Poker's Biggest Four-Letter Word

Posted at 21:01 2008-07-24

Perth’s popular poker personality, Max Veenhuyzen, has joined the PokerNetwork team to bring to you his thoughts on the world of poker. Max is well known for being the first Australian to win the PokerStars Sunday Millions, as well as entertaining us articles for Bluff magazine and his blog at www.acehighwine.com.


My first brush with the World Series of Poker (WSOP) also doubles as my first experience with televised poker.
It was July 2004 while I was staying with a friend in Los Angeles. We were flicking through what seemed like a thousand different cable channels looking for something to watch when we stumbled on an ESPN telecast of a $2000NLHE event from that year’s WSOP.
Of course, I had no idea at the time what was unfolding before my eyes – I didn’t know what the game was or even understand the rules of hold’em… why were there all these cards being turned face up on the table? This didn’t look anything like the bastardised draw poker my friends and I used to play as kids with our basketball cards.
But even though I had no idea behind the mechanics of the game, I remember thinking how “cool” the whole thing was. I mean, here’s this fresh-faced arrogant Pommy git in a bright orange tracksuit top, James Vogl was his name, promising a stoic David Chiu that next time, “I’m going to call you, David.” I had no idea what he was saying, but he just came off sounding so bad-ass, it was impossible not to be impressed.
Since Greg Raymer’s victory that year, the WSOP, its champions and the overall poker landscape have all changed. While I wish all the above still had the same sheen and luster they sported that fateful night in LA all those years ago, reality dictates otherwise.
Now, there’s no need to wait for episodes to show up on torrents and P2P servers – online reporting makes following players and tournaments in real time a cinch. Once upon a time, the WSOP was the world’s biggest and most prestigious tournament series and mainstay on all poker players’ calendars, but numerous other tours have sprung up across the world over the years, boasting big buy-ins on par and rivaling the mythical 10k asking price of the Main Event.
And try as they might, organizers are finding it hard to keep the wrong headlines from the WSOP making the news. It’s not results and bracelet winners from this year’s series that are setting tongues wagging and fingers a-typing the fastest.
Undoubtedly the biggest story from the 2008 WSOP has been the – as top shelf poker blogger Dr Pauly put it – battle for Tiffany Michelle’s breasts as she finds herself the meat in a hotly contested poker sponsorship sandwich. And here we were thinking that no story would be able to usurp Harrah’s decision to delay the main event’s final table until November from its pre-ordained position as this year’s most controversial WSOP tale.
No doubt about it, what Benny Binion created as a spectacle to attract more people to his den of vice has remained uncomfortably true to the legendary casino owner’s vision. The WSOP may be poker’s annual 15 minutes of fame, but those 15 on-camera minutes aren’t all smiles.
But in the same way one remembers the “first times” in their life – be it the cassette album they bought, their first pay packet or even taking down their V plates – one can’t help but harbor a soft spot for the WSOP.
Yes, many an intelligent poker player has told me that Vegas is a hot, humid and smelly place to be in summer: the main event is sheer bedlam and poker at its most circus-like: and spending four to six weeks in the presence of the great unwashed and largely socially-inept who value deep stacks more than deodorant is enough to make one forever swear off live poker and play solely online.
But like riding a Gondola in Venice, seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York, playing the WSOP Main Event is just something that needs to be “done” by poker players: a pilgrimage every card player has to make once in their life, but rather than going to a Mecca in the middle East, it’s to the City of Sin.
After my Sunday Mills windfall early this year, a friend asked whether I was going to Vegas to play the Main Event.
Being the sensible and somewhat risk-averse man than I am, I truthfully told him no as a payday of $160k wasn’t enough to be able to (sensibly) take out a $15k chunk for what is in my opinion a lottery where one has slightly better than a one in eight thousand chance of winning. But if you win that lottery… cha-ching indeed.
I’m still hoping that one day I will make it to poker’s big dance and with the blessing of the poker gods, get to do more than play the role of wallflower, but going or not going to the WSOP won’t define me as a person. Unless you’re out there fasting for 40 days and nights, there’s better ways of measuring a person’s worth than by what they get up to in the middle of a desert.

- Max

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Poker's Biggest Four-Letter Word Poker's Biggest Four-Letter Word

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