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Thursday, June 24, 2004

WPT Reno Thoughts
The World Poker Tour needs to introduce a variable ending. Wouldn't it be cool if one week it just ended at 10:49, on a hand you thought couldn't possibly be the last hand because of the clock? They could fill the reminaing 11 minutes with Shana Hiatt frolicking on a beach or something.

Cause I gotta say, the heads-up portion of the show is getting to be the least interesting for me, especially when it starts rather early in the program. You know that neither of the final two players will be busting out until 11:56 or so.

Last night I was rooting for Paul "Eskimo" Clark the whole way, in large part because they introduced him as a "high-stakes cash game" player. I like the idea of the grizzled high-stakes player coming in and teaching the tournament players a lesson. Eskimo quote: "I'm as cool as I can be. You gotta be cool to bust people."

Being a fellow A-Team fan, I almost starting pulling for Harry "I love it when a plan comes together" Knoll, but then I remembered how Harry had slowplayed AA, not raising preflop, and inviting Eskimo to draw out on him. He did do a marvelous job of talking so much that he got Peter Muller to call top pair with nothing. Still don't know what "Don't worry about the mule, just load the wagon" means, but I'm gonna start using it.

I didn't have a "Vince Van Patten Quote of the Week" for last week's "Crusin' Mexico" episode (aka the Party Poker Million), and I don't have one for this week. I don't know if VVP got less funny or I got jaded or what, but I suspect that VVP's commentary is less looney this season because of the show's success--gotta figure they're doing a better job of editing the show and partially scripting VVP.

Mike Sexton had the best line about the Reno winner, midwesterner Michael Kinney: "Count your potatos if you live up there in Idaho."

The Legality Issue

While I'm at it, a comment about last week's episode. How about that "poker is a party" Shana Hiatt segment, featuring several pros saying thing like "I love a party!" and "I've been playing at the party for a while"? First, I love the wink-wink advertising for Party Poker. But I couldn't help but start to wonder about how the World Poker Tour TV show (and the soon-to-be-televised WSOP) is going to affect the debate over online poker/gambling in the long term. The WPT has contract with the Travel Channel through something like 2009. The 2003 ESPN WSOP broadcast has been getting great ratings and the 2004 likely will too. Raymer and Moneymaker both qualified online, as have many WPT contestants, and the hosts of these shows make frequent mention of that.

Yet the FCC won't let Party Poker and other online poker rooms advertise on TV, and Harrah's and the WPT have prohibited the wearing of online poker room logos, perhaps because of legal concerns? How ridiculous is this? As flipchipro put a few weeks back: "Come on people, let’s give credit where credit is due. If not for online casinos and television the World Series of Poker would continue to be played in a tent under the valet parking veranda by a group of old dudes that no one outside the industry knows."

I do not expect that online poker/casinos will become explicitly legal anytime soon, since there are so many forces (principally brick & mortar casinos) arrayed against it. (For background, the PokerProf has a good post on the legality of online poker.) The "it's there, it's illegal, but we can't really stop it" mentality about online gambling has been around for several years. But not until this past year and a half have there been two hit shows on network cable bringing the issue into the spotlight. While TV pundits liken the poker shows to "reality TV" and Jay Lovinger debates whether poker is a sport, the fact is that the WSOP and WPT are making it obvious--to million of Americans who whould have never thought about it otherwise--that lots of people are playing poker online, legally or illegally, and some of them are winning lots of money and getting 15 minutes of fame doing it.

Will there be a mainstream debate about online poker's technically-illegal-but-mainstream status anytime soon? I don't know, but that "poker is a party!" Shana Hiatt segment sure did get me thinking about it.

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