Each year, the Main Event final table rolls around and we look up and down the roster desperately searching for someone who is "good for poker." Someone who can take our game to new heights.
Ever since Moneymaker shipped it in 2003 we've been chasing that poker boom dragon. Deep down we know the 2003 boom will never be replicated in size, but we'll settle for even just a small bang.
In these tough, post-UIGEA times, we need someone who can stand on the world stage, draw attention to the game and bring new players along for the ride.
Moneymaker was the ignition of the poker boom back in '03 and, for the longest time, the poker player mantra was that some amateur would come along and parlay $40 and a sick run of cards into a Main Event bracelet, thereby re-creating the perfect storm of Moneymaker's 2003 victory and igniting a second poker boom.
But we've since had our share of amateurs and semi-pro champions in Raymer, Hachem, Gold, Yang and Eastgate, and each one failed to cause even a ripple in our game.
If an amateur riding a sick wave of cards was the perfect storm for a poker boom, then Yang would have been the perfect candidate. He was that God-fearing amateur, just-lucky-to-be-here guy.
He won, practically disappeared and nothing changed.
So what about something new? Maybe the lucky amateur isn't the match to light the fuse anymore. Though it initially drew people to the game with the whole "anyone can win" angle, even that has become tired.
Enter Phil Ivey, Undisputed King
Enter Phil Ivey, the undisputed best player alive.
If the lucky amateur angle is wearing thin, Ivey is the polar opposite. He's the consummate pro, he's beaten the game his entire life and now that he's making a run at the biggest tournament in the world.
Maybe, god willing, the U.S. government will see that poker is a skill game. Though amateurs will win tournaments here and there, Phil Ivey is living, undeniable proof that poker is a game of skill.
The possibility for a smaller boom is very real. ESPN had amazing ratings for the 2003 Main Event and, with Ivey at the final table, 2009 guarantees ESPN the best ratings they've had in years.
They'll have four months to hype up their coverage.
With no big names the November Nine is just a waste of time, but with the biggest name in poker it's genius and guarantees one of the most watched final tables in history.
And while a whole boat load of "anyone can do it" players took to the game in 2003, in 2009 we have the possibility for a whole new breed of "I want to be the best in the world" players flooding our games.
A Phil Ivey final table alone is good for poker. But should he go on and win the question is how would he do as an ambassador for the game? You know, the let's-go-out-and-get-that-UIGEA-repealed guy.
Is he the best guy to get that job done?
Phil Ivey Doesn't Want the Spotlight
It depends on whether or not he wants to step up. Ivey is the guy that'll win a bracelet and slip out the back door before the press even gets the picture and Q+A session.
He's a guy who really doesn't like to be in the spotlight, despite being the biggest name in poker.
Everyone wants to know everything about Phil Ivey, but Ivey just wants to be in the shadows doing what he always does: playing poker and winning millions of dollars.
That's not to say that if he won the Main Event he wouldn't recognize what kind of impact he could potentially have on poker legislation.
Winning the Main Event could catapult Ivey from poker celebrity to mainstream star.
Like Amarillo Slim in the past, he could find himself on the talk show circuit, bringing poker to a whole new audience and hopefully bringing exposure to the sham that is the UIGEA.
Ivey Has Already Helped Poker
It's all entirely possible, and as a stake holder in Full Tilt Poker, Ivey should understand how potentially profitable this can be for him, his company, and poker players worldwide.
The possibility is there. Ivey just has to step up, take the ball and run with it.
He's been somewhat reluctant in the past, but for the greater good of the game, we all hope he would do it given the opportunity.
However, that's getting a little ahead of ourselves. Right now he sits six of nine and there is a ton of ground to make up.
One thing already guaranteed is that the 2009 November Nine will be the most watched WSOP Main Event in recent history. With higher ratings comes more exposure, so, win or lose, Ivey has already helped the poker world.
So is Phil Ivey good for poker? Yes he is. We'll just have to wait and see if he can be great for poker.