Many people in the poker industry were taken with a story that emerged in February about Ashton Griffin’s prop bet. The 22-year-old poker player earned $300,000 by running 70 miles on a treadmill in a 24-hour span of time, via a series of wagers with Haseeb Qureshi and others. He risked losing $900K by giving his friends 3-1 odds, but the well-trained athlete performed the task by running approximately 10 miles between rest periods, and he won the bet.
That would have been the end of the story if Qureshi not posted a long regret-filled commentary on the details of the bet, those involved, feelings, and regrets on the CardRunners blog. He described feelings that included shame, anxiety, worry, and sadness, and he touched on issues like depression, risk, and the poker life. He discussed the concern of Griffin’s family members, along with his own self doubt, urges to cry, and regret. The two-part post has been debated by many as to the motives and appropriateness of Qureshi’s exposé, but one of the most interesting set of responses came from numerous poker players that, in essence, told Qureshi to man up, stop crying, and get a grip. One comment in particular noted that Qureshi should “just buck up and take your losses like a man, not a whiny little kid.”
Poker has long been a male-dominated game, but as it becomes more popular with other segments of the population, namely women and college-aged men, the dynamics of the game have begun to change. It is becoming more acceptable to cry in victory and express emotions pertaining to the game. While most of the emotion is portrayed on poker television involves masculine displays of anger, clear examples being Phil Hellmuth or Mike Matusow, the occasional tears of joy or sadness are also becoming more prevalent.
Happy tears are typically shed by female poker winners, as happened when young Annette Obrestad won the World Series of Poker Main Event in London in 2007 for the equivalent of more than $2 million. Emotion was also center-stage when Liv Boeree won the European Poker Tour at San Remo in 2010 for the equivalent of nearly $1.7 million. Women tend to be emotional beings, much more so than men.
However, men have opened themselves up to the emotions of the moment as well. At the 2010 WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas, when Matt Affleck was ousted from the tournament in 15th place with cracked aces, he could not stop the tears. They were evident on the ESPN broadcast as well as to everyone in the room at the Rio when it happened, one reporter for PokerStars even documenting Affleck’s heart-wrenching walk down the hall in an attempt to shake it off and his return to the tournament room to shake hands. Even more emotion, this time in the form of happy tears, was shown by Dwyte Pilgrim when he won the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City in September of 2010, as he openly wept and even fell to the floor in the joy of the moment.
Some male poker players cringe at these moments. They insist that this is a game of stamina and thick skin, and players need to take their wins and losses “like men.” While it is true that most hands do not warrant raw emotional outbursts and most men will not cry over a win or loss, men are human beings, and some are more prone to passion and sentiment than others. It is not uncommon for a pro sports player, whether in basketball or football, to cry when they win a championship game. Overcoming the odds, achieving a lifelong goal, and earning potentially life-changing money can and sometimes can merit a tear or two.
It is possible that the influx of women and younger players have encouraged this change indirectly. They are not only more open to emotion but are less ashamed to show it than men and even previous generations, and many of those watching or following along get caught up in the moment as well. Liv Boeree and Dwyte Pilgrim are as feared at the tables as ever because of their poker skills, and their previous shows of emotion do not change that.
The Ashton/Qureshi prop bet was an example of many things, one of them being the reality of the poker life. There are not only consequences to actions, but feelings and emotions attached to them as well. Whether it is a prop bet that could harm another human being or a million-dollar poker win, both sides of the response spectrum can and do warrant feelings. Most of the time they are expressed in private instead of on public forums, but they are real nonetheless. Baring emotions is becoming less shameful, even in the manly man’s world of poker, and that only serves to make the game more real.
See Also: He Said: Controlling Emotions in Poker Doubly Challenging for Men