The Poker Industry Continues to Disappoint Me

by , Sep 26, 2007 | 7:39 pm

Poker must be the most boring activity in the world. Why else would the industry focus its cameras on the most ridiculous people?

We have spelling bees and Scrabble championships on TV and none of the competitors have little “charks” and make munching sounds then yell their name “HUMBERTO, HUMBERTO”. None of them spell a tough word and start making animal sounds while moving their bodies in hunchback dance moves. Could you imagine Humberto as a little kid competing in a spelling bee and yelling his name every time he spelled a word correctly, then getting out a little Power Ranger and acting like he is going to hit the little girl he is competing against?

We as poker players should want nice people with lots of money to come play with us. Do you think when Bill Gates sees Hevad Kahn doing his monkey noises and strange gyrations he says to himself, “boy I want to play with that guy? Maybe I could get that guy to represent Microsoft.” I’m guessing not; however, I guess that’s exactly what Pokerstars says. He is now a face on Pokerstars. Why would any company want to associate with these embarrassing people? Answer, they get a lot of exposure on TV. Michael Vick is getting a ton of exposure, I hear he likes gambling too, and he’s available for about 5-10 years.

Poker is reaching the lowest common denominator, and it’s a joke. I am really tired of people having to exhibit ridiculous behavior in order to get noticed in poker. There was actually a guy at a featured table at the main event who made balloon animals for the other players at the table. Are people really this desperate to get on TV? The answer is clear. Therefore, I have compiled a list of things that I’m willing to do at a featured table next year.

  • Bring a large block of ice and chisel an ice sculpture of Norman Chad.
  • Recite poetry
  • Dress in renaissance clothing and use a turkey leg as a card protector while spouting such phrases as “Oh my damsel, you must taketh the spoils of the pot for you are a most worthy adversary”
  • Strap a fake bomb to myself and continue to chant in some middle-eastern bogus language so security is forced to find someone who speaks my language
  • Wear no shirt and have on masking tape underwear
  • Last but not least, play my best, be nice and have fun.

Is that not enough anymore?

I would love for these idiots not to be shown on TV. Why? There are so many reasons but here are just a few.

These kinds of behaviors encourage others to be more ridiculous, and they must be more over-the-top in order to get attention. That reminds me of the WWF (World Wrestling Federation)

Imagine if all players behaved this way, poker would suck so bad, all decent people would be done. It would take forever to play one round because each player would have to shout their name, do some monkey dance and then hold up their cards to the audience and start singing.

Whether they believe it or not, these people are not entertaining. They are not characters of the game. They are trying way too hard. Characters act themselves which is what makes them unique. These types of people will be remembered as inconsiderate and juvenile. They are irritating, rude and most of all show horrible sportsmanship. Could you imagine Tiger or Phil behaving this way on the golf course? Tiger would not have received all of the wonderful spoils he has gotten without class and composure.

I don’t mind the occasional fist pump on a really important hand; however, most white guys suck at that.

I’m tired of people defending these celebratory idiots. He’s a nice guy away from the table. I keep hearing this. I disagree. It’s like saying besides beating his wife, he’s a great guy. Great guys don’t stomp on someone after a devastating loss. They beat their opponent then shake their hand. I have seen cage fighters kick the shit out of their opponent then go hug them when the match is over.

Let’s get our industry out of the gutter and make poker entertaining because of the cunning, calculating guts that the best players have.

33 Comments to “The Poker Industry Continues to Disappoint Me”

  1. cardchucker

    thank you tom for voicing this. while dancing the cha cha cha in my head after winning a hand, i just bust a little smirk, give the guy a look like sorry buddy, and stack my chips quietly and wait for another hour before i can repeat this process. i think i watched a total of 5 minutes of espn’s coverage of the main event due to the fear of losing brain cells from the “not so football endzone” celebrating.

  2. Lisa

    Can we enable voting on which we’d prefer to see you do next year, Tom?

  3. California Jen

    Tom, I was just making notes for an article on this exact subject. Quit stealing my stuff!


    You’re right on the money here. Between Brenes and Khan, I was cringing when it happened at the WSOP and just getting angry when it was actually broadcast to showcase those two goofballs. I guess it makes for good TV, but geez. Does common sense come into play at all here? Don’t things like courtesy, sportsmanship, dignity, and respect matter at all?

