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These times are a changing

With every hand I heard about in this year’s tournament, it made me recall my own bad luck or “bad beats.”

Bad beats are poker’s tales of luck gone wrong. Anyone who has ever played poker has at least one and cannot wait to share it with anyone who will listen.

This year’s World Series of Poker, I’m sure, inspired more than a few bad beats. But I don’t want to give away too much.

All you could learn about the World Series will have to wait until early October, when ESPN finally gets around to air the tournament. For me, it’s tough to wait until October to see if I actually grabbed that one nanosecond of television time that would make the pain of losing go away.

Even though the main event is more than two months away from broadcast, I’m pretty sure ESPN will get it right. Now they have time to do those features which no doubt will include one or two of “The Crew,” a rundown of the thousands of players who qualified online, and at least three of Chris “Jesus” Ferguson showing off his ability to chop produce in half with a card. Without these wacky features, you might lose your non-poker playing audience.

The only other alternative to ESPN’s delayed coverage would be a switch to live television. This sounds like a good idea, but this year’s final table lasted 14 hours. Just imagining watching 14 hours of check … fold … raise … fold bores me to tears, and I am a poker junkie. Even sitting in that chair in the Rio Pavillion for 10 hours was a mental grind that I never figured it would be.

But ESPN will condense it down and make it watchable, and poker will continue to boom … maybe.

I remember the days of five-card draw and seven-card stud. These were the poker games of old. Growing up in Texas, we played Texas Hold’Em sparingly, and when we did we shied away from action. I never thought about anything but seven-card stud and never saw Texas Hold’Em becoming the ultimate poker game.

But it is.

The landscape of poker has changed vastly in the last five years.

It is mostly played online — PokerStars, an online poker site and the home of Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, sent 1,100 players to the WSOP this year. This year also marked the last time the final 27 will play at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino. Due to the intense media coverage, technological and space constraints the venerable downtown casino will go the way of the rest of downtown Las Vegas.

But some things gold can stay. Poker legend Doyle Brunson, at age 78, won his 10th bracelet in NL Hold’Em shorthanded event. Johnny Chan, at age 48, also won his 10th bracelet — which is tied with Brunson for most all-time. And in the age of the Internet qualifier, the final two players — Joseph Hachem and Steve Dannenmann — shelled out 10 grand, just like they used to do in the old days.

The game is also very much unchanged. When second-place finisher Steve Dannennmann knocked out Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, the last professional poker player in the field, he shook his hand and said, “That’s the first bad beat I gave anybody in the tournament.”

It sure won’t be the last one in poker, and now Matusow will have his own bad beat story to tell to anyone who will listen.

Some things in the poker world will always be the same.