Granted, the Main Event of the WSOP is, ultimately, like any other tournament, and so you're going to have a mix. You're going to have the luckboxes and the pros, the skill players and the ones who give an "aw, shucks" when they outdraw yet again, the bad calls and the fantastic bluffs.
But that's not what I saw Tuesday.
I just saw horrible poker.
That could have been ESPN's coverage. In fairness, it's nearly impossible to whittle down that much poker to two+ hours with the understanding that you have to show the bustouts. But I'm going to judge this final table by what ESPN shows us, as that's what the general public will watch. They won't go to PokerNews or PokerWorks or the countless other poker sites to follow every hand. That's what we do.
The whole November Nine was made for the average television viewer in an effort to make it more of a sporting event. It worked last year. Ratings were up. I think I still hope they do it every year. I like the final table being a spectacle.
But not if that's the poker we'll see.
The final table, at least what ESPN showed, did nothing to showcase poker as a skill game. The massive chip leader, Mr. Moon, played like he was in outer space. I don't think I've seen that horrible a performance at a final table. This is our biggest event of the year, and the guy who had most of the chips looked to the average viewer like he was a lucky logger and nothing else.
Now granted, I didn't see the heads up match, mainly because my DVR thought the show was only two hours long (and I wonder how many other viewers had that trouble), and he supposedly redeemed himself there. But Moon seemed like a country boy who got lucky, not a skilled poker player.
And how many times did Cada, our champion make reckless, foolish pushes, only to suck out with a two-outer? This is supposedly the best player in the world, the one who beat all the others, including the Man, Phil Ivey? I can't imagine what the average viewer, one who really doesn't have much understanding of how poker tournaments work, thinks.
It worries me. We want average viewers to watch this show. Again, that's why the November Nine was created, to put poker more into the mainstream. And then we bill the winner of this tournament as the World Champion. The average viewer, therefore, must think these are the best players in the world. That's what I think when I see the Yankees celebrating.
I saw all-in calls with mediocre hands like K-Q, no regard for stack sizes, gutless folds, even when the story made no sense, stupid, all-in bluffs and suckouts galore. In fact I can't think of a time when the best hand held up at a crucial moment.
I would imagine the average television viewer probably can't either. And while we carp about how poker really is a skill game, seriously, no really it is, and hope that they overturn the stupid federal law that says it's gambling, I have to wonder what the everyman thinks.
Because if I'm everyman, after seeing the final table, I'm really wondering what's so hard about this supposed skill game, wondering why people scream about some law that says it is, and scraping together $10,000 through roulette, blackjack and craps, all so I can get my gamble on next year and hit it big, baby, just one time.
Edit: Oh, the heads up match is TONIGHT? Sweet. OK. Maybe that will help. :)