Monday, October 17, 2016

Like a Boss

Been following those WSOP Main Event shows on ESPN, which have now dwindled down to the last couple of weeks prior to the “November Nine” (which actually starts October 30).

The pair of shows from Sunday (episodes 11 and 12) focused on the first part of Day 7, starting with 27 players and only getting down to 21. A ton of time was spent highlighting William Kassouf’s table talk and tanking, with the last hour in particular dominated by examples as well as the rest of the table getting increasingly upset about his “speech play” and very deliberate pace.

It’s a bit misleading, I think, to watch all of this play out in edited form as we are, although that isn’t preventing many from weighing in on Kassouf, the WSOP staff, and the other players. I will say that ESPN has managed to create a fairly compelling mini-drama out of it all, fashioning a kind of “villain” role for Kassouf (reality TV-style) over whom viewers can get animated as they take sides.

Knowing how things end up going for Kassouf later in the day, it’s hard not to foresee some sort of “karmic” climax to his performance (spoiler alert -- he runs kings into aces to fall in 17th).

The ganging up on Kassouf shown this week at times seemed every bit as bothersome as Kassouf’s own antics, but as I say, it’s hard to judge without having been there. Even being there, it would be hard to know for sure how to assess what was happening, given we can’t see players’ cards and thus can’t say with certainty whether or not they are playing their hands in “acceptable” ways (scare quotes deliberately added).

Nearly 10 minutes of the latter portion of this week’s shows were devoted to a single hand in which Kassouf opened, a player shoved a short-though-not-insignificant stack, and Kassouf had to decide whether or not to call with pocket treys. He correctly assumed he might be racing (the shover had two unpaired overcards), but his contemplation ended up getting interrupted and delayed further by other players’ objections plus a lengthy visit from floor staff.

It seemed a lot like Kassouf had successfully managed to get nearly everyone to crack -- players, staff, and perhaps some of those in attendance, too. Even Lon McEachern and Norman Chad humorously got in on it, with Chad acting as though he was being affected as well.

I’m not saying I’d have enjoyed being part of that scene, but from the outside (and through the heavily blinkered lens of ESPN’s edits) it sure seemed like Kassouf had everyone right where he wanted them, as though he were the one in charge of everything.

You know, like a boss (as Kassouf likes to say of himself). And we know how much poker players prefer to be their own bosses.

Image: “‘Like a Boss’ T-Shirt @Target LOL Spotted by Mike Mozart” (adapted), Mike Mozart. CC BY 2.0.

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