When +EV is not +EV on TV

You hear a lot of pros talk about how certain people are completely different poker players when the TV cameras are on them, and how they like to take advantage of this. But, one of the things you notice when you watch televised poker is that some people seem to be invited on a lot more programs than others -and seem to be more likely to have PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker on their hat than flybynightpoker.com! Unless your last name is Brunson or Ivey you better have a very good demeanor at the poker tables if you want to make multiple appearances, or take advantage of your one shot at glory at the WSOP final table.

I think this same rational holds true for all major televised poker tournaments, where most of the participants are small-time grinders, looking for a sponsorship deal, but no more so than for the WSOP. Take the recent WSOP final table for example. In my view only one of the players who entered the day short “got it”, and that was Jason Senti. While the rest of the table was holding on, looking to move-up a few spots on the prize-pool ladder, Senti was mixing it up (going all in 4 times in the first 15 or so hands, and 10 times in his 115 or so hands), because I think he realized that he had two choices:

  • He could play hyper-aggressive and would either bomb out in 9th place for $811k or build up his stack and make a good run at this thing -an exciting run to boot
  • He could fold his way up a spot or two and pick-up an additional $200-$500k in prize-money

The beauty of choosing Option 1 is that regardless of what happens you are likely to make a name for yourself, and people putting together a lineup for a TV show or looking for a sponsored pro to add to their poker site are going to remember you as the guy who is willing to mix-it-up.

Option 2 may reap more money short-term, but I think you severely hurt your chances to gain a sponsorship, and honestly who wants to put another tight/agro player on a poker telecast -tight/agro Internet hotshots are a dime a dozen. So in the long-run I think Option 2 is actually -EV.

Seriously, who of the final 9 at the 2010 WSOP do you think you are more likely to see on the PokerStars Big Game or Poker After Dark, or even High Stakes Poker? My guess would be that Duhamel, Racener and Cheong will be fielding calls thanks to how they finished -especially Cheong. Mizrachi is already a big-name in poker, but other than that I would put my money on Jason Senti over John Dolan, Filippo Candio, Matthew Jarvis (although Jarvis was also willing to mix it up a bit as well) and Soi Nguyen. Senti showed personality, didn’t go bat-s**t crazy when his cards hit, and didn’t throw his arms up in the air in utter disgust, lamenting his horrible luck, when he was eliminated by runner-runner.

Basically, I think poker players need to definitely look at the tournament payouts or the money involved in a cash game, but they also need to realize that this is their chance to shine, and you’re not going to do that by never uttering a word and playing a 15/10 short-handed poker game. Sure, that may be a +EV strategy if we are only looking at the prize-pool, but when you factor in the TV aspect of the tournament or cash-game this really changes things. Poker is a televised activity now, and if you want to really “make-it” in the poker world you need to be on TV.

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