I love watching championship moments. I'll watch the finals of a sport I don't even like, only to get bored and stop paying attention. But I'll always watch the last few seconds on the clock, or the game-winning score, or however it is the game ends. I love watching the absolute unbridled joy of the winner when he realizes his dream. He can't believe it's happening. It's not real...but it is! It's such a great moment and I always get a little bit choked up, even when I have no emotional investment in the player or the team (or even the sport).
Poker is no exception. From what I've heard, Pius Heinz is a really nice, humble kid who is a deserving winner, and so it was great to see him over the moon and jumping into his rail when the harmless river card fell. I love watching moments like that. But in some sense it's harder in poker. I've known for pretty much my entire life that I will never hoist the Stanley Cup or win an NBA title or a World Cup, or even a UFC title. But I am a poker player. I've been playing poker for over 12 years; it's been my entire adult life. It's what I do. I'm pretty good at it, I've achieved a lot of success in it, and made lots of money doing it. Yet I know that realistically, when it comes to the WSOP main event all I can really do is daydream about winning it. Even if I play great and run tremendously good, it almost certainly won't happen. I'll never know what that final river card hitting feels like; I can only imagine it.
And that kind of leaves me with a sad feeling inside. I think most of the time I'm at peace with the thought of never winning the main event (ever since the 2004 WSOP, this has been obvious to anyone who can do basic math). Maybe I'm a little extra emotionally vulnerable since I bricked yet another big buy-in live tournament today. Or maybe it was even the fact that I watched the Heinz-Martin Staszko heads-up battle with nine other top-notch, highly successful poker pros, analyzing their every move and talking about how much better we could have played those hands. To be sure, we have egos, and our comments were borne of a genuine belief that we could play certain hands better than they did. But not a single one of us wasn't at least a little bit jealous, hoping against hope that we'll have the chance to be there one day.
I guess that's what keeps people coming back to poker. It's what puts 6,865 people putting up $10,000 in the wake of both Black Friday and the big economic recession of the late 2000s. Because even the most cynical of poker pros who say we "have to play the main" because "it's sooooo much value" are, at least a little bit, dreamers too.
Congrats to Pius Heinz, the new world champion of our game. I hope you enjoy every bit of it, Pius, because 6,864 of us wish it were us.