A favorite saying back then was to observe how what one sees on television wasn’t a good representation of so-called “real poker.” Since the shows were often edited to highlight the biggest encounters -- the bustouts and double-ups -- we saw lots of all-in bets and not so much post-flop maneuvering. Thus could one get the impression from TV that playing poker meant being in a state of constant crisis, with little down time or even that much evidence of the way the game demands careful thought.
Sort of like most television, movies, video games, what have you. Always something happening. No time for thinkin’.
Of course, poker on TV has changed over the years, with shows like “High Stakes Poker” and “The PokerStars.net Big Game” now delivering us long sequences of cash-game hands, thereby introducing a much greater variety into the programming. Still, even in those settings, many continue to maintain that “TV poker” is fundamentally different from “real poker,” with the need to create action -- and thus keep viewers interested -- being a kind of unwritten rule players have to follow.
That latter idea was highlighted over the last couple of days following the most recent episode of “The PokerStars.net Big Game,” thanks largely to a couple of hands involving Andrew “Good2CU” Robl.
By taking a little longer than most to make decisions at the table, Robl drew the ire of Tony G who responded by calling the clock on the young player -- first in a hand between the pair, then again in another hand between Robl and Negreanu. Here’s a video compiling those moments as well as some follow-up comments by the players.
Commenting on the action, Joe Stapleton makes an observation during the first hand. “As entertaining as this is,” says Stapleton, “it’s actually breaking etiquette a little bit to call the clock on someone, especially in a cash game where the blinds don’t increase.”
The usually irascible Tony G acknowledged as much in a recent blog post about the episode and his behavior, provocatively titled “I Am the Third Most Hated Man in Poker.” There Tony G admits he “crossed the line,” but adds that he nevertheless had “a point about [Robl’s] nittish waiting at a bus stop behavior,” explaining that Robl’s deliberations “drove me to distraction.”
In his short post, Tony G doesn’t explicitly say that because they were playing on television, Robl should have been playing more quickly. However, the always-opinionated Negreanu did make that very point in his comment on the show, which one can find posted in a thread over on Two Plus Two.
You can read Negreanu’s statement yourself, which includes a number of comments about televised poker in general and multiple criticisms of Robl in particular. To sum up Kid Poker’s thesis, he says TV poker must be played quickly as production costs are significant, and also should be played “faster” in terms of players’ willingness to give action, partly because they are being paid to appear. Robl failed in both regards on “The Big Game,” says Negreanu, taking too long to act and also refusing to straddle when all of the others wished to do so.
In other words, it sounds like “Good2CU” is not the nickname Negreanu would choose for Robl. (EDIT [added 7:00 p.m. ET]: Negreanu has added a few more thoughts about the show in a blog post, where he also notes he and Robl have recently spoken and “we are cool and we squashed it.”)
Robl has also spoken up about the show, yesterday publishing a blog post about the episode and the issues that have been raised.
Again, I’ll let you read Robl’s post if you are curious about particulars, but in essence he’s defending playing a deliberate, analytical game (regardless of the context), he points out that straddling doesn’t necessarily lead to increased action (while also potentially reduces the skill component), and he additionally notes that while there are production costs his time is also valuable. (Robl also speaks in complimentary terms about both Tony G and Negreanu while at the same time rating himself a better player than both.)
While I find myself leaning in the direction of agreeing more with Robl than with his older opponents here, it might be that I am being more swayed by the thoughtfulness of his response than by the particulars of his position.
Because I can see, too, what Tony G is implying and what Negreanu makes explicit -- namely, that TV poker is still different from “real poker.” There are always going to be other games going on there, too, besides the one with the cards and the chips -- something anyone who goes on TV to play is probably going to have to acknowledge one way or another.