Back before the boom and the flurry of media activity, there were few sensations in poker. Save for Amarillo Slim's ability to spin a yarn on the Johnny Carson show, few players received media coverage except from within the very small world of poker.
Before the boom, our sensations were our sensational players; players who made a name for themselves by the prowess they demonstrated on the felt. Stu Unger was a sensation and sensational. When Phil Ivey burst on the scene in 2000, winning a bracelet at both the World Poker Open and the WSOP, along with four additional final table appearances in just over a month, Ivey became a sensation. And he still is a sensation and sensational.
In many ways, that is as true today with our enhanced media attention as it was back in the day. When Jeff Madsen became the youngest player to win a bracelet in 2006 and then capped it off by winning second, he became a sensation. But our ability to equate sensation and the sensational in our male players seems to escape us in our coverage of women players.
The media was probably more obsessed with whether forum fodder favorite, Brandi Hawbaker, was going to face Tom Franklin in the $5K Heads-Up event than noticing that Katja Thater had made her second final table of the 2007 WSOP. Had Thater not won the Razz event, the first open event won by a woman this year, she might have been a footnote on the day's coverage.
Hawbaker's 55th place finish in the $2K NLHE event may have gotten more coverage than Vanessa Selbst's two final table appearances so far. And when Jennifer "Jennicide" Leigh shows up wearing lingerie on her first day of the WSOP Championship event, my guess is she is going to get more air time than Selbst and Thater combined.
Selbst and Thater both made the final table of the 2007 WSOP Women's event this year. Instead of featuring these two sensational players, ESPN's Gary Wise instead chose to denigrate the entire event in dated chauvinistic cliché.
I'd like to blame Paris Hilton for all of this - but somehow I feel the blame is closer to home.