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Cate Hall and Mike Dentale Heads-Up Match: Good or Bad for Poker?

February 13th, 2017 by Jon Sofen

Mike Dentale and Cate Hall will battle heads-up on Poker Night in America in March. (Image: highstakesDB.com)

Cate Hall and Mike Dentale, two professional poker players, will play a heads-up match in March on Poker Night in America. It is not going to be an ordinary poker game. These two hate each other. The match is the result of a December feud between the pros.

Hall is considered a “social justice warrior,” and an admitted liberal. Dentale shares opposite political beliefs and had about enough of her constant anti-Donald Trump posts on Twitter.

After Cate donked away her stack by making a loose call with A-10 in a WPT event at Bellagio, she shared the hand with her Twitter followers. Dentale piled on, calling her a horrible poker player. As it does so many times when poker players argue, a “let’s play heads-up” challenge ensued.

The two went back and forth insulting each other for days before Matt Glantz, a regular on Poker Night in America, stepped in and got the match set-up so the pros can settle their petty dispute.

Hundreds of poker fans on Twitter joined in the conversation, some took Mike’s side, others took Cate’s. Some chimed in to let everyone know they don’t care and think this is all pure nonsense. My opinion is that I couldn’t possibly care less who wins the heads-up match. Drama isn’t my thing. But I do believe it is good for poker. No, I’m not contradicting myself. Let me explain…

Drama Sells

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about poker, politics, or sports: drama sells. People love drama. If you turn on ESPN, the commentators analyze the player feuds and Twitter rants as much as they do the actual games.

Take LeBron James for example. He’s clearly one of the greatest NBA stars of all-time. But it isn’t just his game that ESPN and other media outlets discuss.

Recently, the Cleveland Cavaliers star feuded with NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, a TNT basketball studio commentator. Sir Charles questioned LeBron’s competitive spirit, leading to a back-and-forth of insults.

This type of drama is commonplace in sports. While the hardcore sports fans are more focused on the actual games, the casual fan enjoys the drama. It is what keeps their interest.

The same can be said about politics. Take the 2016 US presidential election as the prime example. Most people don’t actually know a ton about policy on either side of the aisle. The average American trusts biased news sources and claim it to be truth.

Stories such as Hillary Clinton’s private email server and Donald Trump’s Russian connection were interesting. It was rare that television political pundits focused on actual policy. Instead, they discussed the campaign drama because that is what the casual viewer enjoys.

Poker Needs More Casual Players

When I first started playing poker in 2003, millions of people were beginning to play. By 2007, it seemed like everyone in the US was playing. Poker was on major networks such as ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC, and even the Game Show Network.

Never before had the game been so popular. And then Black Friday in 2011 happened. Online poker became far less accessible in the US. That led to a significant decline in the number of recreational players in the game.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love poker. But it was a better game when more casual players were at the tables. Not only do I miss seeing poker on TV so often. I also miss all the donkeys at the poker tables.

Could Hall and Dentale Save the Day?

While I personally am not entertained by petty arguments, I do believe drama is good for the overall health of the game. Poker needs drama. It needs bad boys like Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth, and outspoken figures such as Daniel Negreanu and Doyle Brunson.

But I’m not sure the Hall versus Dentale battle will have any impact on the game of poker. To me, it’s completely pointless.

Casual poker players don’t even know who Mike Dentale and Cate Hall are. To be honest, I knew very little about Mike until this feud began. Both are outspoken on Twitter, but don’t have much street cred with the casual poker fans.

This match isn’t going to be watched by many who aren’t hardcore poker players. So, what good does it do for the game? Drama is good for poker. I want more casual fans attracted to the game. I just don’t think heads-up battle is going to have a positive impact on the game.

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