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What A Show

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Aug 30, 2017


I’ve fallen out of the habit of watching the main event final table. I watched it in 2016 because my backer made it, but I hadn’t watched it attentively in several years. I remember buying the pay-per-view live stream whatever year they offered that and sweating it while I played online (this, of course, sounds like heaven). In the intervening years, it was on while I played at the casino in October or November, but I didn’t watch attentively, just sort of peeked up when someone was all in or when it was an interesting hand. To be honest, it had gotten stale and boring. Thank the gods for this year’s event.

I’m happy for Scott Blumstein, the man who won the event. And it seemed like Benjamin Pollak, the third-place finisher, was the best player at the final table. The story of the final table was neither of those guys. Nor was it Antoine Saout and Ben Lamb making repeat main event final table performances. There was only one player at the final table that people were rooting against and he wasn’t the story of the final table. I don’t even think the star of the final table was the person that everyone else thinks is the star, John Hesp.

Yeah, I loved John Hesp as well. I loved his jacket. I loved his hat. I loved his enthusiasm. I love that he stayed to do the shuffle up and deal the day after he busted. I love that this was, literally, 1,000 times bigger stakes than he has ever played in his entire life up to this point. I love that he was so sweet that when Kara Scott, the World Series of Poker presenter mentioned that she had been to the general area where he’s from, he offered her a place to stay if she visited again. What a guy. But he wasn’t what made this for me.

What made it for me was the immediacy. The November Nine experiment was an interesting one, and I was out on it from the start. I got why they were doing it. Who wants to watch a sporting event in which you already know the outcome. I mean, I generally care the least about spoilers for TV shows of anyone I know, but knowing the outcome of a sporting event makes it nigh unwatchable.

But, the November Nine just never caught me. One of the biggest turn offs, especially for me, was how much it turned good to very good players into great players. With almost four months off, you can plug basically all your leaks. Even John Hesp, who, despite being a great guy was not very good at poker, could have made himself into a passable to good poker player in the intervening time. Instead, because they basically played it straight on through from start to finish with just a two day break to cool off and calm their nerves, we got to see what these players actually were.

What a surprise, they weren’t soulless robots terminating their opponents at every turn with a perfect strategy for many of the millions of possible final table permutations, each of them playing perfectly and just hoping to be the one that the poker gods picked that November. In fact, they made mistakes and they made plenty of them. People make mistakes in poker and people make mistakes when they’re under pressure. Unsurprisingly, if you take a game that is bound to have people making mistakes, make sure they’re playing for $8 million, give or take a Maserati, and put it on the biggest stage in poker, all while it’s live on TV after having played 12-hour-days for six days straight under immense pressure then you’re going to see some mistakes. And we should see mistakes. If there weren’t any mistakes, poker would be a terrible game. When you see nine guys at a final table all playing the same strategy, needlessly wasting time to make trivial decisions, and never talking to each other, it’s a turn off. Not many new players are going to be inspired by that scene.

However, if you take a bubbly Englishman, some young guys who engage, some international men of intrigue, millions of dollars, and some costly mistakes and mix them all together, you’ve got a very interesting end product. The average person watching this tournament might feel like someone did watching Chris Moneymaker, an accountant from Tennessee, win this same event 14 years ago. They might think “Hey, I can do that.” And that’s what we’re looking for, so great job Mori Eskandani, the Poker Central people, Lon, Norm, Antonio, Kara, and all the others who presented the show. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG