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By the way, as is almost always the case in any form of "journalism," the headline, "Two Thumbs Up," was written by an editor, not the writer. I can understand why this headline would have influenced readers to see me as reflexively and fulsomely praising the product of the people who pay my salary. However, even a casual reading of the column -- you did read it, didn't you, Mike? -- would reveal the following: (1) I started the column off with a long section -- about half the piece -- on all the different people and institutions that would be offended by the show.
(2) I wrote that none of the characters on the show were remotely likeable -- they are all cheaters, or paranoids, or socially maladjusted in the extreme, or sellouts, or vicious psychopaths, or some combination of the preceding -- a problem which, if not addressed, might eventually sink the show, dramatically, since viewers would have nobody with whom to identify.
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Jay, I've never had a great deal of respect for your poker knowledge or amateurish views of the game, but after reading your "Tilt" review/advertisement, I have lost any respect that I did have for you. I find it interesting that the most in-depth article that you have written in months is about a show that your employer produces. You should change your name to Crackpot Jay.
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I disagree with your assessment of "Tilt." I can't possibly see this being a successful show for one reason: The only people that are going to bother to watch a fictional show about poker players are people who are obsessed with poker (like me, and presumably most of your regular readers). And people who are obsessed with poker want to see one thing, and one thing only: great poker. Throwing in sex, violence, cheating, revenge and other sorts of drama only gets in the way of the actual poker. And, as you pointed out, the play in the show (rare though it was) wasn't even very good. This is why I'll watch any episode of the WSOP or WPT no matter how many times I've already seen it, but I doubt I'll ever watch "Tilt" again. The game itself is much more dramatic and engaging than any fictional subplots you can throw on top of it.
Had a few thoughts on your "Tilt" column. I think a few things that you mentioned are really just a reflection of true people in the poker community. First, as to the winning hands that were played by The Matador (and Eddie), this seems to be a reflection of the fact that the writers are very into Brunson's "Super/System" (featured in a few spots in "Rounders"), and are simply just using his theory of how to play small suited connectors, i.e. call small bets and raises (or preferably raise yourself) in hopes of getting a flop to bust the guy who obviously has a hand, or a flop to bluff him with. In other words, invest a small amount to win a large amount. The Matador, "the guy that wrote the book on poker," got Nickel to check the best hand on the flop with a great read and a little trickery in order to get a free shot at hitting his double-belly buster, a move that Doyle would have loved. Another thing that you mentioned about the hand between Nickel and The Matador that I agreed with was the confusing way that The Matador was supposed to be cheating. I don't think there was much signaling going on in the hand he busted Nickel with, just superior play on that hand. They were trying to show that over the course of a long session, there is much signaling going on, just not necessarily on every hand. The guy does have skill on his side -- he just wants to stack the odds in his favor even more. (Also, I think the character Miami is influenced by the life of Jennifer Harmon, who supposedly played in the backroom of her father's Reno bar as a 12-year-old.)
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I think your point about not being able to obtain reliable data to determine how many players really make money is completely true. It just won't happen, ever. Just read about several of the pros and their long journeys before going pro. Howard Lederer said it took him two years to be a consistent winner. I like to compare it to golf. Everyone thinks they are better than they really are, and many people play every day with aspirations to play on the tour, but only a very small percentage actually make it and then make money consistently. They have to have extreme natural ability and the nerve to make the shots when it really counts under tremendous pressure. To be highly successful at the poker table, you have to possess a natural ability to play the game, you have to practice all the time, and you have to be an intelligent business manager. Being successful at poker is just as much money management as anything you do at the table -- ask Annie Duke. It's a tough gig for anyone. Clearing $50K a year would be an amazing result with the highs and lows you experience. Any experienced player truly understands the term "grinding it out." It ain't for sissies ...
A LEFT-HANDED COMPLIMENT ... I THINK