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    The Importance of History

    Posted by Coffee November 14, 2013

    The World Series of Poker Main Event has come and gone. Our favorite game has once again fallen back to its normal place on ESPN.com – right at the bottom of the second column of the “More Sports” dropdown menu. Apparently, the spectacle of a man winning $8.3M for playing a card game warrants attention when it happens, but nothing more.

    It is tempting to blame attitudes of the viewing public. It is tempting to blame ESPN for being out of touch. And yet, I think the blame rests almost exclusively with us, the poker community, because of our failure to create our own narrative.

    Most sports have continuity of personnel at their disposal. The notion of the same athlete being widely considered the best in his or her vein is not unusual in the slightest. To see these athletes competing repeatedly on their sports’ grandest stages is both expected and is part and parcel of what makes them great.

    The nature of poker tournaments does not allow this kind of continuity. Poor runs of cards or poor runs of decisionmaking doom even the best in our game to mostly finishing out of the money in the only tournament most people know (or care) about. This aspect is unavoidable – no high-profile player should warrant special attention, in my opinion, since their play is what made them high-profile, anyway.

    However, as I mentioned in my column last week, we need a way to continue stirring the cloud of interest around summer and early fall, when the WSOP on ESPN yields us the most attention we have all year. A tournament of former world champions would go a long way towards prolonging that wave.

    We might also benefit from a series of grudge matches – heads up matches pitting players with some form of history against each other. Farha vs. Moneymaker II would be nice to see. So would Ferguson vs. Cloutier II. Maybe Dewey Tomko could exorcise his demons against Mortensen.

    This series could stretch out the appeal and also have the effect of keeping the past winners and runners-up fresh in the minds of the viewing public. That way, deep runs in various tournaments would be more poignant – because what is truly missing in our game is an appropriate celebration of a lifetime of excellent poker. Almost everyone featured on the final table this year will soon fade into obscurity – which is a shame, because some true masters of the game develop a reputation as being merely flashes in the pan.

    We need to make our history more available in our minds. History is where we build the human interest aspect necessary for widespread acceptability. In the end, our history is the foundation for each year’s stories, and each year’s Final Table. Imagine how nice it would have been to follow one of these players since they first appeared on the poker scene, instead of seeming like nine luckboxes who just caught perfect at the right time.

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