Watching the ESPN coverage of the 2007 WSOP Main Event has been really interesting this year, as far as being out there covering the whole thing live in meat space, then watching the coverage months later on the talking television box.
And watching the final table was even doubly so (interesting, that is), as it was pretty impossible for us non-exclusive media types to provide much coverage from the actual tournament room/final table stage, so I watched nearly all of the final table action from the live stream provided to the media room next door. We basically saw the actual action when cards were dealt, etc., but not really anything else from the room in general, as far as the stands, table talk, etc.
So I was there, obviously knew what was going to happen, and even remembered most of the big hands, as far as who got bludgeoned by Jerry Yang, how it happened, etc. None of that was surprising or really all that interesting. What was interesting, though, was all of the hallelujahs and beseechings of the Lord to deliver a favorable turn and river card, as while I knew Yang was of a religious bent, I had no clue just to what extent it was expressed for the cameras.
Honestly, I was pretty flummoxed last night, watching that on the ESPN coverage. Especially the hand Lee Watkinson busted out on, with Yang trying to ring up God on the direct prayer line, while Watkinson's girlfriend was very loudly testifying in the stands on Lee's behalf. I mean, wow.
I can't say I'm particularly religious, but I'm also not particularly anti-religious. Aside from the whole intolerance and moral superiority bent of some religions, I'm pretty much all for people believing in what brings them peace and happiness, especially if it provides a social support system that not only brings individuals happiness but does good in the world.
But I have to say that it made me pretty damn uneasy to watch and listen to prayers at the poker table. I mean, I get the argument that Yang was praying for help from God so that he could use the prize money to do God's will and donate all sorts of money to help all sorts of people. I wholeheartedly believe that his prayers were genuine in the sense that he wasn't asking God to help him suckout so that he could have more money to spend on strippers and blow.
But still. You're playing poker. The cards have been shuffled. You're gambling. Do you really want to involve God in all that? Don't you think that God perhaps has more important issues to attend to, instead of reaching down to help you hit your straight on the river to make $8 million and change instead of $4 million and change? Really? I mean, seriously, really?
Pulling back from the religious talk, I feel pretty bad for Lee Childs' dog, as you know he got kicked more than a few times when Childs watched the coverage and saw Yang's hole cards on the two hands that Childs laid down bigger pairs. The first one wasn't so terrible, but why Childs laid down the QQ I do not know, especially if he was willing to later look Yang up with KJo. I mean, dude, good lord. And if you're going to show the first big pair you laid down, you can't then roll over with the QQ, as the only point of showing the first time is to encourage Yang or someone else to push into you with an inferior hand when you have a hand like QQ in that spot.
I was also surprised at all the talking between Childs and his dad. I mean, yeah, it wasn't really out of line, but it was pretty close to the line. It just would never enter my head, in a million years, to hop up in the middle of a hand and go talk to anyone in the stands, moaning about how I don't think I can lay it down, yada yada yada.
You can't really argue the fact that Yang had a lot of luckbox mojo going his way, as he obviously did, but I honestly didn't think his final table play was that terrible. I think he played pretty terribly from 18 players or so down to the final nine, but once Hilm gifted Yang his stack and Yang had a big chip lead at the final table, he basically just bludgeoned people into submission. Yeah, he made some pretty bad plays (calling Watkinson's push with A9o, picking some bad spots to try to bully people in general, etc.) and kept making weird overbets, but he kept the pressure on people, and did it consistently, even when things went south there for a bit and he was bleeding chips. I don't think he's a particularly good player, don't get me wrong, but he played his big stack the way you're supposed to.
It was pretty amusing, though, to see the never-ending play when it was four or five-handed condensed down to something like 6 hands, on the ESPN broadcast. I mean yeah, obviously, and I don't think they did a bad job, but I just remember sitting there for hours on end, praying for someone to just win the damn thing, and it's interesting to see that suddenly, magically shrink to about 15 minutes of television time.