Aces Full of It: Why the Poker World Needs Phil Hellmuth

You’ll probably be seeing this one regularly.

Perhaps you can still picture your experience of it in your head–I know I certainly can.  The year was 2003.  I was flipping through the channels (back when I still had cable) and came across ESPN covering, of all things, a poker tournament.  More specifically as I would later discover, the poker tournament, the WSOP Main Event.

It was already in the very last stages when I found it, with Chris Moneymaker, some dingbat who had qualified for the $10,000 event through an online satellite event with a buy in of a mere twenty dollars staring down Sam Farha, a noted, accomplished pro who presumably paid the proper entry fee.  Immediately upon seeing this, I thought “tchyeah, like Farha’s gonna lose.”  I was surprised and delighted to be proven wrong.

Poker Booms

That moment when Chris Moneymaker became 2.5 million dollars rich was an absolutely critical one for poker.  It caused a “poker boom” by giving so many people who would not have even contemplated playing serious poker hope that someday, they could be the next Moneymaker in both senses of the word.

But it wasn’t to last.  Over the past twelve years, that hope has eroded and reality has largely set in: the average Joe off the street can’t really hope to hit it that big in poker by luck alone.  Like everything else that leads to success, it takes hard work, serious thought and effort put into it.  Now, though the Main Event itself is a huge draw, the popularity of poker has largely petered out and there is much less global interest as a whole.

Not only that, but American legislators continually push to have online poker outlawed, a position that benefits vastly not just from ignorance of the skill element of poker, but the vast stores of good old American “Not Giveafuck” about anything that doesn’t impact me directly and obviously.  There are already steps being taken to combat the former, but to guarantee online poker’s continued survival, a resurgence in the overall popularity of poker would be grossly beneficial.  The time is right to create a second poker boom.

The “Phil Hellmuth” Type and How They Could Make a Boom

Chris Moneymaker’s victory created the poker boom because it gave people something to aspire to; the vast riches of the WSOP.  In place of such hopeful aspiration, I would have a spiteful one.  I would have people surface in the most public stages of the game to take the word “villain,” used to refer to basically whoever’s in that’s not you in recounting poker hands and run with it from one metaphorical end zone to the other.

People so brash, so cocky, so annoying yet so skilled that people start playing poker just for the chance to take them down.  (And also, I believe there would be vast benefit to those players who elect to take that role as fish flock to them in entire schools to hand over their money.)

Shut up and take my money!

Of course, as that money is taken from the fishes, the despair of reality will surely set in again and the second boom will inevitably peter out just as the first.  But as I said, the timing would be excellent for a second boom right now.

However, creating the circumstances I describe would be nearly impossible unless several poker pros willing to do it actually see this and listen to me, an event that I place as less likely than my hitting a royal flush on two hands in a row, then winning the Powerball lottery on the same day.  I’d do it myself, but by the time I could get on the public stage, it’d likely be too late to make a difference.  If only Phil Hellmuth and people like Mike Matusow hadn’t “matured” and had their breakdowns and displays of arrogance become so infrequent…

I want my Brat back, darnit!

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