I just woke up from a very long, deep slumber induced by Poker Night in America’s “Grudge Match” between Cate Hall and Mike Dentale.
Keyboard warriors fail to entertain
The R-rated Twitter spat that spawned the match suggested Hall and Dentale would engage in a war of wits and words when they hit the felt. Instead, Hall proved to be more keyboard warrior than entertaining TV personality.
She hid behind a pair of sunglasses and her smartphone most of the time and never once raised the level of her table talk anywhere close to what she displayed on social media.
To put it bluntly, Hall was boring. She may have won the match handily, but she lost all credibility as a player fit to carry any kind of broadcast.
Poker used to be filled with entertaining and engaging characters that TV viewers tuned in to see. The boom was built on the backs of these many personalities.
Somewhere along the way, a lot of that personality got sucked out of the game. Based on her online presence, it looked like Hall might be able to inject some back in. However, she turned out to be less entertaining than paint drying once the cameras started rolling.
Dentale plays the door mat
Dentale wasn’t much better, although he did make a few attempts at getting under Hall’s skin, continually telling her how bad she was.
But ultimately, it all seemed rather hollow. Hall — the Global Poker Index Female Player of the Year — was in the midst of destroying him 2-0, and all he really offered up in response was some kind of door-mat poker strategy.
Hall did take a shot at Dentale at one point. In fact, she called his failure to check the hole cards from the stream “negligent.” However, that toothless, lawyer-worthy jab only served to highlight a major issue with the rules of the match itself.
Technology gets in the way
Allowing players to use their phones in between hands meant Hall engaged with the device more than she did Dentale. It also meant that’s where her reads were coming from. Access to technology eliminated half the “grudge match” mood of the event.
Hall’s unwillingness to display any type of personality took care of the other half.
The most engaging personalities on the broadcast were commentators Doug Polk and Shaun Deeb. Both did an admirable job of not falling asleep. It also appeared they kept the audience somewhat entertained. But that’s not why this audience tuned in.
We were promised all-out war between a muscle-bound misogynist and a seemingly unhinged social justice warrior.
Instead, we got witty banter between two online poker geeks — and a reminder of how much Red Bull is too much. The broadcast would have been better served to have Deeb and Polk break out a cattle prod and try to electrify the proceedings.
Poker Night in America takes the grudge out of the match
In theory, this grudge match was a good idea. But in practice, it failed.
Poker Night in America’s producers have spent the past couple of years doing everything they can to revamp poker broadcasting. Based on the numbers, the audience has yet to buy into it.
Considering all the advance hype, they could look at this grudge match format as one that works and try again. Here’s hoping they don’t forget the key ingredient in the grudge-match recipe next time around.
They need to bring someone to the table with a little more personality. At this point, a wet blanket would be an improvement.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story mentioned that Dentale tweeted that Poker Night in America covered his $30,000 loss, but that turned out to be incorrect and apparently “a joke” on Dentale’s part.