No Super Bowl Content, Honest

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006, 10:11 am

I’m sure yinz are sick of me talking about the Super Bowl and the Steelers, so I’ll give it a rest, at least for today. Except to say this–after every Media Day at the big game, I find myself thinking that the Freedom of the Press is a vastly overrated constitutional right.

I finally got to see an episode of GSN’s “High Stakes Poker” last night. For a poker junkie like myself it was good stuff, but I don’t think cash games are likely to be of much interest to casual viewers. The sense of drama just isn’t there. Oh, sure, the eyebrows go up when Daniel Negreanu throws in two bricks made up of greenbacks, yeah, that gets your attention. Raising someone a million dollars in real money would be exciting, you’d think. But it really wasn’t. This is due in part because of the players involved–they’ve seen and done this all before, and to them it’s no big deal. Barry Greenstein lost a $100K pot to Doyle Brunson when his QQ ran into aces, but from Barry’s expression you might’ve thought he was sitting in a restaurant and been told they were out of the soup of the day. A bit miffed, but that’s all. No jumping up and down, no histrionics, no “Vindidcation baby!”.

Ted Forrest lost his buy-in. A hundred grand. Gulp. He pulls a $50K marker out of his pocket, tosses it to the dealer, and he’s back in the game. Now, you’d think that pulling a chip worth fifty grand out of your pocket with the same insoucience I’d show in pulling out a quarter at a vending machine would be pretty goddam dramatic. It isn’t. It was pretty cool, baby, but it wasn’t dramatic.

I didn’t see the first episodes so I didn’t see what was up with Negreanu and Brunson buying in for so much more than the other players. Negreanu kept tossing in his two whale-choking wads of cash and forcing everyone out. Until Greenstein doubled up on him. I thought it odd that other players had actual cash in front of them as well as chips–during one hand Jennifer Harman picked up a chip, paired it with ten grand in cash, and tossed both into the pot. I wondered if there was some psychological angle at work here. There’s the old saying, “The guy who invented gambling was bright, but whoever invented chips was a genius”. I wonder if for these pros using actual cash isn’t a sort of reverse psych out. Maybe they’ve become so inured to seeing chips as chips, instead of money, that the sight of actual money makes them think, “wow, money”. Perhaps they look at a stack of bills in the pot and think, “Mmm, that’s 10,000 Frostys.” To pick up on the most recent Wendy’s ad campaign. I haven’t had a Frosty in a long time. Frostys are good for the soul.

I wouldn’t presume to know what goes through the mind of a top poker professional (especially Shawn Sheikhan) but I know what went through my mind when we played cards in college and there were dollar bills in the pot. We all said, “Mmm…green”. We’d play cards in Scott and Andy’s dorm room, almost exclusively a game called Declare. You get 3 cards, and as the action moves around the table you have to say if you’re in or out. If you stay in you’re allowed to draw one card. If you lose the hand, you have to match the pot.

If you play Hold-Em and don’t have a handle on the power of position, play Declare for a few hours. It was ALL position. About the only manuevering in the game came when you bluffed that you had a pat hand and tried to make you opponent break up his pair to go for a flush. Or when you decided he DID have a pat hand and your pair of tens wouldn’t hold up. The pots started small, maybe sixty cents, but if you had a few multi-player hands it could balloon to the point where nickels and dimes wouldn’t do. You had to pull out the wallet and get out the green.

Coins…what are you gonna do with coins? Just put them back in your change box and use it for the next game. Or, if you were lucky and snagged some quarters, you could do laundry. That’s sexy. But when there was green in the pot, your options grew exponentially. You could get nachos down at the dining hall snack bar. A turkey sub from McClanahan’s. Beer. You could buy sweet, sweet beer.

When there was green in the pot you knew there were guys who would fight for it. Gary and Andy would almost always play if there were a few bills in the pot–especially if they were the ones who put them in there. Talk about defending your blinds–they would go balls to the wall with junk to reclaim the tatty Washington they coughed up the hand before. Ah, good times. Playing Declare, drinking Black Label, watching “Macho Man” Randy Savage on the Arsenio Hall show. Good times.

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