Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TOC Musings: The Real World

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Is the Tournament of Champions a TV show, part of a slick packaged nugget of sports entertainment?

Is the TOC a legitimate poker tournament, and an event to really determine who is the best no-limit tournament player?

I guess that all depends on who you talk to. I think it's just like everything else in life... an over-hyped event put on under the guise of placating the masses by honoring the best of the best, when in fact it's just a dog and pony show, and nothing more than a well-crafted money making scheme concocted by the international-entertainment-poker complex.

The TOC is a mixed bag of things... a spectacle, pissing match, PR event, a haven for product placement, infomercial for online poker rooms, and an exhibition of poker skill. It's really hard to define the TOC, but much like life, it's all about the perception of the individual. Since the public gets to vote on the participants, they determine if the TOC is a popularity contest or a true tournament of champions like The Players Championship in golf. The only catch is that the rest of public might not agree with your philosophy of voting.

When the news of the TOC returning to the 2010 WSOP got out, I penned a quick post about random bracelets winners that I thought you should vote on by breaking them into different categories.

Change100 wrote an op/ed over at Poker News titled Casting the Tournament of Champions. Since she's an avid American Idol fan and channeling her inner theatre geek, she compared the voting system of the TOC to American Idol. She made a couple of interesting points including...
As I mulled my choices, however, I also put myself in the position of a television viewer. Who did I want to watch play poker for two hours? What conversations did I want to "overhear" as the tournament unfolded? What clash of styles would be the most interesting to watch? This is what’s at stake when it comes time to cast your ballot.
I feel as though the TOC should be similar to a Players Championship in golf, but instead, the TOC is more like an NBA or MLB all-star game when the fans pick the starters. Now in the pro sports realm, the coaches pick the bench players or pitchers so they can give votes to deserving players who fall under the radar of the public. The WSOP is without a commissioner these days and tournament poker lacks a unified governing body, so there's no one to really qualified to select players worthy of a seat. Harrah's has a couple of sponsor exemptions -- which will probably go to the pros who missed the cut and who make for "great TV."

If the TOC is going to be a TV show, then why vote on merit, seniority, or skill? Let's just go after the reality show archetypes, which were first introduced almost 20 years ago by the casting directors of MTV's The Real World. I'm sure they had no idea that reality TV would shake up the entertainment industry and that their casting methods would become a formula for ensuing reality shows in the new millennium.

If you put nine similar personalities at the table, then it's going to be boring. That's why those "Bad Boys" of poker themed-shows never took root. However, if producers are aware of people's strengths and weakness, then they can manipulate the situation by casting people who will eventual engage in conflict with one another. Conflict is the core ingredient to drama. Without conflict, you have the potential of losing the viewer to something a little more spicy.

While Change100 is taking an American Idol approach in selecting her ballot, I'm going the reality TV show route and voting for the players who will make for "great TV." The term "good for poker" is a hackneyed cliche that often gets tossed around, so let's just be honest and acknowledge that the entire point of the TOC is to have an entertaining program filled with fame whores and players with deeply psychological issues that can be manipulated at the tables.

One of the greatest moments in reality TV occurred when Steven bitched slapped Irene in front of the cameras during The Real World: Seattle. Wouldn't that be awesome if ESPN's cameras caught an actual brawl or mele? Fights occur all the time in hockey, sort of the old school way of settling personal grievances. NBA players love to tussle, and how many brawls have you seen at baseball games when pitchers give the opposing team a little too much chin music. But poker is sort of tame. Lots of trash talking but that's about it.

I dunno about you, but I've been cover poker since the 2005 WSOP and I'm waiting for a good ass kicking to happen at the tables. I've been in a poker room (and in a hand with one of the guys who got his ass kicked by a drunk at the table) when a fight broke out, so these things happen. Maybe you voters can pick out two pieces of dynamite and happen to rub them together.

Every entertaining reality show needs a villain, or a total douche bag in the parlance of our times. There are plenty to choose from like voting in Russ Hamilton for example.

How about the smart girl who has always been in her own shell and is looking to breakout?

Never forget about the random Asian. This role will be easy to cast because there are many worthy candidates. Juanda. Scotty. Chan.

Then there's the drunk/druggie who is always the source of drama. How about we combine the WSOP and Intervention. Wait. Scratch that horrible idea about having an intervention inside of a casino. OK, my bad. But druggies and drunks make for hysterical reality TV, plus everyone loves watching a train wreck when the wastoids might fall hard and spiral into the deepest depths of abuse, only to hit rock bottom.

