Heads-Up Poker Snoozefest, and the Poker Superstars Stackshove

Sunday, May 22nd, 2005, 10:18 pm

After an active and fun-filled Saturday filled with kayaking (nearly ended up swimming and/or drowning in the Allegheny River) and beach volleyball (nearly died of hypothermia sitting outside drinking afterwards) I spent Sunday relaxing, doing a little laundry and some other domestic stuff. While I did I watched the Heads-Up Poker Championship on NBC and a tiny bit of the Poker Superstars later in the afternoon. I should’ve taken a nap instead.

On Friday I was at a friend’s wedding and my buddy Scott asked me for some advice on what to do when you get heads-up with someone. I gave him some vague advice about being the aggressor, but frankly I’m not an authority on heads-up play, as I’m usually crying on the rail long before that. But I thought watching four of the best players in the world play this way would give me some insight about how to play mano e mano.

Nope. NBC seemed far more interested in detailing the vagaries of Phil Hellmuth’s personality than on the poker, and understandably so as the action was pretty blah. Lots of raising with garbage, limping with big hands, Chris Ferguson sucking out twice on the river to prod Hellmuth into predictably Philly antics. The first time he collapsed to the floor, which would actually have been understandable and even funny for just about anyone but Hellmuth, who seems to go floorward after every tough beat. The second time he just sat there trying to look stoic but coming across, as ever, as pouting.

The most pathetic moment of the broadcast, and maybe the most pathetic thing I’ve seen on TV all year (I should say I don’t watch the Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears shows) came when they showed a tape of Phil’s appearance on McEnroe. Phil has been called the John McEnroe of poker, and I’ve never understood why people think that’s a compliment. Anyway, they showed Phil demonstrating one of his tantrums, playfully jumping out of his chair and reciting a typical stream of lamentations, and McEnroe, sitting behind his desk, chimes in and speaks the Most Predictable Line In The History Of Verbal Communication. He opens his mouth and he actually says this:

“You cannot be serious!”

If I’m the head of MSNBC (or CNBC, or NBC, or whomever had control of this mess) I get on the horn immediately and cancel the show and tell security to escort Johnny Mac off the premises. Hackwork like that must be punished promptly. And since McEnroe had ratings the same as John Blutarsky’s GPA (0.0) it never should have come to that. Probably more people saw McEnroe’s talk show during it’s brief appearance on a Saturday afternoon than it did during its actual run. Talk shows. When The Decline and Fall of the American Empire is written there’s gonna be a volume dedicated just to talk shows.

Anyway. If there was one thing I liked about NBC’s coverage, it was how they showed how deliberate Chris Ferguson is when acting, how consistent he is when deciding what to do, and how that keeps his opponents from getting a read on him. Good stuff. But these poker shows have to stop giving Phil Hellmuth attention for his outburst and antics. It’s like what the networks do now when some idiot gets drunk and runs on the field. They don’t show it. They cut away and mention briefly why there’s a delay and that’s all the attention the idiot gets. They need to do this with Phil. Stop running the bits where he smirks and talks about how he’s really trying to behave himself, stop showing the table chat where he belittles the opponent who just outplayed him, stop following him through the casino recording his histrionics when he loses. I know asking TV people to ignore a showboater is hopelessly naive, but I guess I’m just an idealist. I never stop hoping.

Though I have stopped watching the Poker Superstars II, which has about as much in common with poker as Cheez Whiz has with cheese. A reasonable facsimile, but nothing more. If you’ve never seen PS2, let me sum up every show so far:

Raise
Re-raise
Fold and/or all-in
Fold and/or call

The blinds are so high and the stacks are so short that tactics and strategy mean nothing. If you have a hand, and there’s a raise ahead of you, you’re playing for all your chips. Because you don’t have enough room to maneuver. In a few of the shows there were players pot-committed like five minutes in because they lost the first hand they played and that pretty much crippled them. Dull, dull poker, and a dull, dull show. Maybe it’ll get better once they get down to the final 16. I shan’t hold my breath.

