Why ESPN Won’t be Interviewing Me at the WSOP?

By Keith ‘The Camel’ Hawkins / July 2005

The WSOP is now in full swing. Fortunes are being won and lost, legends are being made and reputations are being crushed. So, it’s the usual World Series right? Well, not quite.

This years event is at the Rio not Binion’s Horseshoe. While playing conditions are excellent, there is something about the place that isn’t quite right. I may well be an old romantic (is it possible to be romantic about a dump like the ’Shoe?), but it feels like the World Series of Poker has lost its soul. The atmosphere isn’t quite the same as usual. It feels like just another, albeit huge, tournament. Perhaps the buzz will return for the main event. I hope so.

But, the main difference for me is the ever increasing influence of the TV cameras. And believe me, the influence isn’t very positive.

The cameras are everywhere. One table near me in a tournament had a galaxy of stars playing: Matusow, Bloch, Raymer and Greenstein. A camera was watching every raise, pass and call. And in order to keep everything on film, players were pushed from pillar to post, interfered with and generally hassled.

Events are being run to suit the TV schedules. Instead of 2 day events, the tournaments which are going to be shown on ESPN are being made into 3 day affairs (so the TV people aren’t subjected to a late night, bless’em) which has two knock on effects.

Players who make the TV final are effectively barred from playing 2 WSOP events on the days following the start of their event. But, more importantly, when the tournament which starts on day 2 of the televised event reaches the final table the participants are relegated to second class citizens and denied their chance of playing their event to a conclusion on the championship table which would be the highlight of many players’ careers. Instead, they are sent to some far flung table where it is virtually impossible for friends and family to observe the action and share in the triumphs or disasters. It’s a great pity.

But, the main problem with the TV cameras is that thorny old issue. Money. Some of the figures being mentioned of how much money ESPN are paying Harrah’s for allowing them to cover the WSOP is truly staggering. And how much of this pot of gold is going back to the players, who provide all the entertainment for the couch potatoes back home? Zero, nadda, nothing! Not only are the players getting no reward for the TV exposure, they have to pay for the privilege in ever rising rates of juice. (Remember the good old days when the main event was juice free? It really wasn’t that long ago!)

So, in the very unlikely event of the Camel making a televised final table or the slightly more likely event of appearing on a televised table during the protracted coverage of the main event I am going to make a stand. I can’t deny them using my image (you have to sign away your rights before you play), but I can refuse to do a cosy interview where they ask all manner of inane questions and I answer like a programmed puppet. And that’s exactly what I propose to do. It won’t make a jot of difference of course, unless I happen to win the thing. But, just imagine if somewhere down the line a player who wins a big event refuses to comply with broadcasters requests for an interview and actually stood up for poker player’s rights. We might actually receive our share of the huge pie that is televised poker money.

On a lighter note…

Here are a few things I overheard while playing poker at the Rio last month:

Padraig Parkinson was asked how he was running. His answer? “It depends when you start counting. If it’s this week I’m doing terribly, if it’s the last 20 years not too bad at all…”

“Bad Beat” Channing was asked what he was planning to do that evening “If I done no good here, I will go over to the Palms” And to think, his mother is an English teacher!

A couple of quotes from inimitable Sam Grizzle next: there was some debate on a table as to what players thought of internet poker players. Grizzle stopped the conversation dead. “I don’t discriminate. I hate everyone!”

Then, later at the same table Grizzle’s backer came over to see how he was doing. The money man soon wandered off. Someone asked Sam why he was being backed in a $225 satellite. His answer? “My Daddy always told me never gamble with my own money, I might lose!”

Finally, just to prove poker players have more on their minds than just flops, bad beats and raises one Northern professional on seeing a particularly well endowed young lady came out with “What is it about Vegas women? Even the ugly ones have great tits!” Who said the age of the new man was upon us?

Good luck to everyone playing in the main event. Especially to me.