Friday, October 15, 2010

World Series of Poker sells out

I've lost a lot of money playing poker. Back in the day I was a part of a real poker group, although in hindsight I think they just kept me around for the extra $20 in the pot. We played often and we played hard. Often I found myself exhausted of chips early on and would be forced to watch the others at work. Our table had it all: the trash-talkers, the cheapskates, the hot-heads and the silent ones. We had a few kids that would bring little good luck charms like an old lady on bingo night. Some kids would think they were hustlers, wearing shades and spinning chips across their knuckles, like the dexterity alone would help them with cards. One day you're losing the money your mom gave you to buy bread, the next you almost won your friend's favorite shirt off his back. Really, what I'm trying to say, is that I didn't mind losing my money. Watching their reaction to every flop and river was worth it. Only in poker could being called lucky be a bad thing.

What I'm getting at is, poker can be a spectator sport. There is legitimate drama to be had on the felt of a poker table. The poker community, however, has lost its roots. The backroom game and playing poker with buddies has little in common with what goes on in the World Series of Poker.

The evil empire of poker.

In 2002 the World Series of Poker introduced the pocket-cam. With the inclusion of the pocket-cam, the viewers at home were able to see what every player on the table had. This new sense of drama added to the viewership and made tools across the nation think that they could be poker champions. These people didn't realize that it's easy to know what to do if you can see everyone's cards. And thus, the poker-boom was created.

Before, poker was a man's game. Unless you had a casino near you you were forced to make friends and have an actually poker group. These games were more social, an excuse to drink Yuengling and smoke cigars. A celebration of manhood and friendship. The serious poker players were relegated to backroom games or living in a casino town.

While the World Series of Poker was founded in 1970, it didn't have the following it does today. Back then poker was ESPN 2 kind of entertainment, broadcast between Scrabble tournaments and spelling bees. Poker did gain popularity after Rounders was released in 1998 but even the star power of Edward Norton and Matt Damon joining the event wasn't enough to put it over the top. Rounders is an amazing movie though. If you are playing poker with friends and not one of them quotes Rounders, you need new poker buddies. A true poker player should be able to recite this movie line-for-line.

"Pay the man his money..."

The poker craze started by the pocket-cams and the celebrity tournaments is over though. Whatever momentum poker had is spent and now it's just sailing off the wake of the splash. What was once a noble game is now a corporation. Players that use to play for the honor of wearing the bracelets are now decked out like some NASCAR driver.

Yo.

Poker is a great game but now it's a business. This is gambling, there shouldn't be corporate sponsors. Now every major poker player has an online poker site backing it. Online gambling is rigged anyway. Every chump in the real money games dream of cashing in checks without leaving their computer but it never works. Casinos try and keep you in the building so you can lose all your money to them. Now all somebody has to do to take your money is to keep you in your computer chair. There are two constants in poker: you will lose money on bad beats and Phil Hellmuth will always be a baby.

Such a pansy.

Poker is a great game, nay, a great sport. Anybody who tells you that it doesn't take any skill doesn't know what they are talking about. To quote Rounders, "Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker every year? What, are they the luckiest guys in Las Vegas?" With that being said, the World Series of Poker has lost it's heart. It sold its soul for a block on ESPN and a book deal for any pro who thinks they have enough tips to fill 300 pages. People need to remember the poker roots and realize not everyone can be an online champion and become a pro like Chris Moneymaker. He is the exception, not the rule. With a name like Moneymaker you know he was born to make it rain.

Dollar, dollar, bills ya'll.

No comments:

Post a Comment