Monday Morning Reverie: Poker and Reality

By Mike Sloan Jan 14, 2008
Throughout the years, I have trashed television networks like ESPN for airing such "sports" as championship poker.

Card games like Texas Hold ‘Em became so popular over the years, and even with me living in Las Vegas never in my life would I watch poker on TV, let alone actually waste my time participating live and in person.

Until Saturday.

Randy Couture (Pictures) took the time out of his busy schedule to promote a celebrity poker tournament to help raise money for his Xtreme Couture GI Foundation, which supports wounded soldiers as they attempt to return to civilian life.

"The Natural" hosted the event inside the Hard Rock's famous Joint. Anybody willing to drop a cold $550 could enter the tournament to face several poker legends, professional fighters and other celebrities.

No, yours truly didn't fork over a dime of his hard-earned money, but I did attend the event and I must admit that I had a blast. Spending several hours watching a genuine poker tournament was a new experience. Since it was for a good cause, it was the least I could do.

Couture was excited and a bit nervous in the minutes before his event kicked off and for good reason. He told me that he never played poker in his life and fully expected to have his butt handed to him by everybody at his table. Xtreme Couture fighter and UFC veteran Gray Maynard (Pictures) expressed the same jovial concern (Maynard exited the tourney after two hands, the second of which was bought for him).

Couture, who also invited fellow Vegas scrappers Frank Trigg (Pictures) and Tyson Griffin to play some cards, was hoping to raise anywhere from $50,000 to $65,000, all of which would be donated to help GIs.

One would assume Couture would have no problem raising that sort of loot, considering the participation of Mark Cuban, former baseball slugger Jose Canseco, actor Dean Cain, Anthrax/ex-S.O.D. guitarist Scott Ian, TV personality Montel Williams, major poker champions and others.

Captain Couture plans on holding an event sometime in the summer, and it's a guarantee that I'll be there again. Maybe I'll even shell out some dough and join the fun.

Reality Sets In

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz (Pictures) is one of the few celebrities I actually care about on this season's "The Celebrity Apprentice."

It has been my favorite TV show for a few years now, but it's going to run its course at the conclusion of this season. So far Ortiz has been able to survive being fired by Donald Trump, as his team -- it's men vs. women right now -- is undefeated at 2-0.

Aside from bringing in girlfriend Jenna Jameson during one of the tasks to help raise money at their hotdog stand, Ortiz had almost no airtime on the show's debut. In episode two, Ortiz was more vocal and even confrontational toward Kiss' Gene Simmons and the Simon Cowell wannabe Piers Morgan.

However it was all for not when Ortiz's teammates pulled off the victory after they cast former undisputed heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis in a too-cute-for-TV puppy commercial. Hopefully Ortiz will get more airtime so I'll actually have more to write about next week.

As for the other fighter on primetime TV, Gina Carano (Pictures) is one of the stars of the resurrected "American Gladiators." I haven't watched the newest episode, but I did see Gina tear up two women in the joust. Carano flattened them with huge Q-Tips and sent them flying into water. I'm hoping one of the contestants is dumb enough to pick a fight with her soon.

Misc. Debris

I grew up a diehard baseball fan, and my team has always been the Oakland A's. Yes, I worshipped Canseco, Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson, but Canseco was always my favorite. As a kid I thought I would never live to see the day when I'd actually meet the Cuban half of the Bash Brothers. Well, on Saturday that day finally came.

What did I do? I had the chance to talk to Canseco, but after watching him toss his career into the toilet due to injuries and personal problems, and after he has literally grown scales due to being such a snake, I decided to ignore him. If someone had told me as a mullet-headed 13 year old that one day I'd actually get to meet my hero but I'd chuckle in disgust rather than meet THE Jose Canseco, I would have had to check both of my legs to see which one was being pulled. …

The WCO card over the weekend looked very intriguing mainly because the bill was filled to the brim with known MMA commodities. But when the card was cancelled, I felt sorry for both the fighters and the fans that bought tickets. It makes me wonder: How many people are going to wait in line to purchase tickets to a future WCO card, if there ever is one? Shame on the promoters. …

At the poker event I had the chance to sit and chat with Couture at length. He opened up about the event, playing cards, Dan Henderson (Pictures) and, of course, the potential fight with King Fedor. Couture, who had broken his left forearm again during the week, said that if the Fedor fight doesn't happen … well, just wait to read the story later in the week. …

Now that Semmy Schilt (Pictures), the only man to win the coveted K-1 World Grand Prix title three consecutive times, is returning to MMA, what would happen to his legacy if he happened to snatch up a major world heavyweight title? What if he beat someone like Fedor or Couture and won a title? He'd be the only person in history to win both the K-1 championship and a major MMA championship -- something not even the mighty "Cro Cop" or Mark Hunt (Pictures) achieved. Would that make him an all-time great? I think it would.

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