I normally like the players who drink in poker tournaments. It’s an old joke but the cry of “cocktails!” the moment the bubble of a major tournament bursts is to me still funny; the unleashing of personal restraint to celebrate a sometimes minor but significant headland.
It also seemed counterintuitive and against the textbook recommendation of being clear-headed and thinking straight, rather than being slightly tight and free from the inhibitions that usually prevent you from doing anything tawdry with nine-seven off.
Then Roger Teska played the PCA and ruined it all.
Actually, Teska was only part of the problem. Just as baffling was the behaviour of those with the power to stop it all.
For those not familiar with the story, Teska finished 20th in the PCA main event, but not before he’d spent nearly three days as the village drunkard, ordering drink after drink and slowly becoming more obnoxious. Teska was rude to players, staff and the TV crew, and enjoyed himself while being so, turning himself into a kind of pariah state with a nuclear capability. Teska was getting belligerent with the potential to go nuts, like North Korea. He therefore needed careful handling.
Actually Teska just needed the rule book, which clearly outlines the punitive action to be taken against players who break rules of decorum. But they are rules no one has ever really needed to use before (they start at number 58), because nobody has ever had to.
That might be why the basic tenets, learned by parents of three year olds, were ignored. Bad behaviour, tolerated, begets more bad behaviour. Everyone, from tournament staff to the TV people couldn’t quite believe that they had such a live one on their hands, even when he made obscene gestures to camera. Most preferred to let it blow over. But it didn’t.
So instead floor staff looked on nervously trying not to upset Teska who got increasingly rowdy, while losing the faculty to post blinds correctly. He was like an escaped lion found on the high street. Only tournament staff couldn’t wait for a man from the zoo to arrive with a tranquilizer gun.
So they attempted to cut him off by stopping the flow of drinks. There seemed to be little concern that the bar was serving an already drunk man more booze, but one waitress reassured nervous floor staff that his were only a weak bloody Marys (bloody hell more like, now they were ripping him off).
Meanwhile the TV people were caught between protecting their staff and getting great footage. If he wasn’t showing fingers or making his displeasure known to them, he was walking off stage at the end of the day shouting “someone bag my chips!”
But was he actually drunk? Were there hints that it was all some curious affectation — the odd facial expressions, the melted ice, the balls? Or worse, were we watching the desperately sad final swan dive of a drink sodden youth being washes away on the shores of Paradise?
Only one person seemed not to care. Showing signs of good old fashioned ruthlessness, Mike McDonald almost got the next round in, anything to keep Teska — and his chips — as fluid as possible.
But all could have been stopped if the rules had been enforced. If it was genuine self-destruction it won’t look pretty on TV. If it was genuine hijinks it might also not look good on TV. Either way, despite best intentions by everyone, it should perhaps have been stopped.
Instead Teska, was left to his own devices. He got some punishment, including a one round penalty at the start of Day 4, but thankfully busted before the feature table became a pantomime.
But it was enough to turn you to drink.