Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dispensing With the Drama: Watching the “One Drop”

“They really should just dispense with the drama and get to the business of chopping this pot.”

So says Norman Chad during ESPN’s presentation of what was in fact one of the more dramatic hands from this summer’s “Big One for One Drop,” the one from Day 2 that saw Cary Katz eliminate Connor Drinan in a hand in which both players were dealt pocket aces, but Katz won after four hearts appeared among the community cards to give him a flush.

Here’s the hand, already posted on YouTube:

Chad is joking, trying in post-production to add to the surprise a little by suggesting to the audience that the hand would be ending in a split pot as happens almost 96% of the time in such situations.

But watching the hand tonight on ESPN’s “One Drop” coverage, I couldn’t help but think that in fact nearly all of the drama had been dispensed with, despite the unusual outcome of the hand.

Why do I say this? A lot of reasons.

Some drama is removed when we know the players’ hole cards beforehand. The suspense experienced at the time leading up to Drinan’s all-in five-bet and Katz’s instacall is not shared by the viewer whatsoever. We know as soon as we see both players’ hands how the preflop action will end.

Then, of course, for many of us watching, we know how the postflop action will end, too. For us there is no suspense at all about the hand, nor even about its place in the tournament as a whole, resulting in Drinan’s ouster and helping boost Katz somewhat toward what will be an eighth-place finish (just inside the money).

Haralabos Voulgaris opined back when the tournament was playing out that “nobody cares who wins,” which I said then I thought was not entirely untrue. That said, knowing who does win makes it that much harder to care to watch it play out again a month later.

There are other reasons why the drama is diminished for this particular hand, including the lack of backstory regarding either of the two players involved. But even if we had that backstory, that might not have helped add drama either.

Most of the players in the “One Drop” sold significant action, something alluded to in passing in the show. Drinan actually won his seat via a $25,300 satellite, then sold action afterwards to guarantee himself a profit from the tournament regardless of his finish. In other words, he certainly didn’t lose $1 million in the hand (although he did lose the chance to continue onward to play for the millions awaiting those making the final table).

And while Katz and Drinan both show some emotion, that, too, is pretty muted. “If I lose like this, whatever,” says Drinan after the flop brings two hearts to give Katz a freeroll. Then it happens, and even though there is a reaction from the crowd, both players, and observer Antonio Esfandiari saying it’s “so sick,” it’s all still kind of overwhelmingly “whatever.”

I mentioned back when the “One Drop” was playing out how lamentable it was that there was no live stream of the event. Recall how Kevmath fielded endless questions about it, then began referring followers to another Twitter account -- @NoOneDropStream -- with a single tweet delivering the bad news.

The WSOP Main Event coverage will crank up soon, and again the inherent problem of delayed coverage diminishing suspense will be evident. The live presentation of the final table should be compelling, I think, but really I can’t find myself wanting to bother with any of the edited shows in between.

We are more than a decade into this format for televised poker. It’s a format for which the drama was dispensed long, long ago.

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