Boldly going where no blog has gone before.
I’ve been watching the 2003 World Series of Poker the past few days. I think I’m addicted.
Now, mind you, I can’t actually play poker myself. Well, not very well, anyway. I’ve never had a ‘regular’ poker game, nor even attended a party where the stated goal was to piss my money away to friends and others over a game of cards. I’ve never been to Vegas, I’d rather play hearts — or even the seventeen different kinds of solitare that I know — than poker, and the closest I’ve come to betting on my card-shark skills is a few hours of semi-successful video poker at a casino in Connecticut. So clearly, I have no idea what I’m watching.
However, despite all that, this show is mesmerizing. I simply can’t stop watching it. For me, it’s a sublime study in the sociology of a certain seedy segment of society. Namely, the risk-craving, pot-bellied, cigar-chomping, cadaver-resembling, indoor-sunglasses-wearing segment known as ‘professional poker players’. And they’re fascinating.
There’s the ‘bad boy’, the ‘John McEnroe ot Poker’, Phil Hellmuth. He pouts, he bitches, he taunts, and yes — if you clicked the link and looked at the picture — he really does look like he has a badger up his ass most of the time.
Then, there’s Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson. Gee, he doesn’t look like the sort of guy who spends fourteen hours a day in a casino, now, does he?
You into the old school types? Well, then. I submit for your approval living legend Amarillo Slim Preston (on the left in photo), who won the event in 1972. That’s 1972, kiddies. I was two years old. Many of you weren’t born yet. And he’s still playing among the world leaders well into his seventies. How fucking cool is a sport like poker, when you can play it in your Depends? Rock on, Slim.
Okay, so I haven’t seen an episode with this guy, Dave Develfish Ulliot, but he’s classic, isn’t he? He’s got ‘poker monkey’ written all over him. Well, that or ‘creepy street person’. So let’s hope he continues to rake in the scratch playing cards. How’d you like to have him rummaging through your trash looking for aluminum cans?
Want more? Well, if you thought the face of poker has changed much over the years, you only have to check out mugs like Dan Harrington, Jason Lester, Jeff Shulman, Bruno Fitoussi, Dutch Boyd, and Scotty Nguyen to realize just how wrong you are. This is your father’s Oldsmobile, kids, and I suspect it always will be. It’s a sweaty, smoky, trash-talking mindfuck, with a few hands of poker thrown in to break up the tension. It’s ego-driven, male-dominated, and testosterone-laced action. ‘You raisin’ me, punk? You raisin’ me? I’ll take all your money, and the shirt off your back, bitch. You ain’t nobody.‘
Okay, so they don’t really say things like that. But they’re thinkig it. The snide comments, the offhand backhanded compliments, the delay tactics, the choreographed deliberations and diversions. It’s all one big way of saying, ‘Fuck you, skippy. Your fat ass is about to hit the poor house, while I take a bath in this mountain of chips.‘
It’s the ultimate reality show, and I don’t even like reality shows. But that’s because most of them are contrived, ridiculous nonsense. Get ten comics together in a house and let ’em fight it out. Yeah, that’s real. Throw hot young near-models together, let ’em shack up, and swap one out every week. Sure, that happens to me all the time. Fly a gaggle of misfits off to some backwater hellhole to eat bugs and compete for showers and hamburgers. Wow, it’s like, soooo real. Fuck that.
But this poker tournament — this, I can relate to. Even without knowing the first damned thing about poker. These guys are pale, pissy, and out of shape. They think everybody’s out to get them, and they’re playing a screw-or-be-screwed game. They trust no one, watch the other guys’ every move, and make sure they don’t do anything stupid along the way. They wear bad clothes, eat bad food, and stay up until three in the morning. Now that’s a reality show! That’s my friggin’ life in a nutshell, except for the second-hand smoke and the enormous wads of cash. But still, it’s as close as I get to relating to anything on TV these days, so I’m gonna keep tuning in.
Oh, and here’s the very most bestest part: …um, wait. I should probably throw in a disclaimer first. This tourney actually happened in May, and I assume that it aired then, and that I’m watching reruns. But since I missed it the first time, then you might have, too. So, if knowing in advance who wins the thing would ruin it for you, you should probably piss off for a while. Because the very most bestest part is who came out on top. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Major spoiler just below.
<!– SPOILER STARTS HERE –>
Okay, now we’ve driven off the riff-raff. Back to the best part:
So, the very most bestest part is that this guy ended up winning. Why is that so cool? He looks a lot like all the other long-timers and old pros, right? Well, yes, he does. But he isn’t. His name is — if you can believe this sort of thing — Chris Moneymaker, and he started playing poker about three years ago. He got into the tournament by parlaying a $40 investment — on an online poker site — into a World Series invitation. He’d never played for money against live, in-the-flesh and in-your-face, professionals before. And he kicked all their asses. How cool is that? Plus, it’s finally proof that the Internet is actually good for something. Other than this blog, of course.
<!– SPOILER ENDS HERE –>
So, watch the show. It’s interesting on many levels, not the least of which is that some goon walks away with two and a half million dollars for five days of ‘work’. And you might learn a thing or two, even if you don’t play cards yourself. For instance, if the boss starts scratching her chin when she promises you a raise, you can be pretty sure she’s bluffing. Or if your spouse starts fiddling with a pen when you ask for some lovin’, then clearly, you’re not getting any tonight. And if none of that entices you to watch, at least you can tune in for this: these are world-class, professional athletes, playing at the top of their games. And you could still kick their asses in a fight. And at the end of the day, you’ve got to be pleased with that. Bet on it.Permalink | No Comments