Any Given Thursday

by Rich Shen and Austin Lim | 11/12/14 4:21pm

Think about what you could buy with $10 million (Three cups of coffee from KAF, three mozzarella sticks and two tenders from late night?). That was the first-place prize in the 2014 World Series of Poker championship Tuesday.

In an enthralling final table, with nine players from a field of more than 6,500, Martin Jacobson emerged after more than 300 hands as the winner, taking home quite the payday. Jacobson played solid poker, staying alert and consistently outplaying his opponents. The biggest moment of the tournament occurred when Jacobson, with a marginal hand, immediately called Jorryt van Hoof’s bluff, and took a massive chip lead on the table. In a crazy turn of events, the favorite, van Hoof, was dethroned.

This year’s main event was particularly exciting, truly a boon for the sport. The first person to lose at the final table was Mark Newhouse, who also came in ninth place last year. The odds of this re-occurring were astronomical, and one can only imagine the frustration Newhouse feels after coming so close the jackpot in two straight years. Then you have the two lovable characters at the final table, Bruno Politano and Billy Pappaconstantinou (Pappas for short). Though their personalities are polar opposites, Politano excitable and boisterous where Pappas is stoic and reserved, they both will increase the sport’s popularity, as people watching found two relatable characters. Since poker is rarely televised, and the main event is the only event that gets worldwide attention, it is important for the event to be captivating and entertaining, and this year’s final table was everything you could ask for.

I had written this much of the column in a Google doc by myself, but once I called poker a sport, my erstwhile co-writer Rich Shen decided to show his mug and help out. I’ll let him take over for a little while and make his case.

Rich: Before I read this column, I was touring European landmarks, a happy man unburdened by the idiocy of my former friend, Mr. Lim. Things had been going well enough so far without me, but I had to stop Austin when he decided to call poker a “sport.” Something you sit down to do does not qualify as a sport. Fine, I’ll refine my argument: unless your “sport” requires some sort of physical exertion and technique, it doesn’t count. Football attracts and showcases some of the best athletes in the country, designated hitters in baseball need the reaction speed and power to drive baseballs into the grandstands and even race car driving requires highly refined reaction speed. Poker players might need to be able to read other players and succeed under pressure, but you can’t claim they need any special athletic skill.

Austin: First off Rich, nice to know you’re still alive, and you’re actually going to contribute to this article. Your first argument about “sitting” is simply asinine. In NASCAR, they sit for the entire race. In football, you’re sitting for half the game. In baseball as a DH, I don’t even feel like I need to explain that one. Next argument. I’ll go to an even more basic point, if poker isn’t a sport than how can you explain ESPN.com listing it under its “More Sports” tab?

Another way to evaluate a sport is by how handsome the male players are. Let’s look at a few examples. Soccer: David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo. Football: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski. Basketball: Chandler Parsons. Poker: Martin Jacobson. Poker is therefore a sport. This follows the Callan-Symanzik equation of sport quantitivity.

Rich: I explain ESPN’s classification the same way I explain a lingerie football league. If there’s a paying audience for it, someone will try to make an easy buck selling it. [Disclaimer: This comment in no way is meant to approve of the existence of the Lingerie Football League. It merely states the fact that it exists, and that people pay to watch it.]

I’m not sure on which part of that last statement I should comment: the fact that you managed to include a physics equation in a sports column, or the fact that apparently you’ve invented a new science (and new word!) of “sports quantitivity.” In response to your attractiveness argument, on the other hand, I have two words: THE BROW.

Austin: Seems to me like I just won the argument. As a final point, I’d just like to point out that Jacobson made $10 million. When was the last time someone made that much outside professional sports in one go? I rest my case.

Rich: I concede to your “flawless” and “insightful” logic.

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