Dominik Panka saves the day!

Dominik Panka

And so Mike “Timex” McDonald missed out on a second European Poker Tour title at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure earlier this month. He came within few hands of becoming the first player to do so, instead conceding the title to Polish player Dominik Panka, much to the disappointment of those who had taken ink in readiness of starting a new page in poker’s history books.

Personally, I’m delighted.

It’s not that I begrudge McDonald such an achievement. Actually he’d be my pick to be the first to do this double. It’s just, for a prize so long in the waiting, one of the last frontiers of the high stakes poker circuit, I’d rather it were seen not at 5am in front of a team of tired television cameramen, and producers being prodded awake, but rapturous crowds, with me in the background. Such was the situation in the Bahamas.

The problem wasn’t the final day. It was the one before it.

Day 5 had featured 20 players returning to play down to a final eight. But like in Prague a month previous, they had departed in quick order, one after the other, bringing the day to a close, breaks and all, in about five hours.

Delight at the early finish turned to dread a day later. Effectively play was ahead of schedule by three levels, or about four and a half hours. The organisers new it, the players knew it, and so did the TV people. But there was McDonald and the potential for a first double win – a popular one too – to keep people gripped. And surely he could get things wrapped up without a lengthy narrative?

Well, no. As those watching would find out it would not be a quick turn around, and as the hours marched on, moods fell and the sun rose, the brutal reality seeped in.

It’s a curse that major televised poker events have to contend with. With a schedule laid down in stone, or shown on a screen somewhere, the final table is an integral part of the entire festival, with a TV broadcast to produce, not to mention a live feed; it’s an immoveable feast of poker. So the tournament clock is irrelevant. And so play started in level 26, with most events of its kind finishing in level 32 or 33 at the earliest. What’s more, each player was good, in form, and had chips.

So as midnight passed and only those who had to watch were watching, it was time to stop wanting McDonald to win, for no other reason that he deserved a better ovation for the effort, and it’s hard to be excited when you’re asleep and late for your plane home.

I look forward to McDonald’s next title bid, but for now my hat’ off to Dominik Panka who, having assessed the situation in much the same way, did the honourable thing, halting all talk of history in the only way he knew how.