When the Eagles are Silent

The Goofballs Jabber

Poker Donkeys"When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber."
-- Winston Churchill

Poker's growth spurt was like that of many teenagers: maturity is there in some places, but not in others. And, over the years the maturity knob was be turned down in casinos all over the US due to the televised clown act ESPN showed.

I'm not criticizing ESPN. They are a broadcast media marketing to their own target audience. The target demographic is 18-34 year old males, and to be blunt, specifically the dork/loser element of that demographic -- people who go into a frenzy over the result of games they themselves don't participate in, and even call talk radio to yell at other people about such games. It's not a coincidence ESPN's coverage focuses heavily on men from this age demographic who they make look (to be charitable) like total doofuses.

The dork target market wants players they can relate to. They can't relate that much to Doyle Brunson or David Chui (though they are interested in and can respect such people). But they can intimately relate to someone about their age making idiotic trash talk, just like they do.

It is basic sports TV marketing, and is partly why ESPN loves poker. Poker *has* people very similar to their prime market. Major sports personalities are not nearly as relate-able to. Viewers can't say "I could do that" when watching Steph Curry, but they could look at these mouthy guys and think "that could be me".

But like they say in Texas, it's all hat and no cattle. Very few successful players babble about how great they are. There are a handful of talented exceptions with the self esteem of a newt, but for the most part, talented poker players let their talent do the talking. You know they can play. They show you... time and again.

The less talented guys will spend their time telling you how talented they are. This is because they can't show it. They can show a fine play here and there, even extended periods of outstanding play -- when things are going well. But my goodness, let a little cloud come on the horizon, and these guys melt down like a snowman in June.

The day after the broadcast of one preliminary WSOP event I was playing a tournament at the Bicycle Casino. Some busted looney kept harassing a player at my table, wanting $20,000 to play head up with another guy (who also looked like a railbird). He kept going on and on and on (seriously) and on and on babbling about being the greatest Limit Hold'em player in the world.

The player in my game who the looney was begging from is a tough-to-read player who had a lot of chips, but if there is a clear weakness in his game is that he sometimes does not pay attention. So, this was perfect. The loon was constantly distracting him, until another player finally got the floorman shoo the looney away.

Of course the looney happened to be the player, Ellix Powers, who ESPN showed fabulously melting down in that Limit Hold'em event the night before! It was a great, concrete lesson in how ego will kill a player, especially one who, to be blunt, should not be as egotistical about his skill as he is.

While it is somewhat sad to see these busted crazies buzzing around poker rooms, it also is a reason why poker is so profitable to sensible players. Delusional goofballs have their moments, but they end up busted on the rail, less than three months later.

Because ESPN played up the trash talkers, we saw a rise in goofball, idiot-talking, ego-based poker players. They might as well have mailed in their money. You see, poker happens to be one of those things where you have to show what you got, not just babble about how you think you got it.

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