World Poker Tour Through the Years

“May all your cards be live, and your pots be monsters” is the familiar motto of the World Poker Tour. Founded back in 2002 by Steven Lipschomb, the World Poker Tour has helped to revive poker as a sport and renew interest in the popular card game. The show features poker tournaments from all over the world and just recently they unveiled a brand new women’s division. They’ve also started to award special bracelets to the winners of each tournament as of 2008. Currently, World Poker Tour is in its sixth season. It has aired on NBC and Travel Channel through its many seasons, with it recently being moved onto Game Show Network (GSN).

The show has made some celebrities of its poker players as well as female hosts. For the first three seasons, World Poker Tour was hosted by the beautiful Shana Hiatt. Hiatt is a former Miss Hawaiian Tropic USA as well as a Keystone Light girl. She’s guest hosted shows like E!’s Wild On! and has appeared in movies such as Must Love Dogs and Grandma’s Boy. After Shana stopped hosting, she was replaced by another well known beauty, Courtney Friel. Courtney is currently a bubbly news anchor on the Fox News channel, who has also appeared in Maxim and FHM photo shoots. Both Shana and Courtney have been featured in Maxim magazine. The World Poker Tour’s most recent female hosts have been Layla Kayleigh, Kimberly Lansing, and for its latest season, poker player and reporter Amanda Leatherman.

World Poker Tour is currently seen Mondays on the Game Show Network and ranks high in terms of viewers on cable. They created a Walk of Fame to induct famous or noteworthy poker players in 2004, one of which is poker legend Gus Hansen. Another is actor James Garner. WPT will be moving to Fox Sports Network (FSN) for its next season. This sports game show will continue to go strong as it showcases the most talented poker players from around the world.

What Does The Eiffel Tower Have To Do With The Media?

It is amazing how much the press feeds into our emotional needs. It is as though we are news junkies, addicted to story after story about what the media considers newsworthy items. They believe they are newsworthy, but most of us believe they have nothing better to do than to fill broadcast time with events that will not change our lives or make us feel any better.

The one thing that the broadcast media hates more than anything else is what is know in the industry as “Dead Air,” sudden silence or that dreaded “Pregnant Pause.”

Reporters, networks and their staffs are like sharks during a feeding frenzy. They find their prey and pull it apart piece by piece until every minute morsel is examined and tasted. Then they regurgitate it so that when it reappears it bears no resemblance to what it was when they first started feeding on it. They call it poetic license. I call it spin. Every network tries to twist a story to find another angle to report on. Do they do it to give us the facts or to try to prove to us that they are better than their competitors? I really believe it is the latter. I have watched two independent news channels reporting on the same incident. The stories were so diverse that I though I was listening to two different stories.

I am reminded about the almost one-year that we became tourists in Aruba via the one-eyed monster that occupies our homes. The name Natalie Holloway was embedded in our minds like a drug that we had to have. The addiction was overwhelming. How long will it be before we start to ask Natalie who?

Unfortunately, the press constantly reminds us who she is and that she is still a mystery. The latest escapade is the assumption that her mother Beth is romantically entwined with Jon Benet Ramsey’s father. Strange as that may seem we feed into all this malarkey like it is a soap opera. Do you really care?

Here is a partial role call of media frenzies over the years. O.J. Simpson, Jon Benét Ramsey, Princess Diana, Mark Foley, and Laci Peterson just to name a few.

John Mark Karr was added to the list, as the morning talk shows and 24/7 cable networks watched as their ratings soared to the images of Karr being paraded in front of cameras in Thailand. Those scenes were played repeatedly until we either became fixated on the possible fact that he may have killed Jon Benet Ramsey or did we switch the channel to a mindless reality show for lack of anything better on TV. Try reading a book for a change.

With each media frenzy, the same talking heads resurface for another ten-minutes of fame; only to be introduced as experts or news analysts instead of being rightly recognized as opinionators — So called experts who would probably never be allowed to testify in a court of law because they are full of opinions not facts.

