WSOP commentary is harder than it looks
Today is Nov. 12. Martin Jacobson has had about 24 hours to let it sink it. How long would it take for you to realize you outlasted 6,683 and won the greatest poker tournament on Earth!? Not to mention you get to take home 10 million buckaroos!?
It is not something that settles in easily. I wonder how often previous world champs think back to their moment of victory. I have had a pretty successful career thus far in my life and certainly I have had some memorable moments that I think back to but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming of winning the Main Event. I think every single person that plays poker dreams of it.
One person per year. That is IT. Millions and millions of poker players around the world and only ONCE a year is somebody crowned world champion. Major congrats to Martin for taking it down. It goes without saying that he played nearly perfect poker. He was so patient when he was short and methodically picked his spots with a bigger stack. It was pure domination. Once he survived nine-handed to three-handed after being short nearly the entire time, it was almost as if he could not lose.
He had a sort of calmness to him that made you believe in him. It was clear he believed in himself. If he believed it, why shouldn’t the rest of us? In all my years being in the poker world, I have never witnessed someone play so well and not one time let emotion get in the way. Martin winning was good for poker. He is a gentlemen and a class act. Good for him.
My personal experience from the commentary booth alongside Norman Chad and Lon McEachern was an interesting one. In the past broadcasts, I had to try and nail what people had. It was very challenging to tell millions of people watching what I thought somebody had before they turned their cards over. But it was something I enjoyed. I loved going for it. Trying to nail specific hands. Sometimes I was right and more often I was wrong. But nonetheless, it was something I really enjoyed. Imagine sitting in a booth with every poker player in the world tuned in and all of a sudden it was ME that was chosen to tell people what I thought people were playing. I felt honored to be the person chosen for that role. It made my father proud and that to me is better than anything else in the world.
This year the format was different. For the first time ever the broadcast switched to a 30-minute delay with cards exposed BEFORE the hand started. Now people could watch as the action unfolded. Instead of following the action only to find out after the hand, they could be a PART of the hand. When you can actually see that someone is bluffing and their opponent is considering calling, it adds a certain element of attachment to the action. One cannot help but sweat the decision of the players. It’s dramatic. And it’s good TV poker.
I had a lot of fun in the booth. Knowing I would see the cards before the hand got underway made it seem like this would be a walk in the park. In the past, I could not see the cards and all of a sudden I had all the information before the hand even started! Easy right? Not in the least. This format was much more challenging than I expected. In the past, it was easy (not easy in the way of easy but easy format wise). I had X amount of time while the hand was going down to mostly talk about what I thought people had. This year, my job was more to discuss theory, strategy and predict what I thought the players would do given their holdings only and not take into consideration what their opponents were holding. It’s very difficult to put that information aside and focus only on one set of cards when all the others are already exposed.
Given the time constraints, I did not have an opportunity to go too far in-depth on a bunch of different concepts. As a commentator, one of my primary jobs is to follow the action. People watching want the play by play. What they don’t want is the discussion of the previous hand while a new hand is in progress. It is also important to note that I am trying to connect to the masses. The number of people watching the show that are casual players trumps the number of high-level pros watching. The pros are playing poker no matter what. But if casual players take notice and maybe get more interested in poker, it is better for all of us. Even some nonplayers might get interested.
I would like to thank all the people that sent me messages on Twitter. I really enjoyed all of the feedback. Good or bad, I will take it and learn from it. Some Internet pros were not too happy with my commentary. It is what it is. I can’t please everyone. No matter what you do in life, when a ton of people are involved, you are bound to find some that are on the negative side. All one can do is take the feedback, embrace it and learn from it.
In life, there is a certain way to go about things. This, for example, is one way I would not go about doing. Lex Veldhuis tweeted this out during the broadcast:
“I mean honestly fuck off. Folding KJ to a 3-bet 3handed in position. Antonio’s commentary is even worse than yesterday “
Then instantly right after he sent this tweet out.
“Oh wait now he wants to call. He switches his action so much based upon what he thinks players are gonna do. Covers all options every time.”
I never changed my opinion based on what I thought Martin would do. I understand most of the Internet players would never fold KJ there, and Lex made it very clear that he for sure wouldn’t — but an old, seasoned veteran pro such as myself actually might. If I look up my opponent and he looks very strong to me, I WOULD consider folding. I understand that “feel” is something that some might not take into account when playing but to me it is quite important. I was simply trying to relay that very simple message to the masses in what I believed was a spot that could go either way. I apologize if what I said did not please you. You have your opinion and I have mine. And that is all it is. My opinion and I am entitled to it. I don’t mind when players berate me about my commentary or play or anything for that matter. What bothers me is when someone in my profession, someone who others respect, tells me, a guy he barely knows to “fuck off.” I expected a little more class from a 30-year-old professional who has been around for a while.