Thursday, March 11, 2010

TV or Not TV

TV or Not TVAs a child, I watched lots of television. Didn’t distinguish me much. We all did it, just about. Except for that new kid with the fussy parents who wouldn’t let you come in past the foyer when you went over to see if he could play. Word was they didn’t allow TV, for whatever reason. Or maybe it was just one hour a day. The rest of us, though, we watched and watched and watched.

I remember coming home from school and watching “All in the Family” and “Match Game” back-to-back. Both shows were filled with adult-themed references my elementary-school-sized brain couldn’t hope to follow. But I watched nonetheless. ’Cos, well, it was what was on. Then I watched the next show and the one that came after that. Did homework in there somewhere. Ate dinner. And somehow I became a reader, too, despite all the hours in front of the tube.

It really wasn’t until I got to college that I finally turned the TV off. Much, much more interesting things to do, it turned out. Gradually over the years since then I began watching again, but in the last couple of years or so TV has once more begun to fade away from the day-to-day. Vera and I have two sets, but weeks go by without the one upstairs being turned on. The downstairs set gets played a few times a week, though usually it is sports (my choice), home shows (hers), or “30 Rock” (both). And that’s about it.

All of which is to say, I’m almost never watching poker on TV anymore, despite the preponderance of shows available to watch. Sometimes I’ll go online to see an episode or three of “Poker After Dark” or “High Stakes Poker,” or perhaps to catch the latest “Poker2Nite,” but usually doing so is an afterthought -- i.e., not something I’m actively seeking out or for which I’m scheduling time.

2009 Caesars Cup at WSOPEI did happen to see some of the WSOP Europe coverage on ESPN (or ESPN2) the other day. Caught some of that “Caesars Cup” won by the Europeans against the Americans (and Canadian). The show was somewhat interesting to follow, although the poker was hardly compelling since the crazy-fast structure meant it was all-in-all-the-time. The “doubles” matches -- especially those “alternate bet” ones that had teammates taking turns street by street -- presented a couple of curious moments, but again the big, big blinds tended to mute whatever novel strategic questions might have been suggested by the format.

High Stakes PokerI also caught the first episode of the new season of “High Stakes Poker” a couple of days ago, which remains a very entertaining and engaging show, I think. I had been prepared to come away with some sort of opinion about the decision to remove A.J. Benza as co-host and Gabe Kaplan’s straight man, and to introduce Kara Scott in a different role (not commentating but interviewing players). But I was too distracted by Phil Ivey and the others gobbling up Phil Hellmuth’s $200,000 stack of chips within the first half-hour. (I’ll try to watch a few more episodes, then come back down the road with some sort of review of the current season.)

I remember hearing the guys on the 2+2 Pokercast talk about how they almost felt sorry for Hellmuth there. I guess I understood what they meant -- was a pretty desperate stretch of hands for the Poker Brat -- though I can’t say I shared the sentiment.

No need to feel sorry for Hellmuth today, of course, as he is currently the chip leader with 27 players left at the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star event. Close behind are Hassan Habib (2nd) and Andy Seth (3rd), with Matt Keikoan (5th), Faraz Jaka (7th), and Chau Giang (9th) lurking. Jonathan Little and Scotty Nguyen still have chips, too.

Could make for a good TV final table down the road, I guess. I’ll watch, if there isn’t something else to do.

(Post title via the 1973 comedy LP by Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman, one of those Firesign Theatre side projects. “Give Up This Day” still cracks me up. “Good bless you, and God night, and please don't touch that dial...”)

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