However, the media frenzy goes on. The networks and print media do not care. They will substitute themselves for the system of justice. In addition, 24/7 they will deliver a guilty or not guilty verdict to their viewers. That verdict will be based on speculation, rumor, or hearsay or their own contrived pomperoneous statements. Even though in most cases their so-called facts will be shown to be wrong.

The media frenzies drive ratings and ratings equate to profits. Most people find the truth boring, so they would rather listen to the media rhetoric. Take heed: When the next frenzy dominates your TV and Radio, skepticism should be the operative word. Perhaps to the point of disbelief. Personally, I couldn’t give a damn. More important things in my life affect me. For some strange reason, which I have not figured out yet during an election year, politicians seem to be the target of most media frenzies, even though more important events may be happening around us.

On dozens of occasions in the past decades, the news media has gone after a wounded politician like a shark during dinner. The wounds may be self- inflicted, and the politician may richly deserve his or her fate, but it is the media who takes the center ring. And, believe me, they do not report the news; they recreate it distorting both the characteristics and blueprint of the political scene.

Let us look back at some of the political media blitzes and frenzies that have taken place over the past years. In “Feeding Frenzy: How Attack Journalism Has Transformed American Politics” (Free Press, 1991 and 1993), political analyst and University of Virginia government professor Larry J. Sabato provided a case- by-case account of some notable frenzies in the last half-century.

In 1952, there was Vice Presidential candidate Richard Nixon’s secret fund where he was accused of hiding $18,000 dollars in campaign contributions. This secret fund became the central issue of his campaign. That is more money then some people have put down as a deposit on their homes.

During July of 1969, two days before Neil Armstrong took his famous walk on the moon, Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, drowning his female companion Mary Jo Kopechne. He left the scene of the accident and did not report it for hours. The press had a field day. Kennedy claimed he swam all night against the tide with two herniated discs to get help. Are you skeptical?

In 1970, Presidential candidate, Senator George McGovern’s running mate, Thomas Eagleton was caught up in a media frenzy when it was reported that he had been hospitalized three times for depression and had subsequently received electric-shock treatment. The most irresponsible reporting was by columnist Jack Anderson, who falsely reported a half- dozen arrests for DWI and other traffic offenses. Eagleton withdrew from the ticket. Some of us were skeptical.

Here is one you are going to love. Some of us may be too young to remember, but this is true. While President, Jimmy Carter took some time off to go fishing in Plains, Georgia. He reported that while fishing, his rowboat was attacked by a swimming rabbit (you cannot make this stuff up folks) and he had successfully fought it off with an oar. This bizarre story caught the eye of the press. It is believed that it helped become a symbolic prelude to his loss against Ronald Regan in the 1980 election.

In the 1980′s, Massachusetts (D) Congressman, Barney Frank was accused of an extensive relationship with a male prostitute who ran a bi-sexual prostitution service from Frank’s Washington apartment. The story published by the conservative Washington Times spelled out every juicy morsel on their front page. Yet, even though Frank claimed he had no knowledge of the illegal activities, the house reprimanded him. Despite the reprimand, he was reelected to the house. However, all Mark Foley did was send out an e-mail.

For the most part, it seems that today’s politicians are dodging bullets. However, no one has dodged more bullets then the Clinton”s have. Names like Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, White Water and Travel-Gate are still bantered about. Do the words, “I never had sex with that woman” ring a bell? Bill Clinton admitted it later on, but still managed to survive the media frenzy.

Where or when will the next media frenzy occur? No one really knows. With the long list of candidates on both sides of the political aisle joining the campaign, it may only take a few weeks or a few months – or maybe just the next slow news cycle – something will evolve. It will happen again just as it has happened in the past. And, If it doesn’t, who cares. Will it really change our lives? Or, will we ignore it and read a good book?

So to answer my opening question, What does the Eiffel Tower have to do with the media? Nothing, I used it to get your attention. However, in the words of Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman in the movie Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.”

And, that is my opinion.

Retirement in Puerto Vallarta – Stranded in the Third World?

