Sport > Philistines


Published: November 8, 2010

Xenophobia is an irrational, deep-rooted fear of or antipathy towards foreigners. So let’s make this clear. This is not about xenophobia. Because nothing I do is irrational. This is a rational antipathy.

A person called a Philistine is said to despise or undervalue art, beauty, intellectual content or spiritual values. For purposes of this discussion, the role of the Philistines will alternately be played by youth or Canadians.

Once upon a time, in a land not too far from San Diego (Las Vegas actually) there was an art form called No Limit Hold ‘em. In this game the best and brightest displayed their talents and more often than not, one of the best men won. These were seasoned veterans who learned their craft over decades of play.

Now we fast forward the 21st century. The seasoned veterans are all gone. They played the game like a rifleman. They waited for their shot, took it and generally made clean kills. Now the game is being run by a mob of young punks with shot guns. The worst of these come from Canada.

Now anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing me discourse eloquently on the relative demerits of Canadian poker players knows what the issues are. It starts with the fact that they are Canadian. Anyone who saw the film “Lars and the Real Girl” may recall the MD in the film indicated that to “be a doctor this far north, you had to be trained in Psychiatry.” That statement was made about people who live south of Canada. I don’t think I need to elaborate.

That is the start of the problem. These people are bona fide nutters. Any rational person born in Canada can only have one thought. Move to civilization. If they don’t, they are nuts. If they have the thought and don’t move, they are lazy. Basically, that is the Canadian version of the motto on the Statue of Liberty. “Give us your crazy and lazy, yearning to freeze their nubbers off.” Now the lazy ones don’t play poker. The rest should by now at least know they are crazy. So when they show up for a poker tourney and admit they are Canadian, they are announcing that not only they nutters, they are proud to be insane. Whatever happened to people taking on an assumed identity? Don’t people try to pass any more?

Anyway, back to poker. ESPN3 had the final table of the WSOP on last week. Since it was on ESPN, it has to qualify as a sport. Though really, this is stretchy. It is certainly a competition, I’ll give it that. But they had two Canadians and one Italian in the final 9. I got nothing against Italians. But theyguy they sent was making like Roberto Begnini at the Oscars. A little decorum, no? This is America. Not a clothing optional beach on the Mediterranean.

Back in the day, guys were able to win the WSOP in their 40’s 50’s and 60’s. Now all the guys at the Final Table are under 40. The chip leader is 22. 22?

Yeah, no art here. It is something else going on. This is what has been happening over the last 5 years or so. It has become a kiddies game. Here is how it works. Back when the game was based on skill, the players had standards. There are values for various starting hands and those values translated into certain opening bets that made sense mathematically. When you knew the rules, you could vary them to create the Art that defined the game.

What the Philistines do is toss all the rules. Thereby they toss the possibility of Art emerging. My brother sent me an email today with a comment about today’s players “I had J-4 suited. Now normally I’d play that, but this guy I'm up against will play anything…” The joke there is that only a moron would play J-4 suited at a full table. Sure it’s an inside joke that only players get, but really, I was in conniptions on my run this morning as I was replaying that comment in my head.

But that is how the game has changed. People can and do play any two cards at any time. What that means is that the Art has flipped to a Lottery ticket. ESPN3 was showing the number of times where the current chip leader made bad bets, but was able to win the hand after he bet when a miraculous card came out of the deck. That is the essence of the issue. If you have a critical mass of people making bad decisions, enough of them will get lucky that the end of the tournament is table full of young guys who happened to win the lottery.

It works like this. Over the long haul, the seasoned pros will beat the kids silly. But this is a week long tourney. And once you have a critical mass of nutters they can and do transform the game to a virtual lottery. I’m not sure what the percentage is, but there is some such number. Say if there are less than 10% nuts, the pros will win. But say it's over 40% nuts, it’s the lucky nut case who takes it home.That is where we are today. It is down to two players. One has 6 times the chips of the other. And yeah, it’s a 22 year old Canadian.

I’ll finish this out with a brain development article that I read about in the 90’s. That article said that no brain is fully developed until a person hits 28 years old. The brain rewires itself from 0 to 28. After that it becomes stable. It may well be that you have to embryonic to win this game the way it is played now. When you add to that being crazy enough to live in Canada…I don’t see any reason to even finish the Final Table. It’s a done deal for the nutters.

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