When are the nuts not the nuts?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004, 12:41 pm

When you’re watching the feature called “The Nuts” during ESPN’s World Series of Poker coverage. At first I was enthused about these 60-second interludes that showed something quirky or weird about poker. A chance to see something different, something that might make you pause and say, “Hmm”. No such luck.

Last year we saw Chris “Jesus” Ferguson slice a banana by throwing a playing card. Impressive. Then this year we saw him slice a carrot. OK. Then on another episode we saw him slice a pickle. “Am I watching the goddam Food Channel?” I asked, punching the buttons on my remote control. Why do I need to see Ferguson dicing vegetables with playing cards show after show? Why would the producers think that a man chopping through a carrot, and then through a pickle, with ANY impliment would be interesting?

Then again, why would the producers think that watching Ferguson throw cards past a hockey goaltender into the net would be interesting. That’s what we saw last night, and it was beyond stupid. I would think that a hugely intelligent person like Ferguson would have said to the producers, “You know, this has gone far enough. We need to stop this right now”. Perhaps the bright lights of TV blinded Jesus. One can only hope that at least next week we won’t see Ferguson filling a salad bar using only a 52-card deck.

The other feature that’s been featured several times is the no-peek championship, which is almost as stupid as Ferguson’s Ginsu impersonation. As a one-time little blurb, it was funny, plus it put Clonie Gowan on the screen for a wee bit. But it looks like this lunacy will also be a recurring irritation for the rest of the tourament. And there was something annoying and cliquely about the whole thing, like only the coolest kids in the class were invited to play and everyone else can watch. Or maybe I’m just being too sensitive.

All in all I think ESPN’s coverage has been pretty good. Lon McEachren isn’t as good as Mike Sexton, but he’s mostly a straight man for Norman Chad who, unfortunately, isn’t as funny as he thinks he is. I’m not an automatic Vince Van Patten-basher, but I think Chad has the edge because he is, on occasion, willing to criticize players who either make bad plays or whose behavior falls outside the lines.

As he did during this week’s shows. I hope that Iggy watched last night, or gets the chance to see them very soon, because they would hopefully have cheered him up after the loss of his cat supreme, Monty, who passed away yesterday. I mean, last night shows had everything to make a Guinness-fueled ranter smile–a Phil Hellmuth meltdown, and his hero T.J. Cloutier sticking it royally to Dutch Boyd. Christmas in August.

Let’s talk about Phil a bit. They had a little sidebar featuring Phil and his mom, very sweet. She tells us that no one has a bigger heart than her son, and to illustrate this Phil tells us that he’s given away all but one of his 9 WSOP bracelets. Uh, so to show that you’re a generous sort, you tell us that you’ve given away an item you already have 9 of? Seems more like a garage sale than largesse.

OK, that’s a bit over the top, even for me. But even though this was obviously a puff piece, don’t you think someone from ESPN (even Chad) might have asked Mrs. Hellmuth, “We hear you say that your son is a wonderful person, and we believe you, really, but don’t you get a bit concerned that he’s closing in on 40 and still acts like he’s six? I’m talking about the pouting and whining and general brattishness”.

That question was not asked. I guess its asking a bit much to put Phil’s mom on the hot seat like that. Still, when Phil was knocked out and whined to his sister something along the lines of “If there wasn’t any luck at all I guess I’d win all these things”, Chad repeated Hellmuth’s statement with palpable disgust in his voice. Kudos to Norm for that one.

One player at the table, Frank Sinopoli, nearly became my new poker hero. Hellmuth said something like, “You cashed five times so far?”, Phil lowering himself to praise another player, and Sinopoli just stared back like, “Yeah?”. Phil gave him a big smile and said, “Yeah, so have I, buddy,” and leaned across the table to touch fists with Sinopoli, the way the kids do these days. Frank would have become my favorite player had he just kept his seat and stared back like, “The fuck I care what you think?”. But Frank returned the gesture, I guess not lowering himself to Hellmuth’s poor behavior. Ah well.

The razz finale was fun just to see Howard Lederer going nuts. We’re used to the impeturbable Howard, but last night we saw him frustrated, petulent, even whiny. Great stuff. I have to say I can’t blame Howard at all for acting up a bit, as he has some hands that would get the Dalai Lama shrieking, “How could get three goddam pair again?? How??”.

I can’t give you an exact recap of the hand that pretty much put Dutch Boyd in the trash bin, but Cloutier had him utterly skunked and for some reason Boyd kept throwing chips in, even as the board showed that he almost certainly couldn’t win the hand. He even raised a few times, and when it was all over, well. it was all over.

ESPN again showed Boyd and his “Crew” strutting around like the baddest Little League team on the block. They’re had a great showing at the WSOP, to be sure, but this “Crew” thing is just silly. What isn’t silly is the controversy that surrounds Boyd. Just search under his name to get a whole lotta people talking about the online poker room Boyd opened that quickly went under, taking with it about $400K of investors’ money. Boyd blames…well, he blames a whole bunch of people, and his story seemed to change depending on who he was speaking to. The ESPN coverage has portrayed Boyd as this genius who happens to play poker, and he’s become famous for it. I learned this myself when, after posting a bit about Boyd I suddenly saw a bunch of referrals to this site by people searching under “Dutch Boyd” and “The Crew”.

I don’t know if those same people also read about the controversial side of Boyd, and I wonder if ESPN will touch the story with a 10-foot-pole. What am I saying, of course they won’t. I think I may have to do some research and write a post about this, I have something in mind, but it’s gonna end up being another fairly monstrous one.

Brief interlude–I just watched a bit of “Celebrity Poker Showdown”, and are Gail O’Grady’s eyes really that green? She had one of the great topless-from-the-side scenes in TV history when she appeared on NYPD Blue, tho her Noo Yawk accent was so horrid you nearly had to leer at her with the mute button pressed. Lovely woman–but why was she wearing her drapes? Did I miss something there, why was she covered by what looked to be 72 yards of fabric?

I think that’s enough for now. Yes, that’s quite enough.

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5 Responses to “When are the nuts not the nuts?”

  1. Ignatious Says:

    you rock.

    DAMNIT, i really need to see that episode. howard, whiny? oh the humanity….

  2. JW Says:

    Great stuff Gene. You hit it on the head as usual, while at the same time managing to hit it on the funny bone. I mean come on, the “food channel”?? I’m gonna have to stop reading you at work, people are staring.

  3. JD Says:

    Great write-up of the WSOP episode. As for o’Grady on CPS, they mentioned later in the ep that she was pregnant.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Great Post but re Dutch Boyd: It wasn’t investors’ money but customers’ money lost. Big difference.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Gene – Gail O’Grady’s pregnant. I think that’s why she covered herself in that burqa.

    – Jason

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