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Poker on the TV: Celebrity Apprentice

It's been a while since I've done a Poker on the TV post, mostly because as poker declines from its peak in popularity, shows are no longer shoe-horning poker scenes into their episodes. This is probably a mixed blessing for yours truly, since most portayals of poker on mainstream television is utter claptrap; yet, the more poker is exposed to the mainstream audience, the more the game is accepted by the mainstreamers. And mainstream acceptance is key to the next evolution of gaming in the United States, which as I envision it, involves the expansion of legal poker both live and online.

That said, the second season of Celebrity Apprentice aired on Sunday starring a fairly decent cast, including none other than Annie Duke. While Duke is probably not in your top ten list of people to represent the poker community, she is a huge step up from the last poker player to obtain such national exposure, Jean-Robert Belande, who came off as a lazy asshole (not that there is anything wrong with that) on Survivor in 2007.

Amazingly, Duke, who isn't necessarily loved in the poker community, may actually be our best representative for the Donald Trump-led show. She grabs TV time in the first episode by being opinionated and at times overbearing around her teammates, but that should come as no surprise. Poker players, by their very nature, are not used to following orders. In fact, one of the many appeals of professional poker is the fact that there are no set hours, no bosses, no company lines to toe. So it should come as no surprise that Duke came off as aggressive and did not necessarily appear to be a team player.

But the beauty of Duke's appearance thus far is the way in which she sees the game. Unlike most of the cast, Duke seems to recognize the game-aspect of the show. She isn't trying to prove her business acumen; she is trying to WIN. That's a huge difference. She clearly watched season one of the show because she was able to argue (likely, rightly) about the location of a goddamn cupcake stand by recalling Trump's opinoin as to the same location in last season's hot dog stand contest. In other words, while the rest of the cast was trying to make a business decision based on their respective knowledge of the city, Duke was making a game decision based on historical data. This, too, is a poker trait. It's the difference between making a play because you have a good hand and making a play because you remember how your opponent acted the last time the same situation occurred, and you are exploiting that knowledge. For a non-poker player, the decision was about finding a good location based on their own frames of reference; for poker-player Duke, it was about remembering prior situations and viewing the hand in the eyes of the ultimate judge.

The bottom line is, poker players play a game for a living, competitively. It makes perfect sense, then, that a poker player has an edge in a game like Celebrity Apprentice, moreso than even Survivor. Whereas Survivor is about group dynamics, Celebrity Apprentice is about getting the job done, and as long as you perform, your personality conflicts are practically a non-issue. People called out Duke's aggressive style, but she brought in an ass-ton of money and she argued coherently and correctly as to why, although obnoxious, her bossiness was justified and beneficial to the team.

There is one other aspect that makes Duke a shoe-in to go deep (not that there have been such spoilers...). Poker players care nothing for money, so when Annie Duke, a high-profile name with lots of connections in the community, asks a fellow poker player to donate money, it's usually a non-issue. Celebrities like Tony Hawk donated $1000 for a cupcake, which in and of itself is something to be commended. After all, $1000 buys a lot of skateboarding equipment. However, in the same vein, unnamed poker players showed up and donated as much as $10,000 for a freakin' cupcake. Do these poker players have more money than Tony Hawk? Hell no. But they do routinely shell out $10,000 merely for an opportunity for a day's (or several day's) work/payday. It's this utter lack of regard for money combined with the peculiar generosity of poker players (I've seen it myself, time and time again, when it comes to charities) that puts Duke ahead of the pack.

But beyond Duke's chances for success, the poker community wins no matter what. Having Duke on the show demonstrates to a mainstream audience that (a) poker is played by men and women, (b) these people may actually have some business acumen, (c) they are not all thugs and/or lowlifes, and (d) poker must be important and legitimate. After all, having a poker player on the same team as real celebrities (!) (granted there is a Deal or No Deal model too) simply lifts the status of poker player to a new height, or perhaps at least maintains the idea of poker player as a glamorous job. It also implicitly suggests that poker is not just luck; how could a star emerge if it's just gambling in its purest form. There are no high stakes roulette players on the show. But there are professional athletes.

One final thought: Duke looked great on the show. She did not appear out of place among actresses and models. I don't mean to say she is model caliber, but you do have to give credit to the woman for looking good. So, if nothing else, she is a welcome change from the usual stereotypical poker player. She may even get more ladies to try out the game, and that works for me, because we all know that women are no good at poker.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:40 AM,


At 12:27 PM, Blogger BWoP said...

She may even get more ladies to try out the game, and that works for me, because we all know that women are no good at poker.

I kept trying to tell my Venetian table that same thing. They laughed at me.

At 12:27 PM, Blogger BWoP said...

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