Lee Davy reacts to an editorial written in pokernewsdaily.com, by Earl Burton, suggesting that the poker community shouldn’t watch the Stacy Matuson vs. William Kassouf heads-up match.
Earl Burton is right.
The respected scribe over at pokernewsdaily.com believes the only reason that anyone is writing about the grudge match between Stacy Matuson and William Kassouf is that nothing else is worth writing about. So, here I am, about to write about the grudge match between Stacy Matuson and William Kassouf.
Burton wants to know if we REALLY need to see Stacy Matuson and William Kassouf playing heads up?
Of course, the answer is no.
But I don’t think that’s what Burton is really asking. In fact, I don’t believe he is asking a question at all. Instead, he is making a point masquerading as a question, and that is that we in the poker community shouldn’t promote the event, and I disagree.
Nine High Like a Boss
In September, William Kassouf became the most talked about poker player in the world when he appeared on ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) getting on everyone’s tits. The incident that led to shys being laden with coconuts was a hand where Kassouf forced Matuson to lay down pocket queens when holding nine high on a [5d] [3h] [2c] [8h] [Ts] board.
The catchphrase: ‘Nine High Like a Boss” was born.
What Does Poker Look Like to the Outside World?
There are two worlds: Earth and the poker world. In a way, it’s similar to the world of Harry Potter and why some poker players refer to non-poker players as Muggles.
A Muggle thinks that Dan Bilzerian is the greatest high stakes poker player on the planet. You can only win in poker if you bluff. Online poker is rigged. Doug Polk is a YouTuber. Phil Hellmuth is a TV extra. Patrik Antonius is a Calvin Klein model. And William Kassouf is a World Cup winner.
The poker world might not give a shit about a Matuson vs. Kassouf grudge match, but the Muggles do. Give the Muggles Daniel Negreanu vs. Phil Ivey, and they won’t even tune in.
Taking a Leaf Out of Vince McMahon’s Book
American Prez, Donald Trump, follows 41 people on Twitter and WWE Wrestling founder, Vince McMahon, is one of them.
McMahon became a billionaire by selling stories. He is a storytelling master, and 888Poker are learning from the great man. Stacy Matuson didn’t wake up one morning and decide to fly to Europe for the first time in her life and challenge Will Kassouf to a grudge match. It was a setup and a bloody good one at that.
888Poker understands the Muggles better than anyone. It’s why they are the second largest online poker room in the world. They know a good story when they see one, and the Will Kassouf story is as big as they come.
The poker community might not care what happens next in the lives of Matuson and Kassouf, but the Muggles do, and 888 knows that, so they invented a little angst and set up the match. It’s great publicity for the site, it gives writers like Earl and me a reason to promote the 888Live Festival at Kings Casino, and it supports the personal brands of both Matuson and Kassouf.
A Pantomime or Perfect Poker?
Burton calls the ‘grudge match’ a ‘carnival act’ and proposes that it’s not something that poker ‘should be promoting.’
“It does nothing to advance the game or the people that populate it.” Writes Burton.
I disagree with Burton on this point. The Global Poker League (GPL) is the only avenue we currently have that can turn poker into a bonafide sport to rank alongside the likes of eSports and any of the major players such as football, tennis, golf, etc.
The PokerStars Championships, the World Poker Tour, and the World Series of Poker don’t have the intense focus on elitism like the GPL does. But during the first season, it became apparent that being highly skilled at poker is not going to cut the mustard when it comes to selling the product to the public.
The game needs characters. And if we can’t grow them organically, then someone has to manufacture them. And in this case, I think we have to applaud 888Poker for stepping up to the plate and taking a jab at what I think is a huge part of making poker more appealing to a broader audience.
Don’t be surprised to see William Kassouf playing in Season 2 of the GPL, and if Stacy Matuson can use this platform wisely, and show that she has the skills to compete at the highest level, don’t put it past her to make something of this opportunity, also.
Lighting Up The European Poker Scene
Burton also questioned Kassouf’s merits as a player in an examination of his Hendon Mob results that ended with the view:
“It wasn’t like Kassouf was lighting up the European Poker scene prior to his ‘moment in the spotlight.’”
But the Muggles don’t care.
“To be honest, Kassouf came off like a massive tool during and since the WSOP.” Said Burton.
It’s why the Muggles love him.
Hendon Mob stats don’t mean shit, and we all know that. With 80-players left in the WSOP Main Event, I asked 72 of the best players in the game, across all disciplines, who they thought would make the November Nine. They voted for William Kassouf as one of the final nine – ahead of the likes of James Obst, Kenny Hallaert, Matt Moss, Max Silver, Cliff Josephy, Anthony Gregg, Gordon Vayo, and Valentin Vornicu. And I polled them well before they had watched ESPN.
If I have learned anything in the six years I have worked in this industry; only the poker players know who the great poker players are.
“When the Matuson/Kassouf and Hall/Dentale matches are being streamed online, I won’t be watching.” Wrote Burton. “And, if you’re a TRUE poker fan, you’ll ignore the circus also because we really don’t need this to be the focus from those in the “mainstream” world.”
I won’t be watching either Earl.
But I bet a few thousand Muggles will be.
And then who knows, perhaps they will sign up to an online account like 888Poker and start playing.
And isn’t that what it’s all about?