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by Roy Brindley |  Published: Dec 01, 2010


Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
For an outsider it is easy to believe all the BS and hype which infers that the big boys, the ones that play in all the outrageously expensive entry events — and win in their turn — are superior to the remaining 99.9 percent of poker players.
Sadly, especially for those trying to prove the game is as skilful as golf and tennis where the cream rises to the top and only the best perform on the biggest stages (Wimbledon, the Ryder Cup etc…etc…), the truth is both distasteful and sobering.
The vast majority of those partaking in a seemingly never ending stream of massively priced events are purely in receipt of an enviable sponsorship deal — often on the back of a single big win — or are shareholders in a major online poker company. Even the rich businessmen and/or those claiming to be prosperous businessmen have disappeared — in every sense of the word!
For those that are finding final tables and victories elusive an antedote has been arranged — TV commercials. Clever marketing executives have given us godlike poker-playing figures such as Zeus, Apollo, and Adonis. We also have a goddess Athena and a Herculean Samson who, like any true Gods, act in slow motion, say nothing but you can hear their thoughts.
Back on planet earth, I’m perplexed that the poker playing achievements of mere mortals is rarely given the praise it deserves. Admittedly the person who can boast lifetime earnings of $175,000 may not initially impress you as much as a person with $1.37 million in winnings to their name.
However if player A had invested a few thousand in entry fees during his career and player B a few million in tournament entries you have to ask who is the better player? Logic will say player A. Poker, as an industry, will tell you player B!
In this instance player B is anonymous but player A refers to Sean Prendiville. Sean who? Indeed! I don’t know much about this individual apart from the fact he is in need of a haircut and, during the past few months, he has won the feature events of the Celtic Poker Tour and JP Poker Masters (both noteworthy events on the Irish poker calendar) and then finished third in the European Masters of Poker in Barcelona ahead of 428 rivals.
These results are worthy of considerable praise even a prominent picture in a poker magazine but, as the magazine industry generally works, these spaces are normally set aside for Zeus, Apollo, Athena & Co.. They are called advertorials but known as features.
Prendiville is just one example of a player that has hit a rich vein of form and posted an impressive run of results whilst never receiving praise for his achievements.
So surely the time is nigh where losers, let’s diplomatically call them “also rans”, are listed along with those fortunate enough to both cash and fill the places at the hallowed final table.
Henceforth the plethora of information and results sites would be in a position to compile realistic “player of the year” tables allied to definitive database of winners and losers over sample periods with complete accuracy.
Understandably this will irk the old school, many of which flaunt their World Series of Poker bracelets which date back to a time when most WSOP events featured less runners than an Olympic 800-metre relay.
But we have to be practical and that means events such as the Premier League have to be for exactly that, the premier players, the elite, the true winners, those that do not simply play high entry fee events week-in, week-out winning only in turn.
No longer should the ESPN cameras have observers believing that just a handful of people in the world can play poker at the highest stratum. How could those cameras continue to justify their overplaying of certain characters when the figures show that their “events played to finishing position” ratio and “entry-fee to cash return” ratio is quite simply dire?
Make no mistake, America with liberty and justice for all should lead the way as they are simply obsessed by statistics and, in a hot desert town during the early summer, they host the ideal series of events to compile the first such all-important database.
Stateside all sports are immersed in stats. Sometimes facts and figures appear almost secondary to events at hand. However one thing is clear — the value and ability of a player is directly and entirely linked to the stats alongside their name and in few sports is the reasoning more valid than in poker. ♠