Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Catching up on my reading. Found this rant which I'm passing along.
Hell, I just love rants. Especially about poker.
If poker is sport, it's time to fold
Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, July 17, 2005
Somebody should say this, so it might as well be said here:
Televised poker is a plague on our society. It is a canker sore on the
lips of our culture. It is akin to smoking unfiltered cigarettes in that
it's bad for the body and mind, an insidious habit gone epidemic.
Poker is not a sport, but it's all over the sports pages. It's all over
ESPN. It's all over Bravo and Fox and even the pages of my own paper.
All of a sudden, at all hours of the day and night, we're seeing
corpulent, pasty guys with bad skin and bad attitudes hunched around
sleazy tables like derby-wearing mutts in a dime-store painting.
Who are these people? Better yet, who cares?
Why are they on my TV screen? Why are they in my paper? What does it say
when poker ratings on ESPN are almost as high at 3 a.m. as they are during
That's right: Poker is watched by the thousands across America in the dead
Some might call that a fetish. And if not that, what does one call playing
poker for hours on a computer?
A new opiate for the masses? A prelude to downloading porn?
Obviously, it's called a sign of the times.
"I think (poker) has all the elements of what it takes to be a big deal,"
said Keri Potts, an ESPN spokesperson.
Potts and ESPN would know. Poker now draws more than a million households
per viewing, a staggering achievement of programming muscle considering it
is a sedentary game played at a table like Parcheesi.
This revolution apparently started two years ago, when the World Series of
Poker on ESPN tapped America's vein of addiction, elevating anonymous
schmoes like Chris Moneymaker (yes, his real name) into supposed cult
Moneymaker, you see, turned a $40 tournament entry fee into a $2.5 million
payday when he prevailed over more than 800 players.
This is, of course, the heartbeat fueling games of chance: the Hail Mary
hope of the big score for the dog-faced Everyman.
It's the bedrock upon which Las Vegas - and ESPN poker ratings - are built.
Steve Lipscomb, creator of the World Poker Tour, described the bonanza
this way to The Bee last year:
"Even if you have the desire and resources, you can't go play in any other
major sports like the NFL or the NBA. ... But with poker, you can. It's a
televised sport that anybody at home, on any given day, could have a
chance to play for a major title with the top players."
Fine. You want to play online poker until your corneas bleed, go ahead.
You want to gamble away your mortgage, that's up to you.
There is no problem as long as you call it what it is - a hobby, a way to
blow off steam, the vice of a free society.
But that's not how poker is being sold now.
It's being jammed down our throats by the pimps of popular culture,
crafted as thrilling competition when it's really not.
Go to a tournament and you'll see.
"It's like watching paint dry," Lipscomb told The Bee last year. "I'd just
as soon stand in the corner and stare at the wall."
But it works on TV because ESPN filmmakers skillfully manipulate hours of
nothing - madly cutting and pasting - to produce "great television."
In truth, it's just as phony as the "And1 Mixtape" basketball tour, which
is a collection of bricks and bumbling passes distilled to heavily edited
dunks and "street-ball attitude" for television.
It's not real, it's Memorex.
Such fakery was bad enough when ESPN cameras turned publicity-hungry
bowlers into trash talking bozos, but now we're supposed to be impressed
by a poker-playing doofus with wraparound sunglasses?
Seriously. Modern-day court jesters are being elevated alongside the
Miguel Tejadas of the world by the likes of the New York Times, which on
Friday described poker players this way:
"Among the game's breakout stars are Phil "The Poker Brat" Hellmuth. ...
Men "The Master" Nguyen, who often sips beer at the table in a pose of
nonchalance; and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, whose long locks and dark beard
help him resemble the popular depiction of Christ."
Boy, is that this week's sign of the coming of the apocalypse or what?
So let's review: Televised poker stinks because a game requiring no
athletic ability, tied to gambling and played by chain-smoking,
booze-swilling louts is being sold as culturally important.
It stinks because it's a game manipulated by television to seem more
interesting than it is.
