Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Couldn’t Have Played It Any Better, Mike

Heard that recent announcement that Mike Johnson, the longtime co-host of the Two Plus Two Pokercast and before that Rounders, the Poker Show, is going to be stepping away from the poker podcast game in mid-July following the end of festivities this summer at the WSOP. His co-host Adam Schwartz started an “Official Mike Johnson retiring from the Pokercast thread” over on 2+2 where many are chiming in with appreciations and other grins inspired by Johnson.

I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve written here about either the old Rounders show (which I began listening to shortly after it came on the air way back in April 2005) or the Pokercast (which started at the beginning of 2008). Those shows have inspired countless topics over the years that I’ve taken up here, with Mike and Adam both consistently presenting thoughtful, interesting takes on innumerable issues affecting the always interesting poker world.

Last year I had a chance to interview the two of them for Betfair Poker, and they shared a lot of great stories about the history of the show as well as thoughts about the place of it within our little idiosyncratic world of “poker reporting” (or whatever you want to call it).

I’ve also had the chance to meet Mike a few times at the WSOP over the years, including covering him occasionally when he played in events. The most memorable such instance of the latter concerned what was probably one of the more painful moments Mike ever endured at the WSOP.

It was 2011 and Mike was playing in the Main Event, and right near the end of one of the Day 1 flights he got involved in a big hand versus the Russian player Yury Gulyy. In the hand Mike successfully got Gulyy to commit his entire stack on the turn on a 10-high board, at which point Gulyy then turned over Q-Q and Mike showed his K-K.

It was a huge pot, one that would’ve placed Mike right near the chip leaders to end the day. But alas for him a queen came on the river, knocking him almost all of the way back to the starting stack.

“Did you see that, Shamus?” I remember Mike calling out to me that night, just after the hand had ended and the chips were being shipped to his opponent.

It was during the end-of-night scramble for counts and other loose-end-tying activities, and for some reason I just happened to have been passing through his section on my way to where I was stationed on the other side of the Amazon Room. That’s when he related the hand details to me, which I’d report for PokerNews and then write-up a more detailed story of later on Betfair. Regular listeners of the Pokercast might well recognize that hand, as it continues to come up from time to time.

As we talked about a little in that Betfair interview, I think Mike and Adam have provided an incredible service to the poker community over the last almost-decade. Sure, they’ve been doing something they love to do -- it’s obvious -- but while doing so they’ve given a valuable voice for players and everyone else who cares about the game with their reporting and interviewing. They’ve also kept us plenty entertained, too -- check that 2+2 thread for dozens of memorable instances proving that. That pic above, by the way, is a still from Bet Raise Fold containing a shot of Mike (left) and Adam (right) doing their show.

As someone who has stuck with them pretty much without interruption since the very beginning, I’ll miss Mike and what he’s given to us over the years, although as someone who has also been plugging away at discussing poker for nearly as long, I can definitely sympathize with wanting to take a break. It’s an endlessly fascinating game and subculture, but it can be exhausting, too -- it just never stops!

Anyhow, wanted to use some space here to wish Mike Johnson well and encourage everyone to tune in for these last few shows with one of the poker podcasting greats.

“Oh, I couldn’t have played it any better!” said an exasperated Mike after that painful Gulyy hand. Looking back at his long, consistently high-quality career helping create Rounders and the Pokercast, I’d have to say the same thing about that performance, too.

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