Poker in a Tent Is an Embarrassment


Picture this. Justin Verlander, who no hit the Brewers today, comes out in his next start and pitches six perfect innings. Major League Baseball then empties the stadium and makes anyone who wants to watch the last three innings watch on Pay Per View. That’s pretty close to what happened when Phil Hellmuth won his record 11th bracelet Monday night.

No one got to root him on. No one got to give him a standing ovation. No one was even officially supposed to know about it until the one hour delayed internet broadcast ended.

Poker isn’t necessarily the spectator sport that baseball is, and no one is paying admission to watch the players go at it during the World Series of Poker, but when Hellmuth got down to the last two tables of an event that started with over 2000 players, his table was surrounded by a large crowd and there was an electricity running through the Rio convention area. Then they played the final table in a black tent.

At one point, Mike Matusow, ran up to the tent and screamed “Phil is going for his 11th bracelet and they’ve got him in a tent? What the fuck is this?” Instead of anyone agreeing with Mike he was told to leave the poker area by security, but this time he was right.

The desire to broadcast final tables with hole cards on the internet is understandable. It makes money for Harrahs and it lets a much bigger audience than those walking around the Rio follow along with the action, but it kills the notion that the event is being held for anyone but those watching on the web.

The event obviously can’t be shown live since word would get to the players about the strength or lack of strength of previous bets that were not called. Showing these events on the web is obviously not going to go away because there is money in it, whereas having a crowd of rooters for Hellmuth pays no one, and if anyone understands a cash making opportunity it’s Hellmuth, himself. Nevertheless, it seems like a better idea to increase the delay to two hours and allow spectators. Finding out that someone bluffed two hours ago is something the players can probably live with, but having something historic happen under a huge black tarp shouldn’t be.

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