Speaking of ESPN, for those still interested in further context and/or analysis of Scotty Nguyen’s “performance” at the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event (Event No. 45), first aired on ESPN last week, tournament director Matt Savage provides a response over on PokerNews centering on the various rules that were violated that night. Also, there have been a couple more podcasts of late concerning the final table and/or ESPN’s coverage that are worth checking out.
One was Gary Wise’s Wise Hand Poker podcast (the 8/20/08 episode), which features an interview with Event No. 50 runner-up and primary Nguyen antagonist Michael DeMichele. DeMichele does a good job explaining his perspective of the various goings-on from that evening, candidly answering all Wise’s well-chosen questions. (Looks like DeMichele is also on the newest episode of the TwoPlusTwo Pokercast, which I have yet to hear.) Incidentally, that show also features an interview with current Main Event chip leader Dennis Phillips, in which Phillips again proves himself an interesting, likable, “everyman.”
The other was the most recent installment of Big Poker Sundays (8/24/08), on which the always thoughtful Shane “Shaniac” Schleger joined Scott Huff. They spent an entire hour discussing the H.O.R.S.E. final table, Nguyen’s antics, ESPN’s manner of packaging the program, Norman Chad’s editorializing, and other, more general topics related to etiquette, rules enforcement, and the ol’ “good of the game” issue.
Toward the end of the Big Poker Sundays show, Huff and Schleger talk about the effect of television and the potential rewards it brings to professional poker players, as well as the impact the prospect of such rewards sometimes has on how they behave. Says Huff, “It’s gotten to the point now in poker that some of these guys who are quote-unquote ‘stars of the game’ have really gone off the deep end” in terms of how they present themselves to the public -- especially when the television cameras are around. To Huff, it appears that “promoting yourself has become [such] a big deal for some of these guys to the point where they’ve totally lost it.”
Schleger’s response made me think a little of what I had written last Friday about the incident, particularly those observations of Tommy Angelo’s I shared concerning the stressful nature of poker. Schleger half-jokingly observed that sometime during this year’s WSOP he’d concluded that “95 to 99% of all full-time poker players have some kind of, you know, clear mental disease... clear mental illness... myself included,” listing traits such as an “extreme level of self-absorption,” “paranoid delusions,” and “manic depressive psychosis” as evidence that “we’re all messed up in the head, severely.” Circling back to Nguyen and the H.O.R.S.E. event, Schleger concluded “you add television cameras, you add alcohol, and this is what you get.”
As I say, Schleger is half-kidding around here, but he makes an interesting observation (I think) about the kind of person who gravitates towards poker/gambling in general, and professional tournament poker in particular.
Angelo spoke on that TwoPlusTwo Pokercast (the 8/18/08 episode) of how poker “tests us,” presenting numerous stressors (all at once) that are very similar those we encounter away from the poker tables, kind of like a “little microcosm” of the larger world.
In other words -- and I’m overgeneralizing points made by Angelo and Schleger just a bit here -- Angelo is talking about how poker makes us crazy, while Schleger is suggesting it is the crazy ones who find poker. “We’re diseased, screwed-up individuals,” says Schleger, “who are very lucky something that something like gambling came along that we can make a living at.”
So which came first? Were we crazy before we found poker? Or did poker make us that way?