God Wants You to Hold 'Em

I went to a Catholic high school and a Catholic college. Until yesterday, I always assumed the Man Upstairs was anti-gambling. Thou shalt not kill, steal or try to draw to an inside straight. Poker sensation of the moment, Jerry Yang, taught me otherwise.

In case you managed to miss one of eighteen ESPN channels promoting the 2007 World Series of Poker (WSOP), the Texas Hold 'Em event started on July 6th with 6358 players competing to win the coveted "bracelet." (This is not to be confused with the approximately 700 other bracelets that can be won in other ESPN poker coverage.)

The Final Table of nine players began Monday at noon PDT.

I arrived at my friend Sean's house 15 minutes after the start of play. Sean, his friend Eddie and I paid $20 to watch it live on Pay Per View - as opposed to the standard tape delay - because Sean is a degenerate gambler and, as writers, the three of us had nothing better to do.

Sean immediately issued a statement of self defense, "I've never ordered live poker before..." I cut him off to point out, "Uh, no one has ever ordered live poker before." Sean's defensive stance was well warranted: live poker sucks.

Normally, ESPN airs taped delayed poker featuring well-played hands, exciting hands, or hands played to completion - meaning the dealer flipped all five cards (the "flop," the "turn" and the "river").

After ten minutes of live "action", it quickly became apparent that none of those things happen very often. In fact, the latter almost never happens. Eight savvy guys realize their hands suck, and quickly fold. One guy collects an unimpressive pot. Repeat.

Watching live poker amounts to watching nine strangers play cards - only the guys look like they just left an AA meeting. You wouldn't let your child sit next to one of these men on the subway. Some have more tics than Rain Man, while others have less social graces than a "Flavor of Love" contestant.

Jerry Yang rose above this motley collection with a nearly saintly aura, which wasn't surprising considering he is a fulltime member of the God Squad. We've all seen athletes "Give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ" after winning a big game, but I've never witnessed a competitor bear witness during the actual competition. JY spoke to JC frequently.

During one tense "all in" versus Lee Watkinson, Mr. Yang promised that if victorious, "I will glorify your name, Lord." Apparently, God hates Lee Watkinson. Later on, Jerry declared, "Your power is the greatest, Lord." I don't have to tell you how that hand turned out.

Jerry Yang got $8.5 million for the Lord's efforts. He - Jerry, not the Lord - says he will donate 10% to charity, which is the least he can do considering all the assistance he got.

I need some Heavenly Help, too, which is why I'm on my to church to light a candle. I'm going to Vegas this weekend. Do you think God likes blackjack, too?