    Mostly, it seems to be the young American players who go crazy at the tables (with the exception of Humberto), and if you notice, their foreign or more seasoned competitors are usually horrified by the behavior.

    And I love your point about those guys actually being nice, cool characters away from the table. Sure they are. And if they really are, why is it that they have to be fools in public? It makes no sense.

    BTW, I vote for the ice sculpture of Norman Chad. I’m begging you to do this and steer clear of the masking tape underwear.

  4. Anonymous Asshole

    “there was actually a guy at a featured table at the main event who made balloon animals for the other players at the table. Are people really this desperate to get on TV”

    Tom, I was there when that was going on, as a spectator of course. It was my first time to the WSOP. I just happened to be there for a Vegas trip with my younger cousins (21 / 22) and booked it to overlap with the WSOP. I had to see what all the madness/hype was about re: the event so I strolled on over to the RIO form the Palms, where the pool was incredible. Well, the tourney truly is a GARGANTUAN size event and I am glad I was able to relate the event to what it is like when I see it on TV.

    Miami Jon and Scotty Nguyen were also at the table when the bonehead was blowing balloons. I watched the TV table for about 30 minutes in all……I sat there to myself and said “what is next?” I just kept thinking that I had seen Humberto and his stupid SH../Antics on TV recently and was already getting tired of that 🙂

    Congrats on your wins and best of luck the rest of the year.


  5. DanM

    This really is a question of what poker will become — something akin to the PGA, NASCAR, the WWE, or a hybrid.

    Perhaps that will be one of the differences between, say, the WPT and WSOP. One will be more wrestling, and the other will be more golf.

    But just to play devil’s advocate, wasn’t it kinda great to see Humberto get busted out by Hevad? A little taste of his own medicine.

    And remember when “the Crew” were the bad boys people loved to hate? It was fun to see Scott Fischman get his ass handed to him by Doyle Brunson … but then again, Scott, Dutch, and Gank are practically dignified statesmen by comparison to the new crew of TV-hungry players.

  6. Robert Goldfarb

    People are not different away from the table. In fact, the emotions involved in poker…stress, joy, disappointment, and how one handles these emotions, are the perfect environment to see a person for who they really are.

  7. DanM

    And those tendencies are exaggerated even further when a camera comes nearby.

  8. DanM

    ***Why else would the industry focus its cameras on the most ridiculous people?***

    One point of order … don’t shoot the messenger(s). As ridiculous as they may be, they pretty much are a big part of the visual story that ESPN is theoretically trying to capture.

    Would they be better off getting, for example, one pro screaming from the rail at another pro playing that he owes him $150,000? This supposedly happened at the WSOP, of course (Mark Newhouse vs. Dustin Woolf) … and affected play to the extent that floor had to be called to have the accuser removed. Would that make for good coverage?

    OK, maybe I have answered my own question here.

  9. BJ Nemeth

    While I agree that a lot of these antics are obnoxious, over the top, and completely unnecessary, I think the degree of the problem is greatly overstated. This problem primarily manifests once a year during the WSOP Main Event, and even then, it usually corrects itself by Day 2 (when the idiots have lost their chips).

    One of the beauties of our “sport” is that anyone can enter, and anyone can play. The World Series of Poker is one of the most democratic sporting events in the world. (But in a capitalist way where you need to raise $10,000 to play — we aren’t communists!) In my view, tournament poker is more comparable to the New York Marathon or the Boston Marathon than it is to golf or wrestling.

    In a major marathon, you have a lot of very, very serious runners. People who train year-round trying to shave 30 seconds off their time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. However, you also have a handful of lesser athletes (myself included), who are just in it for the personal satisfaction, and to have fun and a sense of accomplishment. If you go further down the scale, you’ll find people attempting to run in silly costumes, or with some stupid quirk to attract attention (running backwards, running three-legged with a friend, etc.).

    An event like the Main Event of the World Series of Poker is big enough for everybody — top pros, serious amateurs, thrill-seeking rich people, celebrities with backers, and attention-seeking idiots. As long as the idiots contribute money to the prizepool, I can live with them.

    Perhaps I’m misreading Tom’s sentiment, but it sounds like a doom-and-gloom post about the future of poker. That’s where I disagree. There have been crazy antics at the last few WSOP Main Events, and ESPN has featured a lot of them. To this point, I haven’t seen any of these antics outside of the Main Event. People don’t wear costumes into the WSOP Razz event, and they don’t make balloon animals at Bellagio’s Five Diamond Classic.