The token black guy (TBG) is a term coined by Hollywood suits. In order to make Hollywood films see non-racist, or perhaps to appeal to a more "urban" audience, they always cast one black actor. The TBG is usually one of the cops or the sidekick to the QB of the football team. In horror or war films, the TBG has a 95% chance of dying in the first act of the film. Hate to say that Phil Ivey wins this role by default. I doubt he'll get whacked by a serial killer, though.

Everyone loves a brooding artist and misunderstood soul. Hellmuth thinks he should be cast in this role even though he's a shoe-in as the asshole.

Crazy chick. Never ever cast a reality show without one woman with serious psychological issues who will become the center of attention as the drama queen. Sometimes she's also the slutty girl who hooks up with every guy in the house, but without a doubt, she has serious problems. Daddy issues, mostly.

Everyone loves grandpa, right? That's how Ronald Reagen got elected. Gipper was propped up by the GOP who thought that America was looking for a grandfatherly type of leader to guide through the 1980s during the height of the Cold War. So, how can you not have Doyle Brunson at the table?

Everyone likes a bad boy, at least, all the girls want to date a bad boy, while all the good guys wish that they could be the bad boy. Don't confuse the bad boy with the douche bag or asshole, because deep down, the bad boy actually has a heart of gold. It's just a front he puts up because he too fears intimacy so much that he puts up the bad boy facade. Who's the Han Solo of bracelet winners?

I'm the black sheep of my family, and chances are, many of the people I know in poker are considered the black sheep of their family. Who's the black sheep of the poker world? The pariah? The prodigal son? So many pros to choose from in casting this role.

Every show needs a random European. Heck, let's add two. One that hates everything to do with America (a Brit or Frenchman would suffice) and the other Euro has to be silly/wacky/zany who cracks jokes like Yakoff Smirnoff, but knows all of the words to every Bruce Springsteen song of off Born in the USA.

We're all commoners wishing that we are royalty. There's zero nobility in America, only in Europe, so we have to judge our nobility on the level of fame and amount of attention you garner in the press. That can be vexing for many average citizens, which is why they need an everyday man's man to root for. Joe Six Pack. That's why Chris Moneymaker helped ignite the poker boom. As amateurs, we all saw ourselves in him. We wanted to play the roll of the Cinderella story who came out of nowhere to take down the world's biggest poker tournament.

And we can't cast anything in the entertainment world without including a homosexual. So who's going to be the gay dude or lesbian? I view poker as a sport and not entertainment in matters dealing with sexual preferences, because gays are commonly out and proud to be fabulous in the entertainment industry, however, homosexuality is taboo in professional sports (unless you're a lipstick lesbian). Poker echoes sports in that no one dares to out themselves as someone who bats for the other team. At this point, all you get is rumors and gossip. Poker media is an echo chamber, and you won't hear a whisper about this issue in a public forum. So I don't expect to see an openly gay person represented at the final table, by chances are there will be -- just someone who prefers to keep their personal life on the down low.

Since we can't have a queer, how about a metrosexual or pretty boy? You have to give the ladies at home something to look at.

The Mormon. How we could we have a reality show about Las Vegas and not toss a Mormon into the mix? I can't think of better conflict here. Find a Jesus Freak and have him/her constantly quote scripture at the table and mock their opponents because they are all going to hell.

Well, those are just a few of the archetypes that have been casted on The Real World over the last two decades. I'm sure there are more, these are just a dozen or so that I rattled off the top of my head. I hope this post serves as a useful guide in how to vote for your ballot. Voting is still open. Vote early. Vote often.

Click here to vote. Click here to see who's in the Top 50 in votes.


  1. Ernest10:43 AM

    You nailed the Real World casting formula!  I met Irene at a bar in Boston a few years ago.  I sat next to her and we had a few drinks.  She was really down to earth, and said she didn't mind people always asking her about the "slap heard 'round the Real World" (my phrase).
    Tony G. has got to be the Puck of poker.....

  2. Irongirl012:25 PM

    when i peeked at the top 50 i recognized all names but Peter Traply and Daniel Schrieber. Who the fuck are they and why are they in the top 50? I googled Schrieber and found he must be a compadre of Elky since hes a Starcraft gamer and lived in Korea (maybe he and ELKY are gay BFFS now there would be a story). Peter traply is a hungarian just another bracelet winner imo.

  3. hi pauly,

    <span>the TBG is called the TBAGF (the brother always goes first, from Roger Ebert) in horror films

  4. Michael Friedman4:32 PM so many ways.

  5. lightning366:47 PM

    "One of the greatest moments in reality TV occurred when Steven bitched slapped Irene in front of the cameras during The Real World: Seattle."

    Damn -- that was great. She pisses him off by saying he was gay. He denies it and gives her the slap. Years later, he comes out of the closet. Classic!