Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Checking Out “This Week in Poker”

This Week in PokerMost reading this blog probably already are aware of Wicked Chops’ relatively new web-based show, “This Week in Poker,” which has been around for a couple of months now.

If somehow you haven’t found it yet -- and like news-based poker podcasts like the Two Plus Two Pokercast, The Poker Beat, or the Casino City Gang (like me) -- you should definitely try to find time to tune in to “This Week in Poker.” Good stuff.

The show is part of a network of programs appearing over on the “This Week in” website. It took me a few episodes to get around to watching it -- some time after the WSOP had ended back in July -- and since finding it I have liked what I have seen.

The format, with the hosts sitting at a round table with a dark backdrop talking to guests either in studio or via Skype, sort of resembles “The Charlie Rose Show” or other no-nonsense type talk shows where the content of the conversations is the main focus (and not other commercially-driven priorities). Shows look like they typically last about an hour-and-a-half or so, beginning with an opening segment in which various news items are discussed, after which comes in-depth interviews with a variety of pokery people.

That first part includes “Poker Headlines with Jess,” with Jessica Welman -- recently dubbed the “Tina Fey” of poker by Chops -- going over the week’s big news items. Then come the interviews, with the conversations guided by primary host Chops and the other “Entities,” Colin and Brian.

Last week (Episode #7) Annie Duke, John Pappas (Poker Players Alliance), and Dan Michalski (Pokerati) were on to discuss H.R. 2267 and other items. The most recent show (Episode #8) was also entertaining and informative, with the time split between an interview with actor and poker player Samm Levine and Joe Sebok.

Levine is a pretty familiar face, having had guest spots on numerous TV shows over the last decade. He’s probably best known for a recurring role on “Freaks and Geeks” a while back, a short-lived show that I never saw but have had recommended to me many times. (Whether that makes me a freak, a geek, or both, I cannot say.)

Samm Levine on 'This Week in Poker'Levine turned out to be a very interesting guest, sharing a lot of inside dope about the Hollywood home games. He also offered what I thought was a pretty insightful perspective regarding what he called the “weird curve” of skill one finds in poker, with lots of bad players at the lower stakes, lots of solid players in the middle, and bad ones again showing up among the high rollers at the biggest games.

Then Joe Sebok came on and the conversation mostly revolved around ongoing interest in the UltimateBet insider cheating scandal, revived again by the publishing of Part 2 of Wicked Chops’ summary account. Chops pointed out early on that while he and the Entities are friends with Sebok and Annie Duke -- both UB sponsored pros -- and they also worked on the recently cancelled “Poker2Nite” show (also sponsored by UB), their report on the UB scandal was pursued independently and as objectively as possible.

Sebok was forthright in the interview, doing the best he could to address various ongoing concerns regarding the scandal. Nearly a year after joining UB, becoming both a sponsored pro and a “media and operations consultant,” Sebok continues to sit in an awkward spot, fielding questions about events at UB that mostly transpired prior to his joining the site. That Sebok had an upset stomach at the time of the interview seemed almost symbolic, given how nauseating details of the entire four-and-a-half year long scandal can be.

There were a few interesting moments in the interview, I thought. Sebok spoke of how news of the security breach at UB (from back in May) had been “pretty demoralizing” for him both personally and professionally. He also noted his genuine oncern about the likelihood of UB getting a license to operate in the United States should H.R. 2267 gather enough momentum to get pushed through and made law.

Joe Sebok on 'This Week in Poker'When asked if he ever wished he hadn’t taken the “media and operations consultant” role with UB -- and perhaps just signed as a sponsored pro like others -- I was a little surprised to hear Sebok say “probably, on some level.”

Then again, such a response indicates Sebok’s desire to be as frank as he can about everything, I think.

The problem, of course, that Sebok faces is that he simply doesn’t know the answers to most of the questions people have about what happened at UB. Neither, really, does Tokwiro Enterprises COO Paul Leggett, who just this week posted a statement on the UB blog which includes (again) the profession that none of those linked to the cheating scandals at either Absolute Poker or UltimateBet currently “have an ownership stake in our company [Tokwiro, which owns UB and AP] or any company that we have debt obligations with.”

Of course, some continue to dispute whether that is actually the case, and probably will continue to do so until Cereus finally gets bought up or gets dissolved entirely. As Sebok himself noted, the only real way for everything to come out regarding what happened at UB from 2003-2007 (or at Absolute Poker, for that matter), will be for the individuals involved in the cheating to come forward and tell about it.

And we all know full well how likely that is to happen.

Do check out both the Wicked Chops post from yesterday as well as “This Week in Poker” to get up-to-speed on what people are saying currently about the UB mess. Haley Hintze continues to chronicle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff from the Absolute Poker scandal, too, with her blog being the place to go for information about that one.

Indeed, while the stories of both scandals will never be fully told, I’m personally glad that isn’t stopping some folks from doing what they can to tell them.

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