Table Talk: Feel-Good Poker in Las Vegas

rio in las vegas

Barkeep, please serve up something strong this week. It’s hot in Las Vegas, and the bad beats from the World Series of Poker can be overwhelming at times. Worse than 110 degrees Fahrenheit, you ask? Yes. And make my rum and cola a double.

It can be tough as a poker fan and observer to watch the WSOP on the whole, especially via social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. The odds are clear that more people will lose than win; more people will bust out before the money than in the money. When reading updates from the vast majority of players, there are sad stories of bustouts, personal disappointments, and bankroll problems. Of course, there are those who roll it all up into a series of complaints as well, which I’ve addressed in past weeks.

On the other hand, there are some incredible feel-good stories from the WSOP if you want to see them. The first one that emerged from this year’s Series happened in Event 1. This was a happy story for most members of the media and poker fans in general, as PokerNews reporter Chad Holloway won the $500 Employees NLHE event.

Quite often, members of the poker media seek to translate their accumulated knowledge of poker into victory on the felt itself, but most are unable to do so. Some are even in the media solely as a conduit to a hopeful career as a poker pro. But there are some like Chad who relish their opportunities to be a part of the game in whatever way they can. Chad certainly enjoys playing the game, but he has also soaked up enough information in the past few years to be a true fan. He knows much of the history of the game and respects it as such. He is appreciative of every opportunity the game has afforded him. To see him take a chance on a tournament and parlay it into a win of about $85K and a WSOP gold bracelet was a great feeling.

In addition, not many could appreciate the depth of it as much as Chad. He watches others win and lose every day in his job, and the magnitude of joining the group of elite winners was not lost on him. His smiles lit up the Rio, at the time of his win and during his bracelet ceremony. For all I know, he’s still smiling weeks later and I simply haven’t been near him to see it. His victory showed what a bracelet truly means.

Then there was Event 26, better known as the $1,000 Seniors NLHE Championship. While many used it as an opportunity to make jokes about seniors and their health issues, the players in the event took it quite seriously. And the winner interviews with Kenneth Lind demonstrate what the tournament really means to its players.

Kenneth is a retired 68-year old Utah man who has seven children, seven grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. His wife encouraged him to play the WSOP event because it had been on his “bucket list” for so many years. After a career that included service in the US Army and for the government, he not only relished the opportunity to play and then win the WSOP bracelet, but he won the “Golden Eagle” trophy awarded in the Seniors event, which meant something extra special to the veteran. And the $635K meant more to him than most.

The video interview with Kenneth showed his true joy for the win. It demonstrated the meaning that the WSOP was meant to have, and his huge smiles and laughs during the interview were indicative of the happiness of a true champion. This is what the WSOP is supposed to be, and his gracious words are what bring smiles to most poker fans.

While the heartache of a bustout, cruelty of a bubble finish, or disappointment in anything but first place are all feelings that are inevitable in a tournament arena, it is important to focus on the positive stories as well. There are winners, even ones who are incredibly grateful and happy beyond words. Those are the stories that keep the tournament world alive and bring new players into the game.

Instead of skimming over the results, take a look at the winners’ stories that are available on some media sites. They might invigorate and inspire you as well.

In the meantime, the bad beats are unavoidable, so I’ll see you at the bar!