A few months back, I exchanged some emails with one of my poker friends. The subject of the emails was NBC's Poker After Dark television show and specifically a few episodes titled "Dream Table". First of all, if you haven't seen Poker After Dark, you really need to set your DVR to record it. It comes on at some ungodly hour in the morning so I never see it during the original broadcast. However, this is definitely one of the best poker shows on television. There's not a lot of senseless babble about the hands that are played and over-analyzing by talking heads. It's sparse on post-production and I think Ali Nejad does a great job of calling the action without distracting from it.
Usually the format is 6 pros. Each player buys in for $20,000 and the winner takes all. That's right... $120,000 for first place and $0 for second place. It makes for some interesting action with people willing to take chances that they might not otherwise take based on the payout structure. But, so far there have been three episodes with a "Dream Table" theme. In these episodes an amateur online qualifier chooses the 5 pros he (it's been 3 guys so far) wants to play against. I love the idea.
This got us talking about who we would choose for our own personal Dream Table. I've given it a bit of thought and for me I think it boils down to one thing: the best. I could choose 50 pro players that I'd have a great time playing with/against, but if I got one shot to sit down to a 6-handed game with 5 pros I'd want to make sure they were 5 of the absolute best. I mean let's face it... I stand little chance of winning a table composed of 5 randomly selected pros. So, I'd have nothing to lose by choosing the absolute best. In fact, if I managed to run good and win the thing I'd have a story to tell the grandkids.
So that being said, here's my list with just a little bit of explanation for each.
A tournament specialist that's impossible to read. Chris has an impressive 5 World Series of Poker bracelets. He's a game theory master with a PhD in Computer Science. That's a pretty solid resume.
#4 Johnny Chan
The Orient Express. Tied for 2nd place all-time on the WSOP bracelet list with 10. There for a while, I thought Johnny hadn't adapted all that well to the lightning pace of changes in the game. However, results speak for themselves. I honestly get chills thinking about his record from 1987 - 1989. 1st Place 1987, 1st Place 1988, 2nd Place 1989. That's a feat that I don't think will ever be matched.
Another two-time Main Event winner. Doyle is the godfather of Texas Hold 'Em. He's very capable of making tough decisions and one of the best at applying pressure to an opponent in just the right spots. Tied with Chan in the all-time WSOP bracelet list with 10, there's no denying that Doyle would be an intimidating opponent.
#2 Phil Ivey
"No Home Jerome". I think Ivey is the best player in the game today. He's fearless, pouncing on the slightest hint of weakness in his opponent. He's the master of playing the player rather than the hand. He's more than willing to gamble when he thinks he has the best of it. He plays regularly at stakes most of us could only ever dream of.
Here's a case where the results truly speak for themselves. A brief list of Phil's accomplishments:
- 1989 WSOP Main Event Champion
- 11 WSOP Gold Bracelets
- 77 WSOP Money Finishes
- 3 WPT Final Table Appearances
I'm not always a huge fan of his behavior at the poker table sometimes, but I do believe that it's attributable to just how passionate he is about the game.
So there you have it... my "Dream Table". Sitting down with that group would be an amazing honor to me... just imagine the stories they'd have to tell. But, if I somehow managed to catch a heater and outlast that field? Now that would be something!