It stinks because it appeals to our worst instincts.
"In this day and age, if you put a television camera in a 7-Eleven, clerks
would be giving each other high-fives after they sold a Slurpee," said
Norman Chad, an ESPN poker "commentator" in the Times.
OK. This is America, people watch poker; the rest of us always can change
the channel. No problem.
But keep poker off my sports page. And while I'm happy for the Elk Grove
guy who took home seven figures in Vegas on Saturday, don't tell me his
win is important.
It is to him and his family, but to a shrinking world that still values
real athletic talent and genuine real athletic entertainment, it's not.
Damn, WSOP coverage starts tonite on ESPN. Here's a schedule:
All times EDT as usual. Check your local listings to be sure of your broadcast schedule.
WSOP Circuit Events ( on ESPN starting this week)
July 19 - 8p - Rio Las Vegas
July 19 - 9p - Rio Las Vegas
July 26 - 9p - Harrah's Atlantic City
Aug 2 - 9p - Rincon San Diego
Aug 9 - 9p - Harvey's Lake Tahoe
Aug 16 - 9p - Harrah's New Orleans
World Series of Poker
Aug 23 - 8p - $1,500 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Aug 23 - 9p - $1,500 Limit Hold 'Em
Aug 30 - 8p - $1,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em (rebuys)
Aug 30 - 9p - $2,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 6 - 8p - $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 6 - 9p - $2,000 Pot-Limit Omaha (rebuys)
Sept 13 - 8p - $5,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 13 - 9p - $5,000 Pot-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 20 - 8p - $1,500 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 20 - 9p - $5,000 Seven-Card Stud
Sept 27 - 8p - $2,500 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 27 - 9p - $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha
Oct 4 - 8p - $5,000 Limit Hold 'Em
Oct 4 - 9p - $5,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em (6-handed)
Oct 11 - Nov 15 - $10,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em World Championship (two episodes at 8p/9p consecutively each night)
Monday July 18th
2:00 PM Poker Million: The Masters II CSN
Features Bruno Fitoussi, Philippa Flanders, Barny Boatman, Mark Burton, Nick Barbu, Martin Smith. [Commentary by Jesse May, hopefully in a subdued manner]
4:00 PM ?? Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament FSW
[listed as 4 PM PDT on Yahoo TV, but the Circuit events are listed as starting at 9 PM PDT, so I don't know]
5:00 PM ?? Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament FSW
7:30 PM Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament CSN
[I've lost track of the preliminary rounds- this may be #16?]
11:00 PM Poker Royale: Comedians vs. Pros GSN
[I also don't know which part this is]
Tuesday July 19th
12:00 AM Poker Million: The Masters II CSN
12:00 AM World Series of Poker 38 ESPN2
Final 27 of the 2004 series
1:00 AM World Series of Poker 38 ESPN2
Final table of the 2004 series
Repeat of Monday
2:00 AM?? Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament FSW
9:00 AM Happy Days: So How Was Your Weekend? TVLAND
Argumentative poker game
12:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
1:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
1:00 PM Celebrity Poker Showdown: BRAVO
Repeat of 2004 show with Sean Astin, Lauren Graham, Chris Masterson,
Matthew Perry, Sara Rue
2:00 PM Ultimate Poker Challenge INHD
[I don't know which one]
2:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
Part 3 of 2004 series
3:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
Part 6 of 2004 series
4:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
Part 7 of 2004 series
5:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
Part 8 of 2004 series
6:00 PM World Series of Poker ESPN2
Part 9 of 2004]
7:00 PM World Series of Poker ESPN
Final table 2004
8:00 PM World Series of Poker: 2005 Circuit Tournament ESPN
At the Rio
8:30 PM ? Texas Hardtails SPEED
9:00 PM World Series of Poker: 2005 Circuit Tournament ESPN
Part II at the Rio
10:00 PM Tilt 37 ESPN
Repeat of the Emmy-winning first show
[That's right, it's BACK!]
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