Welcome to the Thunderdome…

Posted: July 17, 2013 in poker

Now that the WSOP has come to a close for me I’m very excited to take a step back Event 40_Day 03_andreflect on the summer that was. However, considering my main event bust is still a fresh wound, I’ll be merely dipping my toes into nostalgic waters as a reference to support my stance on the discussion of crowd noise. Truth be told I’m not even certain there is a debate taking place, but @shaneschleger brought up reasonable points, and while I love the conciseness of Twitter, 140 characters is a frustrating way to exchange detailed thoughts. Thus, I’m using this outlet to give my two cents on a matter I think holds reasonable importance to the poker community.

My initial intent was to take an unbiased approach, providing pros and cons for both sides. Frankly, that seems dull and unrealistic, all while insulting the intelligence of the reader. I think each side’s strongest points are quite apparent. Rather than playing both sides of the fence, I’m going to let my opinion shine through while highlighting the interesting points of those in favor of enforcing a library-like atmosphere.

Setting the way back machine to 2011, I had the pleasure to be apart of the final table that birthed the infamous “shoe bomb”(1:20). With 6 players remaining, The Brits had shown up in full force to support Thomas “HitTheHole” Middleton. Their creative, orchestrated chants were deafening.  And while courtesy and soberness were not on the agenda, The Brits very quickly won over the crowd and the players, any one of whom could have lobbied to the floor to put a gag on the whole bunch. We couldn’t hear any of the action, the game had become completely visual. As cheers of “Hit the hole, hit the hole, hit the hoooooooole…” echoed throughout the Amazon room, the floorman calling the action had all but given up, yet not one bet was miscalculate, not a single stack misjudged. Not to be outdone, my growing support of friends filled any brief windows of silence with cheers of “Yeaaahp and Hack’em”. Like any good game of Chicken, the Brits upped the ante, drinking beer from their shoes, creating what would grow to be a Brit final table tradition. Suddenly, it became very clear this wasn’t just any 6-handed poker game…we were playing for nearly a million dollars and currently guaranteed a 6-figure score. There would be no corner to hide in, no darkness to fade into upon busting; no choice but to either embrace the moment, relishing our collective success, or crack under the pressure.   

Fast forward to this summer and the landscape of final table rails has changed dramatically. While I absolutely loved every second of the above scenario, I could see the guys who weren’t built to perform under those circumstances. Being that this isn’t the PGA Tour and we, the players, are the paying customers I am in agreement that the rail can’t take center stage over the actual game in play, nor can players themselves get so out of line that fellow patrons become alienated (The Havad Khan Rule). So rules were adjusted, common courtesies implemented. Rails remained respectful while action was pending, and there after cheers remained celebratory and never malicious toward other final tablists. From my standpoint, a guy who loves sports-like atmospheres, a guy who wants to be in the moment, a guy who isn’t a mental midget, irritated by the slightest disruption to his immediate environment, the current state of rails is fine. However, I don’t represent all walks of life, and again as paying patrons their voices deserve consideration. I do hope they consider what we would be sacrificing by silencing the crowd. After all, I doubt any of us grew up uttering the phrase, “and the crowd goes mute…” when envisioning our spotlight moments.   

We as pros are programmed to believe that these opportunities will not only be frequent, but also that they are just another day at the office. Here’s a little dose of reality, there are plenty of phenomenal players yet to experience the spotlight, and for that matter may never. There are even more of the good, the bad and the ugly who have had a mere taste, yearning for one more shot at the big stage. Fact is while we may convince ourselves that we are cold assassins, trained to ignore emotion, whose sole purpose is to execute, we are actually just a collection of fortunate souls looking to make our mothers proud. What better reminder that we are human, experiencing something most would die to experience, than a large crowd reacting to every dramatic moment with raw, honest emotion. Moreover, for amateurs who do understand that this may be their only time to shine, why not provide a warm, inviting atmosphere full of positive energy where they can lose themselves in one of the biggest moments of their lives. Moving toward a hushed, intense environment only creates a pressure cooker for the amateur, serving as a reminder of how out of their element they are with every cold, quiet glare. Our biggest concern as professionals should be making small sacrifices in order to promote the game…each and every one of us should strive to be poker’s biggest ambassador. In this instance if it means dealing with a little ruckus while grinding an event outside of the Thunder Dome, so be it. I promise anyone who has ever played in a live casino has dealt with far worse in the ringing of slots, the endless calls for wait lists, and drunk blowhards who are extremely disruptive but too good for the game to have removed. I’m all for the WSOP changing their stance on headphone usage in the money, especially if it will further promote an overall improved environment for all involved, but I can’t justifiably get behind the idea of playing in silence.  

My final thought is actually more of a plea: Have some perspective. This applies to so much more than some arbitrary discussion on the effects of crowd noise. Somewhere along the line we all became enamored with a game, and for some it became a vehicle to financial independence. But between the hole cards, ESPN cameras, six-figure scores, and endless scrutinizing of staff, colleagues, amateurs and pros please please please, I beg of you, understand how fortunate we are that this market space exists. Realize that everything we, as players, do to suck the fun out of the GAME ultimately driving away the everyday Joe, can only lead to the demise of this incredibly fruitful landscape we’ve all been privy to for the past decade. Please, lighten up…

  1. PK says:

    The other side of that coin-I am an amateur player who traveled a decent way to play a major tournament and was fortunate enough to make the final table, albeit without a rail there to support me. When I got my money in good the very first hand of the final table and ate a 3 outer on the river, the loud and large rail for the player who busted me went absolutely bananas. As I walked out, very shaken from having lost by far the most valuable pot of my life, watching as a famous pro and a pro athlete went lose-their-minds bonkers over me losing was a stark reminder that it was one of the loneliest moments of my life.

    I’m sure there is a balance to be had somewhere where decorum and how people handle these scenarios is accepted and understood. However, I feel poker in still in a feeling-out process in this regard and nowhere near close to solved yet.


  2. […] (reblog from Berkey11’s 2013 post) […]


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