Televised Poker Is So 2005
My junior and senior year of high school, poker was a phenomenon on par with Jersey Shore, Pogs, flat tops, and those stupid Ugg boots that every girl is apparently obligated to buy. For about two years straight, I probably played poker at least once a week. I remember my friend Bob tried to organize a massive “World Series of Poker” type tournament. He got 40 something kids to sign up, and everyone put in 20 bucks. There’d be mini-tournaments at various locations, the winners of those mini-tournaments would play each other, the winner of that would get 500 bucks. The whole school, or at least the weirdos who spent their weeknights huddled around dining room tables playing hour after hour of poker for a chance to win 20 bucks, was buzzing. Then one day Bob handed me an envelope with my name and the word “Money” scrawled in black sharpie. “Tournament’s cancelled” he said. It was like getting hit in the groin by an errant dodgeball.
I still had a pretty good amount of enthusiasm for poker heading into my freshman year of college. One night though, I somehow found myself in a game with a bunch of juniors and seniors, who, from the looks of things, were degenerate gamblers. It was only 10 bucks, though, so I played. I ended up playing for three-and-a-half hours, coming in third place out of about fifteen people, and getting my money back. That pretty much shattered my zeal for the game.
In the world of television, poker was a mainstay of ESPN’s late-summer lineup. Some guy named Chris Moneymaker made huge waves by winning the World Series of Poker after qualifying via an online tournament. Phil Helmuth, arguably one of the worst human beings ever put in front of a camera, was dividing the country with his abrasive yet entertaining style of play. People were even willing to give Rounders another try. In short, the mid-2000s were halcyon days for poker enthusiasts.
Poker has since gone the way of the Beanie Baby, yet ESPN refuses to acknowledge this. Seriously, why is it such a ubiquitous presence on my television? No one cares anymore, ESPN; the poker ship has sailed. It’s actually kind of sad to see it on these days. It harkens back to a time when it was actually cool to watch poker. I remember hearing kids debating who was the best poker player or talking about how their favorite player took a real bad beat the night before. Now its just pathetic.
Probably the best comparison I can think of on television is “professional” wrestling (WWF, WWE, etc.). It’s not a perfect comparison, as televised wrestling is much more historically relevent (and way more popular) than poker ever became. For me, though, seeing either one on television has a nostalgic effect. A few Mondays ago I was flipping through the channels when I came across Monday Night Raw. They had a match between two guys I’d never heard of, and I tried for a minute or two to get into it, but it just wasn’t happening.
I feel the same way about poker. Every time I see it on television, I get a brief shot of nostalgia, and then I remember that it’s 2010.