Monday, July 24, 2006

Tournament Poker is for Sissies

If you're a fan of poker, and you haven't been watching High Stakes Poker on GSN, you're missing out on the truest poker game you will ever see. While most tournament final tables are little more than edited sideshows featuring mostly lottery winners, High Stakes Poker shows a REAL poker game, with real serious money on the line. If Todd Brunson busts out of a WPT tournament, he's out $10,000, which is pretty much what he probably gives away in tips while he's at the casino. No big deal. However, watch Todd call off 40 or 50 grand in a live poker game, and see him transformed from an even tempered ambassador of poker to a snarling beast, yelling at those slowing up the game while he's stuck. Just like the game at your local casino! This is a game where you see professionals in their element, and you see who can really play. You find out who has the heart of a lion and who can't take the heat. No satellite qualifiers here, this is the real deal, and no one is in a big hurry to risk $100,000 of real money on a pre-flop coin flip with AK.

You can also see, here like nowhere else:

The legendary Mike Matusow blow up:

Due to traditional coverage of poker, most viewers are led to believe that Matusow is some kind of clown who managed to stumble into a few lucky tournament situations. In fact, Mike is a brilliant poker mind who made the final table of the WSOP main event twice, and went deep a third time, in the era of massive WSOP fields. He can instantly calculate outs and has an incredible sense of whether another player is strong or weak. He also has a tendency to play too long, get tired, and make big mistakes. These mistakes typically are in the order of seeing flops with the same kind of trouble hands that he handled brilliantly earlier in the session, and getting in the kind of disastrous trouble that makes most players never want to play these hands in the first place (I identify a lot with Mike). On High Stakes Poker, you can watch the entire dramatic arc, from success, to a chance at redemption lost (leaving the game at the right time), to the tragic conclusion.

Antonio Esfandiari's Frustration:

See Antonio take brutal beats and get his bluffs picked off at every turn, leading him to consider quitting poker and taking up a career in furniture sales. Who among us hasn't felt this way? Isn't it nice to know the poker demigods do too?

Tournament poker, while fun and exciting to watch, isn't that relatable. Making a high stakes final table is something most of us can only dream about, and once you get to the final table, frankly, the hard part is over. GSN's High Stakes Poker is just like the game you and I play, and the players act just like we do. They joke around when they're winning, they get moody when they're losing, and they agonize whenever anyone puts them all in. The poker stars are human after all. Which is comforting, and more than a little educational too.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

I keep trying to watch poker on television, really, I do. I hope to gain insight into the minds of these people.

I think the problem is, that I find myself so far removed from the array of emotions that it takes to want to do this. For me it's like watching Trobriand Cricket. Fun for a few minutes, a novelty, but not something I can relate to.