Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No Poker Face Here - But There Should Be

I was a bit amazed to read this on the official World Series of Poker website today, summing up the end of the tournament that left Jerry Yang of Temecula, Calif., as the 2007 WSOP champ (emphasis mine):

"Well, that's all folks. The crowds have come and gone, the cards have fallen, an a Champion has been crowned. Jerry Yang will make a fantastic poker ambassador. His dominance of the final table was reminiscent of Jamie Gold's performance last year, however his victory speech was the polar opposite. Jerry is naturally humble guy, with a firm faith and a deep respect of his fellow man. He pledged to donate 10 percent of his winning to charity, and said that he wanted to give something back to the community. he was very appreciative, and thanked Jeffrey Pollack and his staff for all their hard work throughout the Series. He thanked his wife, who he said worked very hard, but 'does not have to work anymore,' and said he was going to ensure that his six children received the best education. After all the cameras and bright lights subsided, we caught a glimpse of a real guy, with a solid foundation who love his family -- a true Champion."

Now, imagine the NFL summing up the Super Bowl by writing, "These guys are great, not like the &$@@#s who won last year." Inappropriate, right?

Sure, Jamie Gold was a controversial champion and he offended some sensibilities by his behavior during and after the tournament. His admission of cheating to me in The New York Times and on "The Strip" podcast were embarrassing, no doubt. But ultimately, he hurt only himself by squandering his fame.

The snarky reflections on his place in poker lore -- and how he compares to his successors and predecessors -- are best left to bloggers, columnists and fans. For the WSOP organization itself to make such a snide remark is out of bounds.