Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Chicken or the Egg?

The Chicken or the Egg?Was unable to catch ESPN’s coverage last night of the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha World Championship (Event No. 50), though I’ll probably try to pick it up later in the week. While I worked several PLO events at this year’s World Series of Poker, that was one I did not. Still, I am always curious to see how non-hold’em games get presented. Coverage of the Main Event begins next week.

Speaking of ESPN, for those still interested in further context and/or analysis of Scotty Nguyen’s “performance” at the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event (Event No. 45), first aired on ESPN last week, tournament director Matt Savage provides a response over on PokerNews centering on the various rules that were violated that night. Also, there have been a couple more podcasts of late concerning the final table and/or ESPN’s coverage that are worth checking out.

One was Gary Wise’s Wise Hand Poker podcast (the 8/20/08 episode), which features an interview with Event No. 50 runner-up and primary Nguyen antagonist Michael DeMichele. DeMichele does a good job explaining his perspective of the various goings-on from that evening, candidly answering all Wise’s well-chosen questions. (Looks like DeMichele is also on the newest episode of the TwoPlusTwo Pokercast, which I have yet to hear.) Incidentally, that show also features an interview with current Main Event chip leader Dennis Phillips, in which Phillips again proves himself an interesting, likable, “everyman.”

The other was the most recent installment of Big Poker Sundays (8/24/08), on which the always thoughtful Shane “Shaniac” Schleger joined Scott Huff. They spent an entire hour discussing the H.O.R.S.E. final table, Nguyen’s antics, ESPN’s manner of packaging the program, Norman Chad’s editorializing, and other, more general topics related to etiquette, rules enforcement, and the ol’ “good of the game” issue.

Toward the end of the Big Poker Sundays show, Huff and Schleger talk about the effect of television and the potential rewards it brings to professional poker players, as well as the impact the prospect of such rewards sometimes has on how they behave. Says Huff, “It’s gotten to the point now in poker that some of these guys who are quote-unquote ‘stars of the game’ have really gone off the deep end” in terms of how they present themselves to the public -- especially when the television cameras are around. To Huff, it appears that “promoting yourself has become [such] a big deal for some of these guys to the point where they’ve totally lost it.”

Schleger’s response made me think a little of what I had written last Friday about the incident, particularly those observations of Tommy Angelo’s I shared concerning the stressful nature of poker. Schleger half-jokingly observed that sometime during this year’s WSOP he’d concluded that “95 to 99% of all full-time poker players have some kind of, you know, clear mental disease... clear mental illness... myself included,” listing traits such as an “extreme level of self-absorption,” “paranoid delusions,” and “manic depressive psychosis” as evidence that “we’re all messed up in the head, severely.” Circling back to Nguyen and the H.O.R.S.E. event, Schleger concluded “you add television cameras, you add alcohol, and this is what you get.”

As I say, Schleger is half-kidding around here, but he makes an interesting observation (I think) about the kind of person who gravitates towards poker/gambling in general, and professional tournament poker in particular.

Angelo spoke on that TwoPlusTwo Pokercast (the 8/18/08 episode) of how poker “tests us,” presenting numerous stressors (all at once) that are very similar those we encounter away from the poker tables, kind of like a “little microcosm” of the larger world.

In other words -- and I’m overgeneralizing points made by Angelo and Schleger just a bit here -- Angelo is talking about how poker makes us crazy, while Schleger is suggesting it is the crazy ones who find poker. “We’re diseased, screwed-up individuals,” says Schleger, “who are very lucky something that something like gambling came along that we can make a living at.”

So which came first? Were we crazy before we found poker? Or did poker make us that way?

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Blogger nzgreen said...

I've enjoyed gambling for as long as I can remember. Usually against anyone willing to take a bet on the result of a sports match in which my favourite team is involved.

Since I started playing poker I don't want to participate in any other form of "gambling" - particular those games where there is a house edge. Here in Aus that is mainly the pokies (slots for those in NA).

8/27/2008 9:36 AM  
Blogger James Collier said...

i'm the same way these days, just got back from vegas and although i went there to gamble it up i found i just didn't want to play anything against the house, there was just no fun in it.


8/27/2008 10:01 AM  
Blogger Random Table Draw said...

Good points on the mental illness. Its a question I ask a lot (as a joke) in my interviews, but get some overwhelmingly "Yes...tons/lots" answers out of it. ADD, OCD, depression, meglomania, chronic addictive personality disorder...all very, very prevelant. They are the demons these pros have to battle.

8/27/2008 4:36 PM  

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