When we made Puerto Vallarta, Mexico our permanent residence a decade ago, our friends back in the States frequently asked if we felt stranded in the Third World. The answer was no; perhaps the Second World! Prior to the demise of the USSR, the Second World consisted of the communist bloc countries. Since the collapse of the iron curtain, there are no longer any Second World countries, so perhaps we can promote Mexico to the New Second World! Actually, Mexico along with China, India, Brazil, Turkey, and others are recognized as Newly Industrialized Countries or NIC´S. These NIC´S have more advanced economies than the developing countries of the Third World, yet have not attained the level of developed countries of the First World.

Regardless of what World we were in, it was a cultural shock and required a number of changes to our daily living habits. As an example, the Mexican TV had only five or six channels which were either old movies from the US with Spanish subtitles or Mexican shows obviously directed to sixth graders. The only channel that we could understand and relate to was CNN with it’s biased, almost anti-US commentary that was only a bit more palatable than the sixth grade Mexican shows! Newspapers and magazines from the US were few and far between and the news was usually history by the time they were made available here. Mail delivery was so pathetic in Vallarta ten years ago that the only way to be assured of receiving mail, including newspapers and magazines, was through Mail Boxes Etc. which delivered from El Paso to Vallarta once a week. The service was fairly priced and we had a good chance of receiving most of our mail. Ten years ago we had dial-up, ultra slow Mexican speed internet service. It worked most of the time but was pitifully slow and got disconnected constantly, especially if there was a threat of rain.

Ten years ago, the grocery, drug, and hardware stores varied from absolutely horrible to almost acceptable. The choice of foods and supplies was limited but enough to survive. We had bottled water, Microdyn to clean fruits and vegetables, pills to keep us free of amoebas and bacteria, and the rest of the basics needed to live in the tropics known as Paradise! We did have a decent golf course, world class fishing, and an absolutely perfect climate with Pebble Beach type views from everywhere. Most importantly, we were meeting a bunch of similar minded, adventurous, recently retired North Americans that came to enjoy a new pace of life. One could probably say that we were stranded in the Third World but the benefits of living in Paradise just about offset the drawbacks and limitations associated with this new style of life.

During the past decade, Puerto Vallarta, known as PV or Vallarta by the local residents, has changed dramatically. The population has exploded to 350,000 inhabitants, most of which are now speaking or at least understanding English. We have many new businesses and stores including a Super Walmart, Sam´s Club, Office Depot, etc with all the latest in electronics, hardware, and building supplies. The many new huge and modern grocery supermarkets are equal to the finest in the US with a complete selection of frozen foods and most of the other food products that we 50,000 Americans and Canadians are accustomed to, all of which are imported from the States. Vallarta has grown to the point where there are now seven beautiful golf courses with more under construction; hundreds of tennis courts, and of course, Vallarta still has the world class deep sea fishing. The medical care in Vallarta has changed accordingly with the population boom. There are three new hospitals and numerous modern clinics. The water is as pure as in the States and the food purchased from the modern air-conditioned supermarkets is equal to the finest in the US. There are a number of new, huge cinemas, new theme parks, and hundreds of world class restaurants in Vallarta.

Now, let’s return to the idea of being stranded in Paradise. Today, most all North Americans have satellite TV with 350 channels from the States or Canada. We all have high speed internet service with exactly the same information at our fingertips that we would have anywhere in the States. Most of the Americans and Canadians use Vonage or a similar telephone provider for almost free and unlimited calls to their friends and family back home. Mail service in PV is excellent, however all mail is routed through Guadalajara or Mexico City and serious delays still happen in these cities. Therefore, any items of importance are sent via DHL, FedEx, or UPS. Most items mailed by DHL will be received within 48 hours and are easily tracked on the internet. American newspapers and magazines are current and can be purchased at news stands located throughout Vallarta.

With the thousands of houses and condos currently under construction, the totally new city infrastructure, and the future ten year building plan underway, PV is no longer a developing economy; it’s a booming economy! With all the modern internet technology, nobody should ever feel stranded in Vallarta unless they desire the old Mexican pace of life which can be had by simply avoiding the technology.

There are a few things for certain in Vallarta; none of the retired North Americans will have to go to work tomorrow, the weather will be perfect for doing whatever pleases them, they will enjoy being with their friends, and with two to three hour flights leaving for the US all day everyday, none of them will feel stranded in the Third World!