Friday, February 06, 2015

Poker and Sports (and Fun and Games)

Earlier this week Victoria Coren Mitchell was interviewed over on PokerNews about various topics, one of which was the participation of no less than 22 men in this year’s women’s event at EPT11 Deauville. You might have heard about the men overrunning that event, with one of them eventually winning. In fact there were but 83 total entrants in the €200 buy-in tournament, meaning men made up more than one-fourth of the field.

I’ve written here before on several occasions about the subject of men playing in tournaments designated as women’s events. In fact I’ve even written about Coren Mitchell’s opinions about the subject, a post occasioned by my having covered the Ladies Event at the 2012 WSOP when around 10 men participated, as did Coren. That was before she would add Mitchell, and before the WSOP would add that inflated 10x price tag to the event for men wanting to play.

To summarize that earlier discussion, both she and I find the men playing in ladies events a huge bummer, a point of view she reiterated in the interview this week. There was another point she made at the end of the interview, however, that I found newly thought-provoking, something that came up in the context of discussing the Hendon Mob database.

Coren Mitchell has known the Hendon Mob guys from way back, having participated in the old forum, written columns in the past for the site, and also shared many funny anecdotes about them in her excellent poker memoir, For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair With Poker.

In her comments she somewhat laments the Hendon Mob site’s having been taken over by the Global Poker Index group, primarily because it disconnects the site from what it once was (and from her friends the Boatmans, Joe Beevers, and Ram Vaswani). “It was all a bit of fun, and now they are not involved in it anymore,” she says.

Continuing from there, Coren Mitchell speaks directly to the effort by the GPI and Alexandre Dreyfus to “sportify” poker.

“If the website is trying to seriously make poker a sport, I think they may have lost some of the comedy of the enterprise,” suggests Coren Mitchell. “But it doesn’t matter. Is snooker a sport? Is darts a sport? Is chess a sport? I don’t think it’s an important question, really.”

Again I’m finding myself agreeing with Coren Mitchell, sharing the same ambivalence about arguments over poker being or not being a “sport” (something else I’ve written about before.) But the idea that focusing on poker’s sport-like elements could potentially drain some of the “comedy” or fun from the game isn’t necessarily something I’d considered before.

I can see the point -- that is, how heightening the significance of competition perhaps diminishes that of community, thus (potentially) making things more serious and less fun. But it’s an idea I’ll need to think about further before deciding if I agree.

What do you think? Whatever your thoughts might be about efforts to “sportify” poker, do you think those efforts might in some way serve to reduce “the comedy of the enterprise”?

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