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WSOP 2011: Remember & respect

wsop2011-thumb-blog.pngTom "Donkey Bomber" Schneider left 18 beers outside his hotel room for whoever wanted them. He called them his final gift to the poker community as he sped out of town toward Phoenix. He was putting as much distance as he could between his heart and the two ugly coolers that busted him out of the Main Event on Day 1.

"Right now, not sure if I could testify in Congress, under oath, that poker is a game of skill," he quipped. "For starters, I won player of the year."

He was joking, of course (I think). Schneider's 2007 accomplishment and the similar performances that followed have been celebrated as proof positive that poker is a game of skill.

Replied Schneider's biggest supporter, Dan Michalski, "It was a game of skill back in 2007, I think."

There was some intentional irony there on Michalski's part (90% of what the journeyman writer says is deadpan silliness), but there was some kernel of truth there, too. Somewhere in the glare of the TV lights and trampled under the feet of 22-year-old poker wunderkinds is the way poker used to be. Not necessarily 2007, but before that. The year Schneider won the WSOP may seem like eons ago. As it turns out, there was a poker world before that.

What's that? You've already forgotten? Or perhaps you never knew.

There is no denying that a majority of the readers of this blog frame their impressions of poker around what's happened since Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event in 2003. To almost all of them, the past eight years of the poker world ARE the poker world. Everything that happened before 2003 is the kind of stuff they learned about alongside the Roman Empire or the Falklands War. In other words, the past.

Referenced like that, this year's admittedly cataclysmic issues are the biggest thing to ever shake poker. As we wring our hands and wonder if the 20% drop-off in Day 1A numbers could spell disaster for the WSOP, there are people among us who have experienced something even bigger.

In today's field, we've seen the likes of Doyle Brunson, Dewey Tomko, Billy Baxter, Johnny Chan, and T.J. Coutier. These are men who were once part of an exclusive club of gamblers and sharps that has seen its quaint little gambling convention turned into a giant corporate-sponsored machine. They are men who had the respect of every card player who ever lived and now have to deal with 20-somethings who taunt, "Has the game passed you by? Too much three-betting and four-betting for you?"

Those are things actually said to the most-respected man to ever play this game. Those are things said to Doyle Brunson as he struggled to decide whether he actually wanted to play in the poker tournament he helped create. He didn't want to play, but he did anyway. Whether it was a sense of duty to a game that is almost synonymous with his name or simply not wanting to leave it behind, Brunson played today, but his mind was elsewhere. Perhaps on an earlier day of poker. Perhaps on a day he could find the love of the game again. Perhaps just somewhere farther north.

"Can't wait to get out of this madhouse and get to Montana where there are no blinding flash bulbs," he said.

doyle_brunson_wsop_2011.jpg

As the poker world struggles to come to grips with its new reality, it would do well to remember Brunson and the people who came up in the game with him. They are still here. They have survived poker's biggest-ever paradigm shift.

In other words, it was their game and their tournament before it was ever ours, and that's something we could probably hold with a little greater respect.

* * * *

iPAD USE OF THE HOUR
A player on Lex Veldhuis and Sammy Farha's table is passing the time playing Sudoku on his iPad. He's quite good at it, too.

SHRINKING ROOM OF THE HOUR
As eliminations continue at the rate of knots, it is now the far side of the orange section that is being culled table, by table. Just the orange and the purple sections remain in play.

EUROPEAN CLASH OF THE HOUR

Team PokerStars Pro Johnny Lodden now sits at the same table as Ludovic Lacay.

SONG PLAYED IN THE HALLWAY THAT AT LEAST ONE OF THE BLOG TEAM CAN PLAY ON GUITAR HERO OF THE HOUR

"Surrender" by Cheap Trick (novice level)

SO MEANINGLESS ITS HARD TO BELIEVE THEY BOTHERED STATISTIC OF THE HOUR

There are currently eight massage therapists working shoulders in the Amazon Room, four in the purple section, four in the orange section.

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