Sunday, April 25, 2010

Class, or lack thereof

I'm watching the second week of NBC's heads-up poker championship. I was impressed with Orel Hershiser's grace in his exit interview after losing to Annette Obrestad: "I knew I was behind the whole way as far as intelligence and ability in the whole match, so I was always gonna look for a place where maybe I was 55/45 dog but I could get a shot at least at making her fold. She didn't fold. She had the better hand and she's the better player."

I love how Obrestad beams in reaction to those kind words:

She returns the graciousness (after being forced to admit, a bit sheepishly, that she has never seen a baseball game and hadn't known who Hershiser was coming into the event): "I thought he played extremely well and I felt like I was getting run over for most of the match, I wasn't getting any hands, and then, y'know, things kept going my way at the end, and I think I was just lucky to win."

Let's compare that little festival of politeness with how Phil Hellmuth went out after a prolonged heads-up battle with Jens Voertmann on last week's "Poker After Dark." He does the obligatory, "Good game, man," with a handshake, but then says, "Four fucking races in a row," before Leeann Tweeden gets over to him for the formal interview:

"He gave me all his money with king-eight. He just gave me fifty, sixty thousand. He had 9000 left, so I know it's, I mean, I know I'm gonna win, but I'm gonna have to just continue to play my best poker. And then he had 6-7 and I had Q-2, and he won that...and then I had him all in again and he won that, and he had me all-in one time and he won that. He won four races in a row after giving me all his chips. I mean, I feel like, uh, I feel like it wasn't, y'know, thank God it's not a World Series of Poker tournament.... It just doesn't feel fair to me. But he played good."

I thought that Voertmann was impressive throughout, clearly outplaying Hellmuth, with the exception of the one major misstep where he first lost the chip lead. He also remained above the fray, never resorting to insults or negativity in reaction to Phil's insults and tirades. He continued that pattern in his interview: "First of all, for me it feels fair. Phil, of course, is a very good player." At this point, Hellmuth interrupts: "It feels fair? Wanna play again for $100,000?" Voertmann just laughs that off and continues: "If I would say anything against Phil, it would be ridiculous. So many bracelets, he's a great player, famous player, and so I wouldn't say anything else." He goes into some detail about what his thinking was in the hand in which he lost the chip lead, then concludes, "I was wrong, I lost that hand, but at the end I was lucky."

Four players, three showing class in either victory or defeat.

And then there's Phil.


dbcooper said...

Annette must have grown up some. I remember a couple previous interviews where she didn't come off quite as charming. In one she slagged old players like Doyle Brunson if I remember right. Of cousre she is young and hopefully getting more mature

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of interacting with Hershiser a few times when he was a coach with the Texas Rangers, he was always very approachable and a class act all the way. Can't say enough good things about the man.

Anonymous said...

100% agree about Hellmuth's ongoing bad behavior after he loses. At least he acknowledges that he needed to work on his post-defeat behavior in the Director's Cut interviews, but that's highly unlikely to occur. He's my least favorite poker player to watch and love it when he gets beat by "inferior" players....