When poker somehow became cool (probably because money is cool) about three or four years ago, it was suddenly dominated by a new crew of dudes who were actually not geeks. Sure, they were smart, but they were also most definitely cool. Having bought into the image of "new" poker that had been sold on ESPN and in the movies, they were ready to become rich and famous by utilizing what had previously been a pretty lame thing to use - their brains. These include David Williams, Michael Mizrachi, and most notably Scott Fischman and the rest of "The Crew."
The Crew prominently introduced themselves to the world of poker two years ago at the WSOP 2004. They were all over ESPN, and they won bracelets. Essentially, they were the poker equivalent of a fraternity, epitomizing the new breed of poker player that had been brought up on the pocket cam and the Internet.
And for a while, it looked like this was the direction that poker would head. New school poker, and the jock/sports fans that it had been marketed to, seemed to be the future of the game. But at this year's WSOP, a funny thing has happened. The nerds, if you will, have had their revenge.
William Chen and his gang of math wizards have officially invaded the WSOP 2006 in the same way that "The Crew" wrecked shop in '04. They are the Tri-Lams to The Crew's Alpha Betas. This became a truth today when William Chen clipped on his second '06 bracelet - only half way through the WSOP. This is a feat on many levels, but is most incredible when you consider that only one or two of the hordes of big name pros in attendance of this year's WSOP have obtained a victory.
Chen is a true nerd, through and through. He wears glasses, doesn't really change his clothes very often (once by my count so far this summer), and has a little thing called a Ph.D. in math. He is the exact opposite of the cowboy hat wearing poker players who have built Texas Hold'em up to where it is today, and also the opposite of the new school poker players who have helped popularize poker with the ESPN crowd. He is unmarketable, and yet, he and his kind may be the future of poker.
If two bracelets - before most pros even have one - isn't enough to make you stop and think about what the real face of poker may become, consider that Greg Raymer can easily be grouped with this category of player, as can Andy Bloch. Raymer was on the bleachers cheering William on during both of his bracelet wins this year (not a normal thing for Greg). Andy Bloch, although he tries to disguise it with a cowboy hat and a hockey jersey (why Andy, why?), has two degrees from MIT (where no one cool has ever graduated from).
Greg, of course, is the 2005 WSOP champ, and Andy Bloch was the runner-up this morning in the H.O.R.S.E. competition, beating out everyone you have ever heard of - except one. It has been said time and again that intelligence always prevails in poker, and that the best players are the most educated. But educated is one thing. This new emerging force is entirely different. They're true nerds, and they're having their revenge.