Monday, April 11, 2011

Learning from the Masters

2011 Masters leaderboardWas a busy weekend, although I did find time to check in on that fairly exciting final round of the Masters yesterday. Also had one eye over on Twitter, where it was interesting to follow some of the comments on the golf being shared by those I follow.

Among the funnier messages was one from Jon Aguiar, sent around that moment when 10 players were all within one shot of each other atop the leaderboard with just a few holes left for most of them: “they should really chop the masters to reduce variance.”

The PokerGrump had a funny one, too, sent after Tiger Woods had completed his round and while the several players behind him were still finishing up: “How can Tiger win when he stopped playing before everyone else?! #quitter.” That’s about the time I chimed in as well with a similarly constructive comment, noting “this Masters is nearly as exciting as that one when Carl Spackler holed out from 195 yds. to win #hegotallofthatone.”

I also was intrigued by all of those sending out messages in which they variously expressed empathy for poor Rory McIlroy, the 21-year-old Irishman who led the pack with nine holes to go before his unfortunate, yips-filled back nine. He plunged from -11 to -4 over the course of those last nine holes, tumbling from the top spot to land in a tie for 15th.

“Until the last hour, I thought Rory McIlroy and I had nothing in common,” wrote Otis after the swoon. “Now it’s clear we are -- at least in one way -- cut from the same cloth.” I liked what Kim of Infinite Edge said earlier today, too, on the subject of McIlroy. “When people ask me how I play poker, I’ve always found it difficult to summarize it,” wrote Kim. “From now on I’ll just tell them ‘Like Rory McIlroy.’”

The fact is, it was hard for most of us to watch McIlroy’s dizzying fall without recognizing something that reminded us of our own shortcomings, be they in poker or other areas of our lives.

In the post-round interview, McIlroy was remarkably composed, saying he was certainly disappointed, but that he was sure he’d get over it after a few days. He talked about having become unnerved following that triple-bogey on the 10th, and how he’d started to second-guess his reads afterwards. He also noted that it would probably take a few days for the lessons of this year’s Masters to sink in for him.

But his chin was up. And the kid seemed to have a good sense of the bigger picture.

I noticed just after the short interview a lot of messages on Twitter articulating respect for McIlroy’s willingness to talk and the simple fact that he appeared on his way to accepting the fact that while he’d missed this opportunity, he would hopefully have more to come.

Among those, Josh Brikis, the young poker player with more than $1.2 million in tourney winnings to his credit, added what I thought was an insightful point in response: “Listening to Rory’s interview it’s amazing all the similarities between poker and golf.”

My first encounter with Brikis was at the 2009 WSOP when I covered the $5,000 buy-in, six-handed no-limit hold’em event. That one featured an especially tough field, including a great final table at which Matt Hawrilenko won and Faraz Jaka took third. Brikis finished runner-up (for $619K-plus), and if I remember correctly he did enjoy the chip lead for some of that final table before “Hoss_TBF” eventually it down. (Here’s the coverage of that event on PokerNews, and here’s a post I wrote up here on HBP about it at the time.)

I don’t know if Brikis was thinking in particular about that near-miss for a WSOP bracelet when he sent his tweet about McIlroy yesterday or not. In any case I could see immediately how talk of second-guessing one’s “reads” and the other points the young golfer was making readily applied to things we all experience at one time or another at the poker table.

Definitely one of the more memorable Masters to watch. And to think about. And perhaps even to learn from, too.

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