Friday, May 20, 2011

Talk About the Passion

Talk About the PassionMentioned yesterday that “Inside SCOOP” show, the daily web program hosted by Joe Stapleton and Nick Wealthall throughout PokerStars’ Spring Championship of Online Poker. I’ve gotten a big kick out of following the show these last couple of weeks, surprised, really, that a show about an online poker series -- one in which I cannot even participate, no less -- is not just holding my attention, but making me laugh repeatedly, too.

For those of you who’ve watched it, you know what I mean about the funnies. If you haven’t, I’m not really going to try to explain why the show is so entertaining, but rather just recommend you check it out yourself. I will, however, mention one of my favorite parts of the show is when the pair offer faux strategy advice during the “Tough Spot” hands they present and at other moments here and there.

One great exchange came a few episodes ago when they were discussing upcoming events, one of which was pot-limit Omaha. “Omaha is great,” said Stapleton. “Four cards, a million combinations... you literally can play every hand!”

“You literally cannot go wrong,” deadpanned Wealthall in response.

Each episode also features brief interviews, often with Team PokerStars Pros but also with others who are having success in SCOOP events. On the 5/18 show the pair had 2005 WSOP Main Event champion Joe Hachem on, and he was asked a question about what it has been like to have been an “ambassador” for poker for the last six years. In his answer, Hachem made an observation about how the poker world has changed over that period that I found interesting and thus thought worth sharing.

“From the very outset for me it was... I hate to sound corny, but it was like an honor, you know?” said Hachem, responding to the question. He added that he considered it a “privilege” to have been put into the position of having to represent poker, because he loved the game so much.

Stapleton cracked that Hachem was giving the “perfect ambassador answer,” but Hachem interrupted him, wanting to clarify what he meant.

“Let me tell you something fellas,” he began. “I think a lot has changed in the last few years in poker.... Most of the people who are in poker today are in poker for the wrong reason.” Hachem then made a distinction of sorts between his generation of players -- or at least those who had come into poker at some point prior to the “boom” of 2003-2006 -- and those who have come into the game more recently.

“We came into poker because we love the game,” said Hachem. “And eventually it turned into something that we could make money out of, like real money. [However,] a lot of the people who come into the game today are coming in strictly because... their friends told them they can make money out of it if they do A-B-C-D -- you know, they’ll be a profitable player [if they follow certain steps]. Where’s the passion in that?”

Joe HachemThe show’s somewhat rapid-fire format didn’t really allow for the trio to discuss the point further, and thus they moved on to a different topic. But I found myself thinking afterwards about what Hachem was saying.

It was kind of an odd-seeming statement, essentially suggesting that getting into poker for the money was somehow a less-than-honorable reason for doing so. If I understand his meaning correctly, I think his point was to emphasize the value of competition and challenging oneself -- that is, to think constructively about the game in terms that aren’t necessarily financially-based.

I don’t think Hachem was dismissing the goal of earning money altogether, just demoting it from its position as an all-encompassing goal -- i.e., pointing out that there is a lot else about poker to be enjoyed and from which we can benefit than making ourselves some cabbage. As he says, the “love” or “passion” for the game came first for him (and others like him), and only later did it “turn into something that we could make money out of.”

Some might recall an earlier, somewhat similar statement by Hachem about the young generation of players near the end his deep run in the 2009 Main Event (in which he finished 103rd). Kind of got blown up a bit, but Hachem was complaining about some players’ predilection for overly aggressive bluffs and risk-taking, even going so far as to say things like “these guys have no right being at the World Series” and “should be playing $2 sit-and-gos online.”

Hachem would scale back those criticisms somewhat the next day after he busted from the ME, referring to his genuine love for the game and how being so “passionate” caused him to be a little less than rational with his commentary the day before. “Everyone has the right to play poker however they want,” said Hachem, sort of recasting his previous comments inside the context of his petitioning for “respect for the game.”

All of that from a couple of years ago was perhaps a bit dubious, and while I think Hachem’s comments on “Inside SCOOP” were not unrelated, I feel like he’s was really making a different point there about what it means to be “passionate” about poker.

Hachem may well be correct to some extent when he says there are those who get into poker -- either as players or in other ways -- who aren’t necessarily in it because they love the game but for other reasons. And while there might be something lamentable about that, we all have to accept the fact that just as everyone has the “right” to play poker however he or she wishes, people can get into poker for all sorts of reasons, too.

In any case, as I say, I found that brief discussion on “Inside SCOOP” interesting enough to think about afterwards -- a momentary bit of seriousness amid the show’s shenanigans.

I dunno... I guess I am always intrigued when I hear someone talk about their passion. I’m sure Hachem knows, though, that not everyone can carry the weight of the world...

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