Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Western Journal of Communication 78:1 (January-February 2014), pp. 39–57.

doi: 10.1080/ 10570314.2013.807435


Copyright © 2014 Western States Communication Association; published by Routledge/Taylor and Francis. Used by permission.


This article takes a rhetorical approach to the rise of gambling in America, and in particular the growth of the game of poker, as a means to explore larger changes to America’s collective consciousness that have resulted in an increased acceptance of gambling. I contend that the rise of the risk society has resulted in significant alterations to the mythology that binds Americans together. I establish this claim through the exploration of ESPN’s coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker and its use of the myth of the self-made man. I conclude that gambling works both to critique and reinterpret the myth of the self-made man by putting emphasis on the importance of luck and risk management and deemphasizing the importance of the Protestant ethic, as understood through social and individual virtue. Professional poker players can thus be viewed as entrepreneurial role models for a new, risk-based, society.