Dispatches from the Creation Wars

WSOP Champion Crowned

Warning: this post contains the ultimate spoiler for this event

The WSOP main event is over and, not surprisingly, Jamie Gold won it. Well, that would have been a surprise at the beginning of the tournament, but not over the last few days. Gold seized the lead several days ago and never let it go, continually building his chip stack until he came to the final table with over 30% of all the chips in play. Throughout the tournament he was being coached by his friend Johnny Chan. And if you’re gonna have a friend helping you with your poker game, you’d be hard pressed to find a better teacher than that. Chan is undoubtedly in the top 10 of anyone’s list of the greatest poker players in history.

The only pro left in the field, Allen Cunningham, never got anything going at the final table and finished 4th. For that, he won over $3.6 million, the 7th largest payout in poker history. Jamie Gold won a cool $12 million for winning it all. Perhaps most impressive was Michael Binger, who came to the final table with the 2nd smallest stack, just over 3 million in chips, and managed to finish in 3rd place. In doing so, he doubled his expected winnings to over $4 million. So that’s it, the WSOP is over for another year. Congratulations to Jamie Gold.

Comments

  1. #1 Vanna
    August 11, 2006

    Ah, competitive poker: the fat man’s “sport.”

    Except that sitting on your ass for hours on end doesn’t do much for the erectile capability. Ask any truck driver.

  2. #2 Jeff Hebert
    August 11, 2006

    It sounds like Gold played well, but damn did he catch some cards. He knocked out three players at the final table with queens, twice with pocket queens if I’m reading it right. When you have most of the chips AND great cards, it’s hard to lose.

    Except that sitting on your ass for hours on end doesn’t do much for the erectile capability. Ask any truck driver.

    That’s what the $12 million is for.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    August 11, 2006

    Poker is indeed the “fat man’s sport” (paging Doyle Brunson and Russ Hamilton). It’s also the skinny man’s sport (Erik Seidel), the tiny petite woman’s sport (Jennifer Harmon) and much more.

  4. #4 Pieter B
    August 11, 2006

    Ah yes, the eternal question — what differentiates a sport from a game? And if there is, are “sports” inherently more admirable than “games”?

    Exempla gratia, synchronized swimming is a sport, but I can think of several games I’d much rather watch, and poker heads the list.

  5. #5 Jeff Hebert
    August 11, 2006

    I wrote an article during the Olympics about this, but basically I’d define the terms as follows.

    A sport is an athletic competition where the winner is determined primarily by meeting objective criteria.

    A game is a non-athletic competition where the winner is determined primarily by meeting objective criteria.

    An “athletic event” is an athletic competition where the winner is determined primarily by subjective criteria (i.e. judging).

    By those definitions, poker is a game, not a sport, because it is not athletic. Your example, synchronized swimming, is an athletic event, not a sport, because it is judged — subjective judging primarily determines the winner instead of objective criteria. Yes, you have certain technical, objective standards that have to be met, but subjective judging is the primary method of determining a winner.

    At least, that’s how I’ve come to think of it. You’ll get arguments about how “athletic” something is (usually from NASCAR fans) which can cause some gray areas, but it helps me think about competitions in some kind of logical way.

  6. #6 Pieter B
    August 11, 2006

    Jeff, that’s excellent. Thank you.
    :: off to read the article ::

  7. #7 Pieter B
    August 11, 2006

    Got a problem. By those criteria, golf and bowling are sports, and I’ve always contended they were games. I agree with you about curling, so I guess I’ll have to go with bowling as a sport, but golf, notsomuch.

  8. #8 tenspace
    August 11, 2006

    “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” – Ken Purdy, channelling Ernest Hemingway through character Helmut Ovden

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    August 11, 2006

    I’ve never considered poker a sport, but a game. But I have a much simpler criteria for differentiating the two: if you can play the game while drinking a beer, it’s not a sport.

  10. #10 John Lynch
    August 11, 2006

    Ed,

    You clearly haven’t seen me play rugby :)

  11. #11 Chili Pepper
    August 11, 2006

    Go with George Carlin’s definition of sport:

    1) must have a ball
    2) must have a real chance of physical injury.

  12. #12 Jeff Rients
    August 11, 2006

    My own personal standard is that if I don’t have to be talked into participation then it must be a game.

  13. #13 steve
    August 11, 2006

    What would the difference be if they just drew one top-ranked poker player’s name from a hat and crowned him champion? Is there really anything more that determines the results of these tournaments than chance? Yes, of course there is skill in poker and on average a skilled player can beat an unskilled one, but the key question is how much of an edge in skill can overcome the random variation in cards, especially in a no limit game where one hand can make or break a player?

    In WSOP the difference in skills among the top players is miniscule compared to the variation that comes from the luck of the draw. Therefore, the whole game is a farce, and no more of a contest of skill than your run of the mill local bingo parlor.

  14. #14 Matthew
    August 11, 2006

    How much have winnings increased over the years due to the increased exposure on television; particularly the WSOP on ESPN?

  15. #15 Ed Brayton
    August 11, 2006

    Matthew-

    Exponentially. In 2003, when Chris Moneymaker won, first prize was $2.5 million. 2004, it was $5 million. 2005, $7.5 million. 2006, $12 million. The combination of Moneymaker (a true amateur everyman) winning, the huge increase in satellites feeding into the tournament, and the explosion of poker on TV is what did it.

  16. #16 NBarnes
    August 11, 2006

    If you need to train your muscles to do it (and it’s not an ‘athletic event’), it’s a sport. Otherwise it’s a game. Golf and bowling are clearly sports.

  17. #17 JS
    August 12, 2006

    Exponentially. In 2003, when Chris Moneymaker won, first prize was $2.5 million. 2004, it was $5 million. 2005, $7.5 million. 2006, $12 million.

    One minor quib: That’s not exponential growth. If anything, it’s linear growth.

    - JS

  18. #18 Dave S.
    August 12, 2006

    JS -

    What is linear if not exponential to the first power? :)

  19. #19 Pieter B
    August 12, 2006

    There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.

    if you can play the game while drinking a beer, it’s not a sport.

    There are bouldering routes at the local climbing area that are known as “one-handers” — they can be climbed while drinking a beer, or at least carrying it.