Although I've been really too busy to be thinking too much about poker lately, with some serious work commitments preventing me from going on a raid to Calgary for two big tournaments happening around now, I have still been finding a bit of time to browse around the various websites and publications, and one thing really stuck out for me lately: it was an interview with Dan Harrington in Card Player magazine.
Dan Harrington, in case you don't know, is awesome. He is incredibly skilled, as his lifetime of winnings will attest to. He's also very real-world smart, humble, and realistic about the fact that today's tournament scene is little more than a lottery where your skill level merely means your tickets are slightly likelier to win. All this is detailed in the interview, and that's why it's such a good read.
But it's so much more than that.
In today's game, people are using poker almost as a mere springboard unto becoming a flash-in-the-pan celebrity. The level of theatrics and histrionics that goes on in the game today has gotten so bad, this year's World Series of Poker will actually be implementing rules that threaten penalties for excessive celebrations.
Back in the "olden days" (IE 1995) when Dan Harrington won his World Series championship, he was being interviewed him at the table and was asked the usual rhetoric - "What's it like winning this tournament, how do you feel, blah blah". Dan's response was to set up the cards and tournament chips and go through, step by step, the reasoning that led him through the hand.
Compare that to today, when some Stereotypical Generic Schlub wins his first pot in the first 10 minutes of what needs to be a 100+ hour run to the title, and he's dancing, singing, and generally throwing on a production that would put Rip Taylor to shame. All in an effort to be "flavor of the week" if he gets a couple hundred lucky breaks in two weeks.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: If poker is pro wrestling, Dan Harrington is Bob Backlund. The proof is simple: watch the 1993 WWE Royal Rumble, which was right around the 'cartooniest' era in pro wrestling. Backlund was in it, and the WWE booked him very strong with an over 60+ minute run. You can see countless scenes where the ring is packed with countless over-the-top personas, and right in the middle of it all is Bob Backlund, still with his red trunks and red boots, throwing out actual technical moves.
Of course, if that analogy does prove to be true, the WSOP should be very interesting this year; as any wrestling fan can tell you, Backlund spent his last few years in the WWE with a new gimmick that was basically that of a crazy, unstable old man would snap at the "youth of today". I admit it, I would pay good money to watch Harrington flip out and have a "gimmick" of tearing strips off of showboating internet stars.
As long as he still kept playing good poker, of course!