Texas Hold’em, Springer-style
Does anyone out there remember when there were only three television channels, but there was usually something on TV worth watching? That’s because back when there were only three channels, poker wasn’t on any of them. It’s bad enough that poker has taken over much of the prime-time television schedule on Bravo, the Travel Channel and the Game Show Network. But now, as a final insult to intelligent viewers, poker has infiltrated ESPN Classic – the home of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and “Five Reasons Why You Can’t Blame Bill Buckner for the ’86 Red Sox Losing the World Series.”There are so many things wrong with poker being on television. I could make the usual arguments – that it’s not really a sport, that it promotes sexism, gambling, etc. But instead of addressing any of those issues, I’d rather tell the truth: I hate poker on TV because it has about the same entertainment value as watching someone unclog a toilet in a subway station’s mens room.Card games were never intended to be a spectator sport. Any activity that’s boring to watch in real life is going to be a thousand times more boring to watch on television. Poker on the airwaves takes up quality viewing time that could be better utilized by programming something more entertaining and intelligent – such as, say, old reruns of “The Bozo Hour.”For those fans who argue that television poker is cool and sophisticated, let me say that I’ve heard wittier repartee on “Judge Judy. ” And if the players are made up of both sexes, then most of the commentary is comprised of male/female bashing jokes that, frankly, were funnier back when they were first aired on “I Love Lucy.”Let me add that I’ve got nothing against poker as a game. If it weren’t for some pretty exciting poker games back in the 19th century, much of the United States wouldn’t even exist. A good poker hand was responsible for grubstaking many a land claim, be it a southern plantation or a Colorado silver mine. Plus, if it weren’t for poker, we would have missed out on many pivotal landmarks of 20th century American culture, including the entire first scene of “The Odd Couple” and that wonderful portrait series of dogs playing cards.
Me, I blame the whole television poker thing on the cigar craze of the last decade. After people got hooked they started saying to each other, “Hey, what else can we do while we’re smoking cigars?”You can play poker, that’s what. And since we’re a nation of exhibitionists, if you do it at all, you’ve gotta do it on TV.I can understand why people want to get on television to win money. But poker is primarily about losing money. And it’s not the game show’s money, it’s the contestant’s money. It’s like coming into the television studio and emptying out your pockets, and if you’re lucky, you get to keep enough for your bus ticket home.I think that the only way poker belongs on TV is if it’s played by guests from the Jerry Springer Show.Omitting some rather remarkable profanity, the first episode would go something like this:Crowd: JERRY! JERRY! JERRY!Jerry: Our players today are taking the concept of Texas Hold’em to a whole new level! They’re all from Texas, they all live in the same trailer, and they’re all blood relatives! And if that weren’t enough – they’re also married to each other! Crowd: JERRY! JERRY!Jerry: But brother and sister Earl and Earlene, who are also husband and wife, are having a little problem. Earlene is having an affair with Earl’s brother, Dewayne, who is not only Earlene’s brother but also legally her brother-in-law. Let’s join them at the poker table!
(Joins trio sitting at table, who are staring at their cards as if they were having trouble comprehending the numbers)Dewayne: Hit meEarl: I’ll hit ya, ya wife-stealer! (Proceeds to do so. Cards fly and are quickly pocketed by audience members, to be autographed by Jerry after the show)Earlene: I’ll raise you 50Dewayne: You cain’t! You ain’t got no money and you’ve already mortgaged the trailer!Earlene: I can still mortgage Junior!Dewayne: I don’t want Junior!Earlene: Why not? He’s your son!Earl: I thought he was MY son! (Three-way brawl begins on top of card table, lasting for 10 minutes until broken up by security guard)
Jerry: Talk about a full house, folks! Now let’s watch … Earl’s got a handful of chips – oh-oh, it looks like he’s going to splash the pot …Earlene: Well, why not? That’s what he does at home all the time! (Earlene kicks Earl, who rolls groaning into the audience)Crowd: Splash the pot! Splash the pot!Jerry: Now let’s watch Dewayne over here – oh-oh, looks like he’s got a pretty short stack …Dewayne: Whud you say about me? (Jumps on Jerry and proceeds to punch him out)Crowd: Short stack! Short stack! Short stack!If it continued like this, it could rival “Celebrity Boxing” as television’s next great sporting event. I know I’d watch.
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