Big money; bigger egos [Editorial]

Big money; bigger egos [Editorial]

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

In a sense, the game of poker has always been a game of ego. Every poker scene in a movie will be highlighting the pressure, the mano-a-mano aspect, the sheer battle of wills and big ballsy bluffs that require the protagonist to overcome a brutal, relentless and wiley foe.

We see it now in the modern online ring games where regulars will go at it in 4- and 5-bet pre-flop pots, each holding a mediocre hand and bringing a button versus big blind battle down to who has the biggest pair. And I’m not talking about pocket aces.

In the past two years we’ve seen some very young people do some amazing things in the online and live poker world; Tom “durrrr” Dwan is only 24 years old but already has conquered the biggest online games in the world before moving into the live arena, seemingly blasé about winning and losing millions of dollars every single day. Just before Christmas, Isaac “philivey2694” Haxton – a player in his mid-twenties young enough to name his poker account after an older player – took on the infamous Isildur1 in the inaugural PokerStars SuperStar Showdown, winning over $40,000 from a man who, according to the strongest rumours, is a 21-year-old Swede who built up an eight-figure bankroll on sites such as iPoker and Svenska Spel.

If you’re Isaac Haxton, widely considered the best heads-up No Limit player in the world by his mid-twenties and with over $2.8m in live tournament cashes including runner-up spots in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the $40,000 Anniversary WSOP event, then do you honestly care about the $41,000 you won from Isildur1? Or do you care more about the fact that you publically beat a legend in an intense heads-up poker battle? If the answer still isn’t clear, then let’s think of it from the point of view of Isildur1:

You’re 21 years old and have been playing poker for around seven years. In that time you’ve won and lost more six- and seven-figure bankrolls than you can count. Last year you took on the best in the world at Full Tilt Poker; winning over $5.5m before dumping it all back doing stupid, egotistical and yet amazing things such as playing Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan and Patrik Antonius across eight total tables of heads-up nosebleed stakes Hold ‘em at the same time. Obviously, money is not your primary concern – you have enough of it and now you just want to be the best. Isildur1 obviously doesn’t care about the $40,000 he lost; he just cares that he lost. Someone that unconcerned about losing the five million dollars he won last year has some sick guard against the value of money in the same way that Phil Ivey appears to.

The PokerStars SuperStar showdown is played across 2,500 hands at stakes of $50/$100 – considering that last year Isildur1 played over 50,000 hands at stakes of $100/$200 all the way to $500/$1,000 and suffered multi-million dollar swings daily this is well within his comfort zone. Why is he playing these showdowns, restricted to four tables and relatively low stakes across a set period of hands? We all know he’d be much happier playing tens of thousands of hands at limits double or quadruple the SuperStar Showdown stakes. The answer is that he’s simply playing for pride.

Look at Tom Dwan’s Durrrr Challenge – obviously the money helps, he’s practically locked up over $2.5m from Patrik Antonius even as he’s losing over half a million dollars to Daniel “jungleman12” Cates. Both those guys are in their early twenties, Cates barely 21, and are multi-millionaires. They’re set for life, yet they still compete at high stakes in a public arena. Not for the millions of dollars but for the adulation of the rail and the bragging rights that come with thoroughly besting an opponent of similar or greater skill than yourself.

Tags: Poker News, Big, money;, bigger, egos, [Editorial]