RE: What Poker can Learn from the Olympics

by , Aug 9, 2008 | 9:45 pm

As mentioned below, I’m currently watching Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh dominate the Japanese in women’s beach volleyball (poker-playing b-baller Jason Kidd is also watching the game, albeit from the stands, not on TV — as the NBA players are apparently making a concerted effort to be part of the Olympic experience) and there’s all this talk about the wonders of the Olympics … the whole world coming together, men, women people from all races, religions, and countries … putting their problems aside to engage in spirited competition … Where else, when else, do you see this sort of thing, an announcer asks …

And though I think he meant it as a rhetorical question … I’ve actually got an answer: in an online poker room. Except instead of every four years, it’s pretty much constant.

6 Comments to “RE: What Poker can Learn from the Olympics”

  1. BJ Nemeth

    But there’s a big difference — you can play online poker without knowing the skin color or nationality of your opponents. They may not even speak English, and you’d never know, as long as they didn’t chat.

    The Olympics are an altogether different experience. I’ve only been to two, and they were both here in the United States — but it was still a tremendously international atmosphere, with a lot of camaraderie between fans of different nationalities. We could root passionately for our own country without rooting *against* the other countries. (And vice versa.) Europeans who didn’t normally have a high opinion of the U.S. had no problem bonding with us during the Olympics.

    Compare that to football/soccer riots in Europe, or college football rivalries in the U.S. Or even the vitriol between Yankees fans and Red Sox fans. Sure, there was the “Miracle on Ice” of the 1980 Olympics (USA vs. USSR at the height of the Cold War), and Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (showing Hitler that his “master race” wasn’t master of everything). With a few exceptions, politics are left at the door as people from around the world come together (physically, not virtually) in good-natured spirited competition.

    If you ever have the opportunity to attend the Olympics in person, I highly recommend it.

  2. DanM

    ***I’ve only been to two***

    Ha ha! That’s only two more than I’ve been to.

    I’m gonna ignore your soccer riots comparison/contrast … because that’s an altogether different beast. it’s Brit-on-Brit crime, or more often these days Italian-on-Italian. Entire towns’ economies are often affected by the results, so it’s far more than a matter of pride stirring up the violence.

    My point is that online poker … very Olympic in spirit, as I can’t think of any other game where people from all around the world are sitting (virtually or otherwise) at the same table playing a game.

    Who cares that you can’t see them?

  3. BJ Nemeth

    Why not compare it to the *actual* World Series of Poker, where you get a similar experience to what you describe, but with direct, personal contact?

    I think the personal contact is *extremely* relevant to the sportscaster’s point. The fact that people are playing an online game against faceless/voiceless opponents in a virtual environment doesn’t do anything at all to expose people to different cultures.

  4. BJ Nemeth

    Maybe I’m just reading more into his comments than you are. You’re taking him at his literal word — where else can you find a large number of international competitors in one place? Online poker!

    I’m inferring that he’s talking about the concept of the Olympic Spirit — the overall *effect* of having a large number of international competitors (and fans) in one place, putting aside political and religious differences to compete on a (usually) level playing field.

  5. DanM

    Ah, yes, the same Spirit that brings us Tonya Harding, blood-doping, performance enhancing drugs, crooked French figure-skating judges, clock-rigging basketball officials, international boycotts, general cheating and angle-shooting and the occasional bombing, terrorist attack, and unprovoked murder of a fan …

    You are right, a little different than online poker/the WSOP.

  6. BJ Nemeth

    It’s a human endeavor, so of course it will have flaws. But even online poker has cheaters.

    At the end of the day, the things you mentioned are the exceptions, and but a small part of the story, particularly if you’re there in person. (Scandals are magnified if you only experience something through television.)

    As far as I can tell, the last three things you mentioned were one bombing (Atlanta, 1996 by a lone bomber, with one fan killed), one terrorist attack (Munich, 1972, 11 athletes murdered), and one unprovoked murder of a fan (Beijing, 2008). The last one hardly even counts, if it was truly random — it is a major city, after all. When you consider all the political turmoil that has been the backdrop to the Olympics for the past century or so, it’s utterly shocking that there hasn’t been more Olympics-related violence, don’t you think?

    Sure, Tonya Harding and other competitors sometimes go to extreme (and sometimes illegal) measures to compete in the Olympics, but they are definitely a very small minority. That barely tarnishes the overall Olympic Spirit, which is based on athletes and fans gathering from around the world to put aside their differences and compete in sports.

    Exhibit A: Two Olympians, one from Russia and one from Georgia, hug on the medal stand as their countries are on the verge of war. Link:

    *That’s* the Olympic Spirit.