"When the eagles are silent,
the parrots begin to jabber."
-- Winston Churchill
I write this just after the final ESPN broadcast of the World Series of Poker 2004. This year marked the first truly out-of-the-box
growth in attendance for the Series. The main event in particular had over three times as many players playing this year as last. The
Championship winner, good guy Greg Raymer, immediately became
the all-time winningest player in the history of the World Series.
Poker's growth spurt is like that of many teenagers: maturity is there in some places, but not in others. And, over the next year or
so the maturity knob will likely be turned down in casinos all over the US due to the televised clown act ESPN showed.
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I'm not criticizing ESPN. They are a broadcast media marketing to their own target audience. The target demographic is 18-34 year old
males, and to be blunt, specifically the dork/loser element of that demographic -- people who go into a frenzy over the result of a
game that they themselves don't participate in, and even call talk radio to yell at other people about such games. It's not a
coincidence that ESPN's coverage has focused heavily on men from this same age demographic who they make look (to be charitable) like
a bunch of total doofuses.
The dork target market wants players they can relate to. They can't relate that much to
Doyle Brunson or
Howard Lederer (though they are interested in and
can respect such people). But they can intimately relate to someone about their age making idiotic trash talk, just like they do.
It is basic sports TV marketing, and is partly why
ESPN loves poker. Poker *has* people very similar to their
prime market. Major sports personalities are not nearly as relate-able to. Viewers can't say "I could do that" when watching Barry
Bonds, but they could look at these mouthy guys and think "that could be me".
But like they say in
Texas, it's all hat and no cattle. Very few successful players babble on about how great they are. There are a handful of talented
exceptions with the self esteem of a newt, but for the most part, talented poker players let their talent do the talking. You know
Dan Harrington can play. He shows you... time and again.
The less talented guys are the ones who spend their time telling you how talented they are. This is because they can't show it. Oh
they can show a fine play here and there, even extended periods of outstanding play -- when things are going well. But my goodness,
let a little cloud come on the horizon, and these guys melt down like a snowman in June.
The day after the broadcast of one of the Limit Holdem preliminary shows a few weeks earlier I was playing a tournament at the Bicycle
Casino. Some busted looney kept harassing a player at my table, wanting $20,000 to play head up with another guy (who also looked like
a railbird). He kept going on and on and on (seriously) and on and on babbling about being the greatest Limit Holdem player in the world.
The player in my game who the looney was begging from is a tough-to-read player who had a lot of chips, but if there is a clear
weakness in his game is that he sometimes does
not pay attention. So, this was perfect. The loon was constantly distracting him, until one of the other players at my table
finally had the floorman shoo the loon away.
Of course the loon was a player who ESPN had shown fabulously melting down in that Limit Holdem event the night before. It was such a great,
concrete lesson in how ego will kill a player, especially one who, to be blunt, shouldn't be as egotistical about his skill as he is.
While it is somewhat sad to see these busted crazies buzzing around poker rooms, it also is a reason why poker is so profitable to sensible players.
Delusional goofballs have their moments, but they end up
busted on the rail, less than three months later.
Because ESPN played up the trash talkers, I'm pretty sure we are going to see a significant rise in goofball, idiot-talking, ego-based
poker players. They are in for a rude awakening. They might as well just mail in their money. You see, poker happens to be one of
those things where you have to show what you got, not just babble about how you think you got it.
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