Grumpy old man

Des Wilson bemoans the lack of star appeal at this year's WSOP

When I was a kid I was a movie buff. In those days every fi lm had a star – James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Spencer Tracy, etc. I was raised with stars and I loved them. They created a focus for my enthusiasm – people to follow, to aspire to be like. Then, gradually, movies began to appear with brilliant actors but no ‘stars’. I still liked them but it was as if one’s compass had gone… it became harder to decide whether one wanted to go to a movie or not.

It’s the same with poker. If I turn on the TV and the players are unknowns I’m not interested. I want to see Ivey, Negreanu, Hellmuth and the rest. So it is with the WSOP. I want to see the stars, the big games and the fi nal tables built around a mixture of them and the younger challengers. And the thing about this year’s World Series was that, apart from the H.O.R.S.E event, it didn’t happen.

Allen Cunningham aside, there was not one well-known name in the fi nal 47 of the Main Event. It was still dramatic, what with the lights and the intensity and all but, frankly, I found I really didn’t care. The point about Chris Moneymaker’s famous win was that it came after a heads-up with veteran Sam Farha – here was the young gunslinger and the battered old sheriff… newcomer and star. Now that was theatre.

Now, the fields have grown so large, the focus of poker has shifted so much to Texas Hold’em, and the internet has produced so many players who are as talented as they’re unknown, that the stars have become as vulnerable as the next guy. Some will say this is good news, that it’s great that anyone can win… But the game needs stars too. That’s why I was glad to see Hellmuth win his 10th bracelet, Reece’s H.O.R.S.E. success and the Farha vs Ivey heads-up in the Omaha High-Low event.

If the finish of the 2006 WSOP Main Event was a bit of an anti-climax, it’s because, apart from Cunningham, the stars had already been killed off. Let’s hope in 2007, whoever it is up above who writes the script, will find a place for two or three of them in the final scene.

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