I’m either getting soft or continuing to figure things out…
Poker is hypercompetitive and therefore often brings out the worst in people. Still, some guys take our “sport’s” pervading negativity to unnecessary lengths. Some of the most successful pro poker players I know are incessant whiners and unusually bitter people. A recent experience on the circuit really illuminated the incongruity of being grumpy while playing a game for a living.
A few weeks ago, as I took my seat in Foxwoods’ latest Megastack tournament, I looked at the player across from me and found it was none other than Darvin Moon. Darvin, of course, is the runaway star of the 2009 World Series of Poker, the bumpkin logger who finished second in the 2009 Main Event. It was my first time meeting Darvin and he came as advertised—humble, unassuming and generally happy to be there. He also played tournament poker quite well, especially post flop.
Some of the recreational players at my table were very eager to interact with Darvin and completely unabashed in their open adulation. An older lady sitting two seats to his left was effusive in her praise and repeatedly declared that Darvin was her hero. She seemed to be doing everything in her power to keep from genuflecting in his direction. I watched with a mixture of amazement and amusement as the gentleman seated to my right gladly followed her lead, making comments like “what would Darvin do here?” and “well, you’re the pro, Darvin” while winking in Darvin’s direction in the middle of contested pots.
However, the pros at the table were less impressed. Two younger players in particular were unable to hide their contempt with the celebrity treatment afforded Mr. Moon. Each compliment Darvin received elicited exaggerated eyerolls from them. Eventually, one of them could contain his contempt no longer, and muttered “guy gets lucky in one tournament and everyone thinks he’s the best?” as he shook his head disapprovingly. This type of sentiment is quite common amongst my colleagues.
I must admit that my limits were also tested by the battery of questions sent Darvin’s way. These included queries such as “who’s the toughest in today’s game, Darvin?” and “what are some live tells you’ve detected?” With my five years of moderate success grinding on the live tournament circuit, having hundreds more tourneys under my belt, I was far more qualified to answer these questions than Darvin Moon. It was I, not Darvin, who has spent a great deal of time and effort working towards the goal that Darvin so easily reached on his very first try. Yet because I have one forgettable television appearance to my credit while Darvin Moon is a poker celebrity, I was treated like a nobody and Darvin was the resident expert.
As I contemplated voicing this sentiment, two things occurred to me. First, I was reminded how effective ESPN’s character-driven presentation of the World Series of Poker is. Darvin Moon truly is a folk hero to many, thanks to the clever people who control the presentation of televised poker. Second, I realized that I should not begrudge this fact. Television coverage is a big part of the reason why poker is a profitable career, it attracts players to the game. In a sense, if there were no Darvin Moon there would be no grinders like me. I actually owe a debt of gratitude to Darvin Moon. The eyerolls, the caustic message board posts, the dismissive comments, the thinly veiled hatred—all of it is misplaced. Is the fact that Darvin Moon probably doesn’t know what “cold four bet” means reason to belittle him? It’s no more than a manifestation of petty jealousy and an unearned sense of entitlement, and it’s incredibly myopic to boot.
I kept my mouth shut. And I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing poker with Darvin Moon. Poker is supposed to be fun, I’m leaving the griping to the grumps.