2008 World Series: Made for TV

People who wandered wide-eyed into the poker revival tent a few years ago cannot be faulted for believing Hevad Khan is a barbarian, that Isabelle "No Mercy" Mercier is a cold-hearted witch, and that Joe Hachem begins every sentence with "Pass the sugar." When one's perspective is built on what TV shows us, it's natural to believe what we see. There's little fault that can be assigned to TV producers. They tell the stories and leave it up to us to believe. Still, some of poker's newcomers might find it hard to believe Hevad Khan rarely uses the word "bulldozer," Isabelle is one of poker's sweethearts, and Hachem seems like he avoids sugar as a matter of routine.

That said, today's table draw in the $50,000 HORSE event is one that would cause any TV producer to salivate. One picture tells most of the story.

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That is, in fact, Mike Matusow seated next to Greg Raymer, seated immediately beside Shawn Sheikhan.

Even the casual poker TV viewer knows the history. It's only been four years since Matusow verbally battered an unflinching Greg Raymer and forced people who never had a reason to know the word cojones to run for a Spanish to English dictionary. Just one year later, with 27 players remaining in the main event, TV viewers watched as Matusow and Sheikhan nearly ripped out each other's intestines. It was great TV and established each man's reputation for the coming years.

That's what made today so interesting. Despite the history, the three table-neighbors have been gentlemen for the better part of the afternoon. Apart from Matusow Tigger-hopping around the room and shouting about his table-draw, it's almost been congenial. Even when given an opportunity to talk badly about Matusow, Raymer conceded The Mouth has just been running bad. Apart from the excellent poker, it's not a made-for-TV conversation.

Still, though, there may be some sort of TV karma coming around. Sheikhan recently headed for the door, his absence of chips speaking louder than he ever could. Similarly, Matusow has had a very rough day and is still short. Raymer, in contrast, has remained steady all afternoon long.

The whole of the PokerStars family remains in the event with 110 players remaining. The most notable mover of the day is Team PokerStars Pro Isabelle Mercier. Just back from helping her mother through breast cancer surgery, Isabelle has moved to near the top of the leader board.

The players are headed for the dinner break in a few minutes. They will return to play three more levels tonight. The TV cameras won't come around for another day or so. We'll see what, if anything, that changes when the time comes.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker