What Joe Stapleton Misses Most About the World Series of Poker

Joe Stapleton thinks his day gig as EPT commentator is pretty good. (Neil Stoddart/PokerStars photo)

Joe Stapleton thinks his day gig as EPT commentator is pretty good. (Neil Stoddart/PokerStars photo)

Once again, I am not at the World Series of Poker. For five years, I went to every single WSOP  – for every single day – but those five years ended five years ago. That’s right. The 2015 WSOP marks the 10-year anniversary of my first job in poker. I was an intern for CardPlayer and it was there that I first started annoying people by trying to make poker funny. Like a stray dog you feed once, someone made the mistake of laughing at one of those jokes back in 2005, and I’ve been showing up at the back door looking for scraps ever since.

Every year people ask me not if, but when I’m going to the series. I don’t know what disappoints them more – when they find out that I’m not really a poker player and when I say I’m a recreational player I mean it the way someone says they’re a recreational Frisbee player, or that the WSOP and the EPT are actually two different things. I mean, come on guys, give me a break.  Do you think a gynecologist spends his summer vacation getting all-nude dances at Sapphire? Probably not.

There are plenty of things I do not miss about the WSOP (the all-nude dances at Sapphire isn’t one of them). Considering the fact that one of the things I do not miss is working ridiculously hard for little to no money for 55 straight days, I think there’s probably I more in the “Don’t Miss” column than in the “Miss” column.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t miss anything. I miss the insanity. I miss the people. I miss how excited everyone else is, but I have little to no desire to be there.*

The WSOP is like an ex-girlfriend to me. Even though I ended the relationship, I’m still not that terribly excited to see her having fun with other people. And while I don’t want anything bad to happen to her, I also don’t want her life to be happier than mine. So, sometimes when things go wrong, I really get a chuckle out of it.

Here’s what’s given me a chuckle so far:

Known Cheater Maybe Cheated

You guys have heard the story already. This kind of thing could happen anywhere so I don’t think the WSOP is to blame here at all.  However, to go back to the ex-girlfriend metaphor, hearing about a potential cheat at the WSOP is like hearing about your ex getting chlamydia. You’re glad it happened to her when it could have just as easily happened to you.

Here are my favorite two things about this story that may have passed you by:

  • The man who eventually defeated the accused cheater was Keith Lehr. Apparently he kept one eye on the guy the entire time. I guess I probably should have told y’all first that Keith Lehr has a glass eye. I wouldn’t joke about it, but he once used it as a card capper when he went all in, so I figure it’s fair game.  True story.
  • WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel’s Tweet:

“We take integrity very seriously, as evidenced by our lifetime bans, and would enjoy nothing more than catching a cheater in our midst.”

Really Jack? You would enjoy nothing more than catching a cheater in our midst?  Call me literal, but I can think of literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of things I’d enjoy more than that.  I’ll start with beer.

But even with a little poetic license, how about, “I’d enjoy nothing more than an impenetrable laser cheat-matrix so unbeatable and so deadly, that players wouldn’t even attempt it, and those who even think about it, should take one look at this flawless cheat-busting cyborg modeled after a fire-breathing Jason Statham and reconsider their dishonest ways.”

Ok, maybe not.  But maybe reconsider that wording. In order to enjoy catching a cheater, you kinda have to enjoy there being a cheater in the first place. It’s kinda like me saying “I would enjoy nothing more than having children with Kate Upton.” The part where I get her pregnant is sort of implied.

Aria Accidentally Gives a Guy $24,875 Freeroll, Takes it Back

So, this didn’t even happen at the WSOP, but whatever.  In what has got to be a contender for one of the all time greatest real-life Peter Griffin moves, some dude accidentally got seated in a $25K tournament after buying a $125 ticket, and dude didn’t say a word about it.  If you told me that when they finally caught him he actually did the Peter Griffin laugh, I would not bat an eye, but also, at the same time, my head would explode.

“This guy knows more about keeping his mouth shut than two mobsters at the movies.”

–cutaway involving two 1920’s gangsters at a screening of Pitch Perfect 2—

“Don’t worry.  I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.”

To some people, this guy is a criminal. To others, he’s a hero. To me, he’s just a guy who made a mistake. Like the time I “accidentally” let a girl think I was Charlie Day until the next day when I had to sign some paperwork for the morning-after pill.

Poker Players Complain About Stuff

To name a few: rake, Colossus payout structure, live reporting, poker kitchen, bad beats, odors, too-fast structures, too-slow structures, too-fast breaks, too-slow lines to take a leak, lack of spade-point-definition on this year’s cards. The list goes on and on. I’m just glad someone else is at the business end of them this time of year.

While some of these complaints are justified, here is a universal translator for all of them:

“I am benefitting neither immediately, nor do I see satisfactory potential for future benefit from this present situation, so I would like it changed, specifically to fit my needs, as soon as possible.  Sent from my iPhone.”

Phil Hellmuth Jr. wins his 14th WSOP Bracelet

Now, I know a second ago I said I get a kick out of things going wrong, and then in the next breath I mention Phil Hellmuth winning a bracelet.  For the record, I don’t see anything wrong about this. I think this is more right than an inverted NASCAR race. It’s right for Phil (who is a great guy, and is clearly the Greatest GOAT of All Time (GGOAT) – the middle “goat” is a metaphorical goat, like the animal, because goats are, by very definition, great), and for reasons real journalists will cover, it’s right for poker.

But you know who it’s wrong for? The trolls. The haters. The pimply-faced keyboard warriors who love to talk about what a “donk” Phil Hellmuth is. You can’t argue with success, and this man is the most successful of all time.  I love Phil Hellmuth already, but I also love anything and everything that disappoints an angry mob on the Internet. It is for this exact reason (and only this reason) that I would likely not shed a tear should anything ever happen to Justin Bieber.

*Unless something’s happened to Lon & Norm. Nothing’s happened to Lon & Norm, right? Because I can just click on this flight confirmation and be there in the morn—no? They’re ok? Ok. Great. Cool. Good to hear. Ok.

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Joe Stapleton

Joe Stapleton a.k.a “Stapes” was first introduced to poker fans on PokerRoad Radio as one half of the “Two Jacks in the Hole” show. Now players know him from his TV hosting gig at PokerStars live events and his famous challenges.
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