Friday, June 02, 2006


It has been said that basically the career of a top class mathematician is basically over before the guy’s thirty. It’s a young man game and basically the rest of his life is spent wistfully retrospective. Now I doubt I could be argued as a top class anything but I kinda know the feeling. The best of this blog is not to come. It’s already shot its bolt. One of my favourites was Sport of Kings. It was one of my classic rage against the dying of the light entries where my true vitriolic colours were revealed.

Now against all common sense I actually watched a few televised tourneys to see if I was another pointless Nostradamus or did I really get a glimpse beyond the veil? First, the unintentionally funny. Mad Marty being a tourney director for a proper live event. Now I reported before that he did some sad TV stuff but those vanity 6 player crapshoots barely qualify as poker. But this was a real tourney! It makes you wonder what the qualifications of a tournament director are. Just turning up? Being matey with a load of players and being involved in the worst tourney decision in TV history?

Comedy apart, WTF about the WPT? I can't understand why any serious pro plays in it. Except for the rationale that if you don't stand outside in a thunderstorm you can't get hit by lightening. It that all the WPT has turned into? An exercise of clutching a lightning rod in the dark and hoping to get zapped? I’m afraid so. Let’s have a further look. One of the obvious statements about tournament poker is that you would like to have more chance to exert your skill when the money matters most. This boils down to having more play at the final table.

How does the WPT compare to say the WSOP circuit in that regard? The truth is frightening, unless you are especially conductive. At a Circuit event the blinds increase on average by 30% in each round. At headsup the players had about 200 big blinds of play between them. All good. In the rollin’ dem bones WPT the blinds increase by 60-70% each round, and at headsup the players have an amazing 70 or so big blinds between them. Which often then turns into 30. So with often nearly $500k to $1million to play for, skill has effectively been removed from the equation.

This is basically turning the WPT less into a sport – no surprise there – and more into a bad reality TV show. This is bad for poker for several reasons. Foremost, if other TV teaches us anything, is that people get easily bored with reality TV after awhile. Not in the general, where there is mountains of the inane crap, but in the particular, where shows quickly die after several series or less. Also, and especially so for the poker is sport lunacy crowd, sponsorship will never be interested in the game until there are recognisable characters. Series one promised this, but now every Tom, Dick and Harry is winning an event. Investment does not follow the anonymous.

So although I am envious of the strike it rich crowd I still steer clear of the tournament scene as I know that I just couldn’t cope with the most important poker experience of my life coming down to red and black, odd and even.


Gergery said...

I've heard that ratings for the WPT have declined dramatically this year. So maybe you have something.

One interesting idea along the lines of having recognizable personalities is to have a league with teams of players, sort of like Davis Cup tennis matches. Have them play some deep stack heads up poker. You lose some of the "anyone can win" mentality tho that helps make it successful.

Big Dave D said...

We're several years behind in the UK on the WPT but I wouldnt be surprised if the bubble is slowly deflating in the US. The simple answer is to construct the game that better suits the players, not TV. TV lurves the luckfest of small stack poker on the WPT. Less hands, less need of editing, less knowledge, more chance of pointlessly large pots.



AJ "The Triple Threat" Martino said...

I'm in the U.S. and just like reality tv crap, we are being over-saturated with a variety of lame poker shows besides the WPT.

There are a number of networks putting on various shows that are ridiculous.

There's the Boston vs. New York challenge where they find the most obnoxious losers from both cities to play against one another. They're trying to create "characters" out of these idiots.

Then there are some online poker site sponsored shows where various qualifying players compete against one another. Most of them are drier than toast.

And the WPT has turned into an assclown-fest. With fake audience members hooting and hollering and pumping their fists like they're on a bad episode of the Arsenio Hall show, and with a variety of luckbox douchebags jumping up and down and running to the audience to high-five their posse after they catch their 1-outer on the river to eliminate an all-in player who wins $2 for taking 4th place (the prize money then jumps to 300 grand for 3rd)

They're killing poker off methinks. :(

razboynik said...

Hi Dave !
And interesting article and very valid argument. Tournaments are generally a 'crapshoot' at the end, but WPT have personified that scenario.
The poker 'boom' has pluses and minuses; like a double edged knife, it cuts both ways. Time will tell.

chaos said...

It is important to differentiate between what the public wants and what we the discerning viewer want.
Certainly a portion of the televised game should be deep stacked play, but also I don't see millions of americans turning off their tv sets muttering 'nothing but a crapshoot'.

Above anything the game needs a saga, characters. I'd quite happily pay money to watch a pissed up Tony Gee have a match up with Mr Impervious, Surindar.

Snookers A dying sport but anyone whose ever watched the game, would tune into watch Hendry, O'Sullivan. Every sport thrives on rivalries, it needs the Nadal v Federer, Ali v Foreman. Poker needs its identity, do tennis fans want to watch Woods play Michelson at flushing meadow? Do golf fans?

Have a tournament with 16 'nominated' players, with the first round losers playing against eachother to come back next year/season or some round robin tournament. Whatever it is, the game needs a story line, it seems to be what the public hanker for.

Anonymous said...

From a card player point of view I agree with what you say. But (there always is a but) we are not the audience that the producers/network are looking for. TV wants average people who can get excited over meaningless garbage. The average person on the street likes the allin format -they think it is exciting!

Don't forget, the poker boom was generated by this type of programing. So if there was no stupid programing on TV where would all the new players come from? Prior to the WPT a big tournament had around 80 players with the WSOP having 500-800 for the ME. Today the WSOP ME is projecting 8,000 entrants and over 100,000 players are on Party during the evenings east coast time.

So in reality we all a large debt (pun intended) of gratitude to both the WPT and Chris Moneymaker

Big Dave D said...

Some general additional thoughts. The main problem poker has is its very flexibility. Most real sports have a codified body of rules and an organisation that protects them. Now they are sometimes tweaked, often with the spectator in mind, bu tnever to the detriment of the game as a whole. At least not intentionally. A good example would be Soccer when FIFA changed the pass back to the keeper rule after a particular tiresome World Cup. Poker has not, and I can't see how it ever could, have such an approach. So the TV monkeys rule the roost. And its clear they've gone for the big brother approach. This is also why the character thing isnt working out either. Sports need identified personalities to scrap it out, not a relentless train of lightening seekers.

Also, I think its slightly misleading to say that the TV stuff has created the boom. Strictly speaking, it was the Internet boom, which accelerated TV, which then fed off each other. The Internet thing will still drive toruney events and will, will *have to*, survive when the TV dies down.



Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Just wanted to say congrats on the new column. It was easily the best one in the new card player europe.

Also I agree about the internet fueling the poker boom. I don't think the most important factor was moneymaker or the WPT but the ability of everyone to find a poker game to play in at any time of the day. The TV ratings may die but people will continue to gamble online long after. Keep up the good columns.


Big Dave D said...


cheers me dear. Scroll up!


Anonymous said...

TV shows do much to draw new players into the game hence the boom, the impression that anyone can win at poker, with some many televised 'coin flips' also encourages gamblers to take a punt.

Why would pros get involved? Well I dont know but for sure I can guess, there is the 'celebrity factor' which is bound to be a draw for many players and then there is promotion of internet sites for which many of them no doubt are the end it all comes down to fame and that a surprise?