    For most spectators (and even some of the players), Day 1 of a week-long tournament can be pretty dull, and I understand why ESPN spices up their extended coverage with some of the quirkier characters in the field.

    Let me restate this — I hate these crazy antics, especially when one players shows up another player after a hand. But I’ve covered a lot of major tournaments (with televised final tables), and the crazy stuff just isn’t there. (Yes, there are varying levels of emotion after big hands, but that’s human nature.) So as I play devil’s advocate on this issue, let me ask this —

    How often do you see this activity *outside* of the WSOP Main Event?

  10. BJ Nemeth

    Yes, my posts are way too long. But I’d like to address one more thing …

    I’d like to suggest that Hevad “Rain” Khan’s sponsorship by PokerStars has as much to do with the fact that he is famous for multi-tabling an insane number of online games at once, to the point where his account was cancelled because they assumed he was a bot. Combine that fact with his exposure at the WSOP Main Event Final Table (and additional exposure on ESPN for his monkey dance), and it makes a compelling scenario for PokerStars.

    If Khan were just an online multi-tabling fiend, I don’t think PokerStars sponsors him. If Khan were just a monkey-dancing WSOP Final Tablist, I don’t think PokerStars sponsors him. But when you combine those two things … it starts to make more sense.

    This doesn’t dispel Tom’s argument, but it does lessen it in the case of Hevad Khan. (In my opinion.)

  11. Uncle Ray

    The problem is not that these people exist. As BJ pointed out, 10K buys your entry. The problem isn’t even that ESPN shows the antics. The real problem is that they FEATURE the antics and the weird guys.

    If these guys bother you enough to get you off your game, they have succeeded. If not, they are no more irritating than any arrogant pro that acts like they wouldn’t lose if it wasn’t for bad luck and stupid opponents and berates everyone at the table (no names will be mentioned).

    If ESPN would treat the crazies like, for example. baseball treats streakers (now I’m really showing how old I am) and other fools who either run on the field, fight in the stands, or otherwise disrupt the game, there would be no problem. The incident is mentioned but not shown. The idiots don’t get their TV moment of fame, or infamy.

    It’s not that these people need to be gotten rid of, it’s that ESPN makes it seem like they are the norm rather than the exception in the world of poker.

  12. DanM

    The difference is that the streakers don’t pay $10,000 to buy in … and/or they don’t have to qualify a la the PGA.

    The other difference is that Tom can’t do this:

  13. California Jen

    BJ, you say it’s human nature for people to react with various levels of emotion. That’s true, but the levels we’re seeing on ESPN are extreme. It is not natural for anyone to run around making money noises or surround himself with little sharks. It’s silly.

    And while human nature can excuse certain things, behavior like that exhibited by Hevad or Humberto is learned. People learn that if you act like an idiot, you will get TV cameras to follow you, and in their minds, bad publicity is better than no publicity.

    And some of this behavior does spill out from the WSOP main event to the WPT and other tournaments. Sure, no one typically wears joker outfits to the WPT, but you’ll still see young players yelling and romping around after winning a hand. Some of the kids at those WPT final tables practically go body surfing in the crowd after eliminating an opponent instead of walking over to shake that person’s hand and congratulate them on a game well played.

    When I was young, I learned how to win and lose with grace and dignity. If I won a round of dodgeball in grade school and ran around yelling about how I’m the greatest dodgeball player of all time, no one would have played with me again. And if I won a game of backgammon with my mom and screamed at her, then jumped up on the kitchen table and whooped it up, she would have kicked my ass. I was taught how to play a game, then how to win or lose respectfully. That is not happening with young players these days.

  14. GoodChuck

    I suggest the following. If we go with the premise that ESPN records and broadcasts these idiots for the TV value then we report to EESPN, and their advertisers, how often viewers change the channel or stop watching the broadcast, as I did, whenever Humberto, Hevad, or anyone else “actin a fool,” is on. If they think it will affect there cash flow it will have an affect.

  15. Ed

    So the equation is simple.

    Play like a bot/Don’t Speak English/Be able to read your name on back of belt + Be an asshat on national television = Pokerstars noticing you.

