Friday, January 14, 2005
Party Poker BadBeat Jackpot now at $690,000.
I'm gonna writeup a post, methinks, but for now I offer you the full NY Times Review of Tilt.
'TILT' Poker Itself Is the Winner, Along With the Grifters
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
God does not play dice with the universe, but Universal Studios is playing
God with the dice.
Gambling, and especially poker, has invaded almost every form of
television. "Las Vegas," the NBC drama about a Nevada casino, is just the
prime-time tip of the iceberg. Celebrity poker, championship poker and
casino-based reality shows abound on cable and broadcast networks. (A&E's
"Caesar's 24/7" began this week, picking up where Fox's reality show
"Casino" left off.)
So it stands to reason that ESPN, the sports cable network that covers the
World Series of Poker with a hushed reverence once reserved for Wimbledon,
would develop a drama about cardplayers. "Tilt," which begins tonight, is
a cable version of "Las Vegas." But unlike the righteous security experts
and floor supervisors who are the stars of the NBC drama, grifters and
high rollers are the heroes of ESPN's drama. Networks cannot idealize
gamblers in prime time any more than they could broadcast "The Sopranos,"
but cable has no such inhibitions.
"Tilt" follows three young cardsharps who team up to take down the
reigning king of poker, Don Everest, a mean, cool and corrupt card
champion known as the Matador. He is played by Michael Madsen, whose
granite face and smoky voice are familiar from "Kill Bill Vol. 2."
"The Matador" rules Las Vegas, not just by skill but also by cheating. The
three rookies are a kino card version of "Mod Squad": Miami, a beautiful
blonde (Kristin Lehman); Eddie, a moody hunk (Eddie Cibrian); and Clark, a
cool black man (Todd Williams III). The trio has a mysterious older backer
who has a grudge against Everest; Everest is in league with a
smooth-talking casino operator.
"You didn't even look at your hand," a Midwestern rube exclaims when the
Matador makes his play. "I didn't have to," he replies silkily, "cuz I saw
you look at yours."
The atmospherics are more compelling than the plot. "Tilt" takes great
pride in burrowing past the gaudy touristy slot machines and holiday theme
buffets to bleak, gritty back-room poker games where players wear do-rags
and pull handguns when the cards go wrong.
Two of its creators are David Levien and Brian Koppelman, the team that
wrote "Rounders," a 1998 movie about lowlife gamblers starring Matt Damon,
and they have a great flair for the seamy, glitter-free underside of Las
And that alone is appealing. The more the gaming industry tries to gild
and mainstream its vices, the more connoisseurs veer toward the margins.
"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" is a happy-talk ad slogan along the
lines of GE's "We bring good things to life" - strictly for amateurs.
And we have become a nation of poker professionals. Gambling has always
been popular, despite the Puritans' ban on it or perhaps because of the
ban. (Chance was considered the province of the Divine.) Even though more
Americans are likely to die of clogged arteries in a day than of terrorist
attacks in a decade, the world since Sept. 11 feels riskier. The lure of
gambling is highest when the economy is so uncertain that people would
rather spend than save. It's becoming a common personal finance strategy:
biographies and how-to books about poker and gambling are piled up in
bookstores the way investment guides like "The Beardstown Ladies'
Common-Sense Investment Guide: How We Beat the Stock Market - and How You
Can, Too," were in the late 1990's. At a time of deficit spending and talk
of the privatization of Social Security, risk has never seemed safer,
particularly when television keeps harping on the possibility of a
Casino gambling fits our contradictions: we are risk-averse lovers of
danger (horror movies, Space Mountain, Outward Bound), a workaholic nation
that exalts leisure and a deeply religious country that lets Mammon into
And in a reality show culture, we are poker voyeurs: armchair gamblers.
And unlike so many cable shows that cater to the elusive male viewer (bass
fishing, Nascar-racing and soon, no doubt, tobacco-spitting), poker is
gender-blind entertainment. People talk to each other at the card table,
and few other games so quickly expose the personality quirks of the
players. Players are judged not just on how well they play but also on how
gracefully they lose - and the camera captures every tic and tell. That
helps explain why "Celebrity Poker" has a strong following: even the
suavest movie star can look foolish when bluffing against an inside
"Tilt" tries to restore some of the old-fashioned romance of gambling, a
louche veneer that has been stripped off as television cameras invade the
back rooms. (The winner of the 2004 World Series of Poker and its $5
million first prize was not named Amarillo Slim or Nick the Greek. It was
Greg Raymer, 39, of Stonington, Conn., a patent lawyer for Pfizer
"Tilt" is not the "Cincinnati Kid," but it creatively evokes an earlier
era when gamblers were rogues, not chairmen of the Rotary Club.
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