My dream poker table

This week, NBC’s late-night series Poker After Dark (yes, I am often up and about at 2 a.m., and yes, occasionally I’m watching poker on TV) is rerunning one of its “Dream Table” episodes. The basic concept is that the gaming site Full Tilt Poker runs a tournament online, and the amateur player who wins the tourney gets to play against his or her five favorite poker pros on the TV show.

Poker After Dark has held three of these Dream Table events, if I recall correctly. None of the amateurs has ever won the table, but I’m sure they’ve all enjoyed pitting their poker skills against some of the legends of the game.

Not that I’d ever get on enough of a roll to merit my own Dream Table, but if I did, I know the five pros I’d invite. My table probably wouldn’t provide as much ratings fodder as those that have appeared on the show thus far, because I’d bypass obnoxious but telegenic players like Phil “PokerBrat” Hellmuth (he’ll win this week’s rerun, in case you don’t want to stay up late Friday night) and Mike “The Mouth” Matusow in favor of talents I admire even though they aren’t as flashy.

Look at it this way: If I were granted a once-in-a-millennium opportunity, why would I want to waste it with people whose company I probably wouldn’t enjoy? I’d rather choose people I might actually like. Life’s too short to play poker with jerks.

So here’s my Dream Table, in no particular order.

Daniel “Kid Poker” Negreanu. I read Daniel’s newsletter every week. He’s smart and funny, knows everything there is to know about the game, and seems like a genuinely nice guy. Daniel is the man I’d hire to upgrade my game if I won the Lotto. Which is unlikely, since I haven’t bought a Lotto ticket in maybe 20 years.

Jennifer Harman. Considered by many to be the world’s best female player, frail blonde Jen (she’s had some fairly serious health problems in recent years) looks like a homeless urchin whom someone cleaned up and dropped off at the casino. She’s quiet and thoughtful — almost sullen at times — while playing. But I like her focused approach.

Phil Ivey. Often called “the Tiger Woods of poker,” Phil doesn’t turn up on TV as often as some of the other big-name pros, but when he does, he’s usually right in the mix. (He’s made a record eight final tables on the World Poker Tour.) I can’t make heads or tails of Phil’s hyper-aggressive style — there doesn’t seem to be any visible logic to the starting hands he plays — but I dig watching him.

Howard “The Professor” Lederer. Howard might be the smartest guy at any table he plays, except when Chris “Jesus” Ferguson (a math prodigy who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from UCLA) sits in. Howard’s father is the linguistics maven Richard Lederer, whose books on wordplay — including Anguished English and The Cunning Linguist — are among my favorites. I’d mostly invite Howard in the hope that he’d introduce me to his dad after the show. (Howard’s sister is poker star and Celebrity Apprentice runner-up Annie Duke. I like Annie, but I wouldn’t want anyone at my Dream Table who’d been that close to Joan Rivers.)

Jennifer Tilly. And no, not for the two most obvious reasons. Jennifer was nominated for an Academy Award in 1994 (for Best Supporting Actress in Bullets Over Broadway; she lost to her costar Dianne Wiest). I’d want another actor at the table so that I’d have someone I could talk with about a subject other than poker. You know… a subject I might actually know something about.

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One Comment on “My dream poker table”

  1. Hilly Says:

    Shawn used to watch Poker After Dark ALL of the time. Somehow I formulated people that I love and others that annoy me (can you say Matusow?) but all in all, Negreanu is my favorite and has been for years!

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