or when you have a “trail” — you have to know when to “pack” and when to double the “chaal” — all the while sizing up your opponents’ ability to do the same. It’s jolly hard work.
Don’t believe me, I’m just an armchair journalist who finds watching TV for a living exhausting; I have to exercise superhuman restraint (“exercise” being then an operative word) to stop myself from throwing the remote at the LCD every evening when Super Prime Time begins on Times Now. After that, a game of bridge is about as arduous as eating ice cream.
But listen to Wasim Akram. The legendary left arm fast bowler of Pakistan said recently at the cricket World Cup 2015 that he found sitting in the commentary box and moving his mouth far more tiring than running into bowl at over 100 kmph.
While playing cards, you don’t just use your mouth; you slide your eyes across to peak into your opponents’ cards, you tilt back your back for the same cheating purpose, you use your hands to play, your memory to track the play, your mind to make the next wrong play. Above all, you tense your jaws and stomach muscles whenever you make a mistake — with every mistake, you acquire a smaller waistline and poorer teeth.
Finally, there are all the stomach-churning refreshments. In no other game do you eat while you play: sportspersons need to eat and drink to keep up their strength, so go ahead, reach for that chocolate brownie — what’s the point of just sitting there watching others eat? If nothing else, it’s downright impolite to refuse your hosts’ hospitality or those chicken sandwiches at the Gymkhana Club.
Oh, one last thing: never yell out at your partner or opponents when you lose — “It’s all your fault!”
To be a card player you need to be more than a sportsperson. You need to be a sport. A sport who knows it’s alright to lose at cards as long as you lose weight too.
The story appeared in print with the headline Finally, a Good Hand