Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Boys of October vs. The November Nine

As I prepare for the invasion of my town by baseball fans big and small, I find myself infinitely more interested in the other World Series: The $10,000 No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Main Event, where thousands of players enter in July, and only nine remain for the final table in November.

What do I like about the World Series of Poker?

It’s international. There are many Americans, true, but also players from Australia, Russia, France, Canada, England, Denmark, China, heck, even Ecuador. Where else, that doesn’t involve snow or ice (or maybe handball), can you see Norwegians and Swedes compete at this level?

It’s ageless. Competitors at this year’s tournament included 97-year-old Jack Ury, who survived through Day 2, 76-year-old Doyle Brunson, who won back-to-back Main Events in 1976 and 1977, and Joe Cada, who, at the age of 21, became the youngest champion ever in 2009.

It’s egalitarian. You have your pros. You have your occasional celebrities (Jason Alexander, Don Cheadle, Hank Azaria). And, while women are few and far between, they are at least competitive. There are also plenty of non-professionals, including November Nine contender Soi Nguyen and once-in-a-lifetime hopefuls like wheelchair-bound Gary Kostiuk, an optometrist with multiple sclerosis who earned his place in this year’s tournament by winning a small, local satellite game. If you can believe it, this year’s “Bubble Boy” was a professional angler.

It involves a Bubble Boy. What more needs to be said?

Sure, in my heart of hearts, I will always be a Red Sox fan. How could I not be after going to Fenway Park with my Dad to see Luis Tiant pitch, or having a stuffed bear whose extended list of middle names included Fred Lynn and Rico Petrocelli? But, these days, I’d rather watch the November Nine than the Boys of October.

*The bulk of the World Series of Poker is filmed over two weeks in July and shown Tuesdays on ESPN through early November, when the nine players who made it to the final table come back to determine the ultimate champion.

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