    So how did Daniel get there? Oh yeah…his was as easy as FCP getting bought by Pokerstars. Glad he did not have to stoop as low as being an asshat on tv.

    I am glad Tom has come out and stated his opinion on this. Tired of hearing the other pros state things like “Oh that is just how he expresses himself since his English is not that great.”

    I don’t know a lick of Spanish but I can assure you if I were in an event way down south I would not be “taunting” my opponent with a donkey figurine and yelling “Don-Key! Don-Key! HeeeHaw! How do you say Don-Key in English?! Edwardo!”


  16. Uncle Ray

    Good suggestion GoodChuck. I also would say that the reason it is seen on WSOP and not WPT is that WSOP shows “highlights” from all rounds and it is before the final table that most of the nonsense goes on.

    The WPT only shows the final table so most of the idiocy has already been dispensed with.

    And Jen, you are totally correct. It seems that too many people either forgot or never learned that to be a good sport you need to not be a sore loser AND not be an obnoxious winner.

    But how do we teach our kids that when we glorify the antics of guys like TO, Randy Moss, (hell, half of the wide receivers in the NFL), many MLB pitchers (see Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs), many MLB batters admiring their home runs (see Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs)and any other “look at me” athlete? Don’t even get me started on basketball players!!

    It is now in our YouTube culture to make a spectacle of yourself. It’s sad, really sad.

  17. TBR

    Color me not super-offended. Yes, it’s absurd and awful sportmanship, but ESPN still does a pretty good job of showing some interesting hands. WPT coverage is an all-in fest and allows for very little strategic coverage. With the power of tivo, those of us that nerd-out on the interesting hands they do show can just FF through the lunatics and all the forced human interest stories (like that guy was REALLY blind. Please). I’ll take the good with the bad, and as has been pointed out, I’ll definitely take the dead-money due to its popularity.

    Speaking of questionable sportsmanship, I’d like to point out that I may have been the only person at the 2007 WSOP who bought Tom Schneider a meal (and did so AFTER he had POY locked up). I say “questionable sportsmanship” because I was forced to do so after losing a rigged game of “1 to 1,000” proposed by Dan. I’m not sure the ESPN cameras caught Dan and Tom’s reactions to winning, but they were bush-league I can assure you.

  18. brian

    I faithfully Tivo and watch the Main Events, and I love the ability to fast-forward through the idiots. I would much rather see what the pros are doing, how they are playing, watch the chip leaders play, etc. I also enjoy interviews with various tv and movie celebs, that sort of thing.

    The antics are just annoying and absolutely appear to anyone with sense as camera posturing. At one point while watching this year’s main event, I even wondered out loud to my son, “I wonder if they (ESPN or someone else) are telling this guy to keep up that junk for tv ratings?”.

  19. BJ Nemeth

    I still contend that you are all overstating the problem, continually referring back to Hevad Khan, Humberto Brenes, or the random idiots on Day 1 of the Main Event. This is *not* indicative of the current state of poker.

    WPT events are huge, but there are no costumes or other idiocy on day ones. The prelim WSOP events do not have these problems either. It is part of the carnival atmosphere of the Main Event, and I can accept that (even if I don’t enjoy it).

    But to say that the antics of Hevad Khan and Humberto Brenes are indicative of the state of poker is highly misleading. With fields this large, there are always going to be a few exceptions, but the overall poker sportsmanship that I see week in and week out on the WPT is mostly professional.

  20. California Jen

    Definitely not referring to Day 1 of the Main Event. I think this week was Day 3 or 4 with only about 50 players left in the field. Day 1 antics are always ridiculous at the WSOP, but this is serious poker and serious money, and these fools make it look like a meaningless reality TV show.

    Sure, there is poker going on, and if you can block out the stupidity, you can see some interesting hands and the progression of the event. But it’s difficult when they put the goofballs at the feature table and continually focus on them.

    I’ll agree that most players in poker are professional and conduct themselves with class, but it does seem to be the trend for young, American players (some of them) to act without any regard for other players or for the tradition of the game.

  21. DanM

    Humberto is more painful to watch than RaiNKhaN, imho … that’s why I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the elder clown-statesman of poker knocked about his newfound younger friend. After all, Khan’s thumbs-up move with Aces was a pretty brilliant way to entice an all-in from Brenes! Nice score.

    But maybe he shoulda gotten a 10-yard penalty for excessive end-zone celebration.