But right now I’m watching ESPN’s coverage of the 2005 U.S. Poker Championship, and I really enjoyed this tournament. They showed lots of hands, rotated different players through the TV table, lots of good action, lots of good play.

John Aglialoro, who won the thing, said a few bizarre things during the brief bio piece they showed. He’s the CEO of Cybex, who makes exercise equipment, and he said something like “CEO’s are the creators in the world, they’re the ones who get things done”. Spoken like a CEO. Certainly Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers got a few things done in their time. Well, I don’t know enough to hack on Aglialoro, who for all I know actually invented the machinery his company sells. And as he comes across as a decent guy in the show.

But he also was talking about Presidents who played poker (he was showing a picture he had taken with Bush) and he mentioned seeing Harry Truman’s house in Key West where they had his poker table preserved for posterity. And he says that George Washington was also a good card player. Now, was poker around in the late 1700s? Maybe Aglialoro was talking about whist or something. I didn’t think poker was on the scene at the time.

And right now I’m too tired to research it. More poker content later this week, maybe even tomorrow. I’ve been walking at lunch instead of blogging, which partly explains my lack of posts. The good news is I’ve lost like 5 more pounds and I’m starting to look sleek. The bad news…wow, for a change, there’s no bad news to balance it out.

Oh, my weekly Dumb Question. If someone looks at your blog using Bloglines or another news reader, does that not show up in your Site Meter records? My hits are declining as the number of Bloglines subscribers goes up. I’d just like to know if my audience is abandoning me en masse.

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8 Responses to “Heads-Up Poker Snoozefest, and the Poker Superstars Stackshove”

  1. BG Says:

    You need them to visit your site directly… I read everyone through bloglines now, and only click through to comment. Keep in mind too that there are other aggregator sites out there where people might be reading you w/o hit too.

  2. AlCantHang Says:

    Yeah. What he said.

    There is a stat site that will pick up the feeder site hits but I can’t recall it at the moment. I will let you know if I find it.

  3. Bill Rini Says:

    The other thing about PS2 is that the show is highly edited. Yeah, I know they’re all highly edited but there’s nothing more frustrating than to watch the guy who was the chip lead pushing all in two minutes later because he’s the short stack. You’re like, “Hey, what happened? I thought he had a 2:1 chip lead.” They don’t do a very good job of keeping you informed of the action that occured between the televised hands so it’s really tough to keep focused on the game. It would be like watching a highly edited baseball game and the score was different every time they came back from commercial break.

  4. Deal'em Says:

    I thought Hellmuth really dominated Ferguson, except for his river fold of trip 10’s in the face of a modest bet on a board where any queen made a broadway. Just watching it I felt like Hellmuth’s ego could not let him call where he might look foolish if Ferguson had the queen.

  5. Tapin Says:

    Best moment of PSII so far: In a recent match (#9, maybe?) Moneymaker takes down a good-sized pot. They show the chip count, and say “There’s something we haven’t seen too often in this tournament, Chris Moneymaker on top of the chip count…” Cut to ads. Back from ads, chip count again.. and Moneymaker’s in third or fourth place out of five or six. With no comment from the booth.

    Look, if you’re gonna advertise that something interesting is happening, why not at least let us know when (or better yet how) the interesting thing stopped?

    Nothing new, just a particularly egregious example that had me chuckling for a few minutes.

    Oh, I coulda sworn I saw McEnroe shouting “YCBS!” in the promos for that talk show when it first came out. Never saw the show, of course.

    (And I liked the HUPC. If only for the part where Baldwin completely slowrolled Hellmuth on Saturday — I’d love to know whether that was intentional or not. Yeah, I know what he claimed, but if I totally wanted to set someone like Hellmuth off, I can’t think of a better way to do it — except perhaps to question his assertion that J2 is a significantly better hand than KQ)

  6. CJ Says:

    I’ve changed my feed service to FeedBurner so I can try to get a read on the number of subscribers. It doesn’t help me record the hits, but it does tell me how many people are subscribing on a day-to-day basis.

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  8. Vyolet Says:

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