Even casual ESPN viewers know that the network is promoting this hour long drama more heavily than their NBA and NFL coverage combined. Before the execs made the decision to plaster buses with ads and use up half their airtime with promos, maybe they should have actually watched the fucking thing, because it sucks. Big time. Here are some of the reasons why it sucks.

  1. I never thought I’d say that a show has too much pussy, but how does an hour long show about poker wind up with nine separate scenes in strip clubs? It’s not the sexuality that bothers me. It’s the total lack of effort on the part of the writers in working it into the script or making it interesting. “Guys like girls. Let’s just put all of the poker games in strip clubs!” If you’re going to be that crass about it, why watch a jiggling booty in the dimly light background of your show when I could just as easily use the internet for its divinely ordained purpose? This is really just a subset of the overall problem that Tilt tries way too hard. The gunplay, the beat-downs, the bitches, the trash talking–don’t these people ever play a hand of poker that didn’t fall out of a Guy Ritchie flick? The whole thing smacks of effort.
  2. The three main characters are a blonde chick, a white guy and a black guy. They are the exact same person, except one is a blonde chick, one is a white guy and one is a black guy. And I really, really, really, really want to have sex with the blonde chick.
  3. Every character in the show needs to be stuffed into a sack full of rusty nails and cow manure, and then rolled down the steps of the Stratosphere [Ed Note: Isn’t that next weeks Fear Factor?]. They display the ceaseless jabbering and preening of people who think they’re cool but are actually total tools because their every move is calculated to impress those around them. No doubt, this is because they were modeled on tools extraordinaire, Dutch Boyd and his Crew, who behave in exactly this manner. ESPN keeps promoting Dutch and “his boys,” and now their fictional counterparts, Poker players around the world keep laughing at them.When will ESPN get it? The most popular players continue to be people like Negreanu, Hanson, Ivey, Leaderer and Chan. Guys who have strong personalities and bold and exciting play, without being total jackasses. Yet ESPN continues to believe that we want to see Poochie, the talking poker player.
  4. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that real life pro, Daniel Negreanu timed his most recent Card Player column to appear simultaneously with his cameo in the debut of “Tilt.” In that column, Daniel laments the fact that Asian players rarely get their due in the media. It’s certainly a shame that ten times as many people know the name of Dutch “I Haven’t Accomplished Much More Than Wearing A Backwards Visor at the Table and Stealing a Bunch of Money Online” Boyd than know John Juanda, who is the most successful tourney player of the past five years. The only thing more unrealistic than a table full of top pros without an Asian, is a table full of fish without an Asian. Tilt shows both and the fact that “Tilt” doesn’t feature so much as an Asian extra is a joke. Seriously, setting aside issues of fairness and cultural sensitivity, as I usually do, it’s just fucking absurd. Imagine a show about a pro baseball league with no Hispanics in it. Or a Jewless show about a group of Satan worshiping, communist gay pornographers [Ed Note: Hey! Um, fuck, good point…].
  5. The supposed master poker players in this game play like really bad players do in real life. I’ve played a lot of poker. I play semi-professionally, and believe me, very few players yammer on during a hand like the characters in this film. Usually you don’t say anything. Sometimes you make a comment or two hoping to manipulate your opponent. Some players, like Negreanu, will talk, hoping to get their opponents to talk back and give up info. But only true idiots who think that poker is all about theatrics and bluffing blither on like the characters on this show do during a hand. It’s just insufferable. I was actually embarrassed for fictional characters because they came off like such morons on national TV.

There were a few good things about the show. Well, two. One is that, assuming it’s on the air for more than a month, it will attract (more) hordes of Dutch Boyd wannabes to the cardrooms. 21-25 year old boys who believe that, if they wear sunglasses and try to act cool at a poker table, nobody will realize that they’re still virgins. These kids will help to pay my exorbitant rent.

The second positive is that the show had one very good scene, revealing a grain of potential. In Rounders the problem of making a generally quiet, intellectual contest into good viewing is solved using voiceover. Instead of bludgeoning us with low-grade shit talking, the protagonist takes us through his thinking during a hand. For some reason, the same producers and writers choose to use this device only once during Tilt, and it works, as does the talking during the hand. The white dude plays a hand against a Brit. He puts the Brit on a big hand, but not the flush that would beat his straight and explains why. He fires a bet at the pot meant to look like a bluff. The Brit falls for it, and says that he sees the bluff, which is a ploy to induce another bluff. The white guy overconfidently pushes in all of his chips, as though bluffing, the Brit quickly calls and is shocked to loose. For one scene, and one scene only, Tilt takes us into the reality of top-level poker and a complex hand. I think the next scene was Master P winning the World Series of Poker on the set of a porno.