People often exclaim, usually in a frothing orgy of schadenfreude, “Oh, how the might have fallen!” It’s meant to convey some sort of great import, some crashing collapse of giants. At the PCA, when the mighty fall, it happens with a barely audible sigh. If you hadn’t seen it with your own eyes, you might question whether it happened at all.
It wasn’t always this way. In years gone by, many eliminations, no matter how mundane or just, were met with writhing screams, table-pounding, tear-filled soliloquies, or such vile obscenity that the days of live televised poker tournaments would never have come to pass. It was as if everyone knocked out of an event was involved in a miscarriage of decency against which they were forced to rail and wail until everyone heard.
Today, a whisper is louder than most exits.
I can attest to the silence, because I heard it in stereo just last night. On my right, Andre Akkari. On my left, Eugene Katchalov. Both men titans. Both men at the top of their game. Both men all-in for their tournament life. Akkari was outkicked, in behind, and out just the same. He shook his opponent’s hand and walked away with a smile. Katchalov, meanwhile, was all in pre-flop with pocket aces versus pocket queens. The flop was safe, but the turn was a painted lady, and Katchalov, too, was gone. His response? He took a drink of water, bid the feature table adieu, and went off to look for what was next.
In the 20 hours since, many more have gone. Negreanu. Duhamel. Blom, and Veldhuis. The biggest names in the game. The quietest exits.
There are reasons for it, of course. The more tournaments these guys play, the more accustomed they become to early departures. Also, the more millions they win, the easier it is to accept two-outers in one of poker’s biggest events. So, perhaps the Kid Pokers and Isildur1s of the world won’t get any great applause for their dignified and quiet exits. But, hey, they aren’t really looking for applause. They’re simply looking for the next opportunity to win.
It’s not just the superstars of poker who are behaving better. It is major fields at large. Whereas in the past television cameras would rush to the place where chairs were being knocked over and curses were flying, today the histrionics are few and far between. As we have noted before, online poker has matured the fields of live events. Most of these online grinders have already suffered the greatest indignities bad beats can offer. As such, their departures are often reduced to–at most–140 characters or less on Twitter.
So, what of it, then? Why even bother bringing it up? Well, perhaps because the dignity of departure could speak a lot for the image of poker players at large. In baseball, the man who attacks a dugout with a Louisville Slugger because he struck out doesn’t represent the game itself, largely because most players don’t follow suit. In poker, when a field the size of the PCA is setting the example for absorbing the blows quietly, it could well improve the image of the game everybody here loves. That is to say, just like one should act like he’s been there when he wins, one could just as easily act like he’s been there before when he loses.