The Mailbag: Russian Royally Flushed

Letters, we get letters, we get lots of cards and letters every day

Dear La Russophobe:

I doubt that you are much of a poker fan [LR: that’s the understatement of the decade!] but you might be interested to know that every year in Las Vegas the world championships are held and this year one of the nine seats at the final table of no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em, where the winner earns over $8 million in prize money and is crowned the world champion, was occupied by a Russian professional player named Alexander Kravechenko. The eight other players at the table consisted of four Americans, two Brits, a Canadian and a South African.

To make the play fun for a television audience (hence increasing publicity, hence the number of entrants, hence the prize pool), each player has a camera at his seat which he uses to reveal his hole cards to the audience, so that they can play along. If I told you that one, and only one, of the nine players repeatedly refused to reveal his hole cards, spoiling the fun for everybody and undermining the sport itself, would you be able to guess which one it was?

Sure enough, it was the Russian. [LR: We’re shocked, shocked!] He also brought with him a coterie of whooping, seemingly drunken eccentrics to cheer him on from the gallery (much to the amusement of the TV commentators), but spent most of the time as the “short stack” and, while he got lucky a few times with several desperation all-in bets, ultimately did not manage to finish in the top three when the event concluded in mid-July (it was won by an American amateur and is just now being broadcast on ESPN television in the U.S. — don’t know if it gets on Russian TV or not).

Sincerely yours,

An Admirer

4 responses to “The Mailbag: Russian Royally Flushed

  1. Dear Russophobe,

    I think you’re being fooled!

    Sure Kravechenko kept his hole cards hidden, but poker purists probably applauded this “trick” because they are against the recent commercialization of poker, which they say has ruined the sport.

    I am not a poker purist, but I found Kravechenko’s play intriguing and I’m sure most of the audience did as well. What’s that thing about Russia being a mystery wrapped in an enigma or something.

    Kravechenko was also probably the sexiest at the final table (I’m sure American “poker wives” were happy to see him) and the Russian cheering section in Vegas was passionate, and very much reminiscent of the Australian cheering section when Joe Haschem won it in 2005. The announcers also praised Kravechenko a lot.

    The winner was a boring Laos-born American and the runner-up was a Vietnam-born Canadian. A South African finished third and the Russian finished fourth… wow, I just realized it, a Russian-born player finished ahead of all the American-born players (a New Yorker finished fifth) in America’s sport: Texas Hold’Em… WOW

    The field was approximately 8,000, with 75%, at least, American and just a handful of Russians, yet a Russian-born player finished ahead of all American-born players.

    Simply shocking. Go Russia.


    Responding to the letter writer, a poker fan

  2. Would you care to cite something in the way of evidence to support your claims regarding “poker purists”? We grow weary of seeing these undocumented claims being made in the comments section.

    As we understand the letter writer, by taking this action the Russian is undermining the sport itself, very much as Maria Sharapova is doing. If so, we think that’s stupid, but then Russia is a failed state so it may well think stupidity is wonderful.

    We don’t know anything about poker but we don’t think being “sexy” has anything to do with being good at it and suspect that your attempt to change the subject is a pretty good indication that the letter writer may be on to something. People say the said the same thing about Anna Kournikova. If Russians are satisfied with that, it’s a pretty sad statement on their standards.

  3. No, you misunderstood badly. Kravchenko’s action had no effect, absolutely whatsoever, with the game itself (which was like in July). It just somewhat affected the TV viewer (who watched the event yesterday). In my opinion and plenty of others I’ve asked, Kravchenko’s action made the event more intriguing.

    In Texas Hold’Em each player is dealt 2 hole cards that only they see. Since a few years ago, ESPN and the Travel Channel installed small cameras to allow the TV viewer to the hole cards and keep tract of the action (of course, all of this is taped, not live). Kravchenko sometimes never showed his cards to the camera. Of course, if someone called his “All In” his cards are turned over and the TV viewer gets to know what he had.

    Regarding the poker purist comment, I can’t find an article on it online, although it’s commonly mentioned on TV when players (usually elder professionals) choose to not show their cards to the camera. It’s mentioned somewhat in this article ( “Poker professionals are notorious for not revealing their cards unless their bet has been called. They make opponents “pay to see”; they don’t want anyone to know when they’re bluffing. Not surprisingly, several tour players balked at the lipstick cam, Lipscomb said.”

    I think the letter writer overreacted or he was trying to fool you because Kravchenko’s accomplishment is simply positive for Russia (and not fit for this blog).

    By the way, Kravchenko won something like $1.8M at the event.

  4. Did it ever occur to you that you failed to express your point well enough?

    The letter writer is quite clear in saying that the Russian’s actions spoiled the game for the viewer, that is the whole point of publishing this letter, so it’s quite clear that you are the one who misunderstood badly. Who cares what “purists” think? The only reason the prize is large is that many ordinary people are interested because of mass TV viewing.

    Thanks for writing! Russians always have some sort of bizarre rationalization for failure rather than trying to reform it. Your comments are a nice illustration of this. You simply can’t admit Russia might be wrong, and hence you continue making the same mistakes. That is why the Russian population is disappearing from the earth.

    Do you really believe this Russian is a great sportsman, while all the others are wrong? If so, your blindness is really sad. Russians continue to live in world of illusion detached from the common reality of the globe.

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