You're probably expecting me to tell you that the Seniors event turned out to be incredible, with action-packed poker and hilarious table banter, with dynamic and compelling personalities and enough storylines to put poker reporters like me to bed dreaming of a hundred such tournaments. You'd expect that, but I'm not going to lie to you.
For the most part, the Senior circuit consisted of almost two days of pretty ho-hum poker, free from the draw of the superstars who were playing in the H.O.R.S.E. tournament across the aisle, free from the absurdly high stakes, even free from any pretense of entertainment for anyone save the 1,170 poker enthusiasts who made up the field.
Even the final table seemed to be somewhat devoid of the usual air of electricity, but that could be due to the WSOP organizers inexplicably choosing to play down the last nine contestants at table 57, adrift somewhere in the massive sea of the Amazon Room, rather than at the feature table, which sat conspicuously unused throughout the proceedings. I mean, come on Harrah's, would it kill you to show a little enthusiasm in this event?
You've probably already read Lisa DeVita's blog, "Television Crew, Where are You?", in which she talks about the lack of enthusiasm shown to the Ladies event, especially at the final table. The poker played in that event, which was concluded at the feature table, though not under the eyes of any television cameras, was incredible, and even more incredible was the reaction of the eventual winner, Mary Jones Meyer. Her tears upon realizing she'd won were genuine, and the raw emotion that was evident in her celebration stood head and shoulders over any other post-bracelet victory dance I'd seen to that point.
Clare Miller, who won the Seniors event tonight and is another amateur player, comes closest to eclipsing that emotion. Miller burst into tears and ran, arms-open, to her husband, absolutely overjoyed and overwhelmed by the situation. It was only the second final table where I've felt caught up in the joy of the winner, and not coincidentally, both players were amateurs, and both tournaments were largely ignored by the WSOP organizers.
The rapid growth that poker has experienced in the last few years has been largely attributed to its accessibility. Chris Moneymaker's emergence from a sea of nobodies to a multi-million dollar payday helped spark an intense rise in the interest the average person has in the game of poker, and despite how popular certain players and personalities have become, it's the everyday people and feel-good stories that draw the general populace to the sport.
Clare Miller and Mary Jones Meyer are both everyday people with great poker stories. So why has Harrah's ignored the Seniors and Ladies events? The staggering (and rising) number of entrants in each competition proves that there is an interest in both tournaments, and while ESPN may not be lining up to buy the TV rights for final tables that lack notable names and faces, the fact that the WSOP treats these tournaments as though they are second-class is lamentable and ill-advised.
Not everyone is a die-hard poker groupie, and for poker to continue to thrive, it must continue to appeal to the grassroots player. Why should young men be the only ones made to feel as though they have a shot at poker fame and fortune?