    While I pretty much agree with BJ, we shouldn’t forget how extreme some of the celebrations really were. Not to be a safety asshole, but when RaiNKhaN climbed the feature table scaffolding and began to shake like Donkey Kong (which I don’t think has been shown on TV yet) that put the whole integrity of the tournament at stake. I mean I am sure that set-up hadn’t been tested to withstand that sort of activity. Can you imagine had something big and heavy come crashing down onto a table full of chips and people?

  22. Uncle Ray

    BJ, I accept your observance and agree that it is probably a small part of the world of poker. But you need to ask yourself whether or not you need the non-players or at least the non-main event viewers to watch the shows in order to build the popularity of the game.

    I know there is a built-in sponsor, the entry fee, so maybe you don’t need new viewers. But public perception will be that the norm is to be obnoxious, not courteous and good a sportsman like you normally experience.

    If you don’t need new viewers and new players that play the game in a sportsmanlike way, then you’re right. But if it is going to grow, new blood is always necessary. And if the only new blood has the perception that being obnoxious is the only way to fame and fortune in the world of poker, then it will ultimately pervade other events…and final tables…and I don’t think that’s the direction you want the game to go.

    And that takes us full circle, I think, because Tom’s original point before all the comments were made seemed to be that he was getting sick of the idiocy that is becoming more and more common.

    Okay, I’m done. I’ve probably said too much. I’m sorry I’m beating a dead horse (which someone may do at next year’s main event).

  23. Tom Schneider

    Hey, this is great. This is exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping to get.

    First, let me say that I’m not a professional writer like some of you’s. Therefore, maybe I did not convey my point real well.

    Here’s what I meant to say. Assholes suck. People who hyper-celebrate when someone just got knocked out of the most important event of the year are assholes. I hate to see assholes get all of the attention, because I hate assholes.

    Uncle Ray, thanks for the dead horse beating idea at a featured table. It should have made my list the first time.

    Randy, I guess using my arm to emulate a swinging elephant trunk was a little too much exuberance for beating you out of a free meal. Maybe just a quiet little booyah would have been more appropriate.

    Thanks everybody for your comments, and BJ, I love your energy, you are the man.

    Booyah oo oo aa aa. I’m eating a banana now.

  24. Tom Schneider

    All of the above excepting anonymous assholes.

  25. DanM

    ***BJ, I love your energy, you are the man.***

    How pissed is Tom going to be when RaiNKhaN gets a sponsorship deal with Red Bull?

  26. Venita

    I agree that it’s a little alarming – Brenes has been annoying for a couple of years now, but NOBODY has ever annoyed me as much as the neanderthal Khan. It’s sad – and irritating — that he’s never been taught to be a gracious winner.

    Don’t know if it’s true or not, but I heard a story once about a young pro – whose initials are Scott Fischman – who carried on to the point of annoyance when he busted someone out of a tournament. T.J. Cloutier pulled him aside and said something to the effect of, “You do NOT act like that when you’ve just ended someone’s tournament life.”

    I think the concern is that this kind of behavior will initiate a hundredth monkey effect – that other young players will pick up on that kind of behavior and imitate it, until it has spread and become the norm.

    Maybe the pros can help. If members of the poker community, especially the pros, unite in their universal contempt of such antics – and possibly take it upon themselves to do what T.J. did to Fischman — maybe the word will get around that such behavior is NOT cool. A social freeze-out sometimes works wonders.

  27. Ed

    “A social freeze-out sometimes works wonders.”

    And so does a good ol fashioned ass beating.

  28. Andrew Hime

    Violence – always the answer.

  29. Tom Schneider on the jackassization of poker : Poker News

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  31. Betfair Poker Player

    I think that as soon as it ceases to make good television then it will fade away. The audience obviously like it otherwise it would not be shown.

    If the game is taken up by more people as a result of the coverage well that can’t be a bad thing and for every Humberto there’s likely to be a thousand Herberts.

  32. DanM

    I still have to admit, Hevad’s not so bad. He’s just a kid, right? It’s like he sees the whole poker experience as being in a video game. That’s not so bad … and he’ll grow up.

    But Humberto … he should know better. He used to be beloved until he annoyed the fuck out of everyone. Too bad he’s actually a pretty good player.

  33. Ed

    Hevad is an annoying putz. He makes me have to forward through a lot of the WSOP coverage.