Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chan and Seidel--once more unto the breach

Having another insomnia night. It might have something to do with having heard six gunshots in rapid succession just outside my apartment complex as I was going to bed at about 1:30 a.m., followed by sirens and a police helicopter circling overhead. (Speaking of which, Nevada has been crowned the #1 state in crime for the seventh consecutive year! Go team!)

Killing time, I was jumping around the PokerWorks web site. I noticed a link to something about the famous final hand of the 1988 World Series of Poker, featuring Johnny Chan and Erik Seidel. I wondered if they would get it right, since, as I've chronicled here ad nauseum, writers have a nasty tendency to screw up the facts.

As Britney Spears might say, oops, they did it again.

Here's the entirety of the very brief piece:

At the WSOP 1988 final table, Johnny Chan was dealt J♣ 9♣, and Erik Seidel
was dealt Q♣ 7♥ pre-flop. They both limped.

The flop came Q♠ T♥ 8♦, giving Chan a straight and Seidel a pair of Queens.
Chan bet $40.000 and Seidel raised $50.000. Chan called.

The turn came the 2♠, which didn't change either player's hand. Chan
checked and Seidel moved all-in, the trap was set for Seidel; Chan called.

The river brought the 6♦ and Johnny Chan was crowned the Champion.

The cards are correct as stated. The action, however, is all messed up, except for the true statement that both players limped pre-flop.

Here's what really happened: Chan had the button and was therefore last to act on each round after the flop. Seidel checked, Chan bet $40,000, Seidel check-raised another $50,000, and Chan called. The action was check-check on the turn. On the river, Seidel open-shoved, and Chan called.

I have written about this hand, and the almost countless ways that poker authors get the facts wrong, on three previous occasions: here, here, and here. The anonymous PokerWorks writer joins at least ten other well-known poker authors that have misstated in print or online the basic facts of how the hand played out. (I'm guessing that whoever wrote this for PokerWorks is European, based on the use of periods in the bet amounts, where we Yankees would use commas.)

This is so astonishing to me because you can watch the whole hand on YouTube. It could not possibly be easier to see exactly what happened. This hand has been seen by tens of millions of people, between rebroadcasts of the event, the clip being shown in various poker shows, featured in Rounders, and available on the web for viewing at any time. It may well have been seen, in total, by more people than have viewed any other poker hand in history. And still writers continue to describe it erroneously. Why, why, why??? How can so many people be so sloppy about such readily verified facts?

To quote myself from the last time I addressed this subject, "I remained completely unable to explain this baffling, annoying, and disturbing phenomenon. If authors get facts wrong when they are this easy to check, one cannot help wondering what else they are screwing up."

Incidentally, it has now been more than two years since Gary Wise told me via email that he would correct the errors that appeared in a piece he wrote for his web site here. I first wrote about the Chan-Seidel hand in January, 2008. My friend Shamus submitted a comment in which he pointed me to Wise's note. I emailed Wise to alert him to the errors, and he responded with a note saying that he would fix them, though I didn't write anything about it in my blog post at the time. However, by August, 2008, when the subject came up again as a result of James McManus getting things wrong in an article in Card Player magazine, I took the opportunity to chide Wise for not having corrected his mistakes. I do so again now, more than two years after he said he would fix the problems.

For the record, I'm embedding below a version of the video clip from YouTube that is somewhat easier to see clearly than the one I used in my first post on this subject.

(See here if you don't know the origin of the "once more unto the breach" used in the title of this post.)


Jennifer said...

Not sure who wrote the original words, but the editor corrected it this morning.

Grange95 said...

"Killing time ..."

Interesting transition phrase. :-p