Of course, there’ll never be a boom again like the one that lasted throughout the mid-2000s. But poker could stand to have another injection of popularity, and ESPN writer Arash Markazi thinks that this could come from having more heroes and villains.
This may seem like another half-baked way to artificially create more excitement in poker. But according to Markazi, the real problem lies with how little emotion occurs during poker’s biggest events. Here’s one excerpt where he writes about what it was like during the Main Event final table:
“Michael Ruane, 28, had the most boisterous section, with many of his friends dressed as pro wrestlers from the 1990s. Las Vegas resident Qui Nguyen, 39, had a ton of local support as they chanted, “Who win? Qui Nguyen!” each time he collected chips. And those cheering for Kenny Hallaert, 34, mixed in some European soccer chants. But people watching a crowd filled with friends and family is only interesting to a certain point.
“I knew I wouldn’t have any real connection to the “November Nine” coming into the final table, but the truth is I had no real connection to them after watching them play for a dozen hours either. It’s inherently hard to connect to people that don’t say anything, or show any emotion.”
To be fair, Markazi also points out how the players were largely silent because of the amount of money on the line. Even still, he has a point in that the Main Event could use more personality.
Some would say that we had more than enough personality from William Kassouf, who was a poker villain in the biggest way. The only problem is that Kassouf busted out in 17th place, eight spots before the final table was formed.
“You need to have players talking to have heroes and villains,” Gold told ESPN. “Once you take away the character side of it, you’re killing the entertainment value and the reason why advertisers, sponsors and viewers would want to watch. I wasn’t that special, but I had an opportunity to create a character by speaking.”
As Markazi points out, the one saving grace about a monotonous WSOP final table is that TV viewers get to hear Lon McEachern and Norman Chad’s banter. But when you’re watching the event live, it’s just not very entertaining.
There’s no quick fix for this problem because you can’t force players to be more sociable at the table — especially when they’re battling for so much money. But it would certainly been nice from a viewing perspective to see somebody like Kassouf go a little further.