But there was an entry I read on PokerNews' coverage on Thursday that made me think we are looking at this all wrong. Mitch Maxey has terminal cancer and had one wish: to be among the professional poker players he admired. At the dinner break yesterday, he got that wish: he played poker with Tom McEvoy, Phil Laak, Greg Raymer, Mike Sexton, Patrick Antonius, Gavin Smith, Isabelle Mercier, Bill Chen, and Michael Mizrachi. Afterwards, Phil Ivey invited Mitch to sit along side him as he played the $3k Stud Hi/Lo event. Ivey has a reputation for privacy and often appears uncomfortable with promotional appearances. I watched as Ivey talked and joked with Mitch with ease - not as a fan, not as a cancer patient, but as a peer.
A week from today will be the two year anniversary of Charlie Tuttle's death. Charlie Tuttle was a poker blogger and at 26 years old spent his last weeks knowing he was soon to lose his battle with cancer. But he did not spend his last few weeks alone. From the 2005 WSOP, Marcel Luske sang to him. Barry Greenstein called him and later dedicated his WSOP bracelet winning performance to him. John Juanda called several times. Max Pescatori got the pros to sign a special copy of Super System II for him. And these were just a few of the pros that made time to reach out to someone who it would mean the world to.
In January of 2006, I saw Barry Greenstein with Charlie's parents at the World Poker Open in Tunica. Barry had spent the day with them. They wore matching WSOP jackets that Barry had embroidered with Charlie's name.
Whole companies have evolved around the popularity and celebrity of poker. Interviews and stories by the pros are a hot commodity. They sell magazines and score website traffic. Some pros might think making a magazine cover is big.
But other pros, the ones who take time with charitable organizations and try to make a difference in the lives of others, know that a magazine's cover is only 11" tall. Some pros know it's not the limelight that defines them, it's the shadow that it casts; the difference they can make.
Maybe poker's size shouldn't be measured by the number of seats sold, ad revenue, or house profit. Maybe it should be measured by its ability to reach out - to make a constructive difference. Judging from these few stories, and the many others that I know, I think poker would measure up.
How big is poker? How big is our shadow?