College FB: What the BCS and Online Poker Have in Common

Bleacher Report Senior Analyst IJanuary 3, 2008

Jacob Hester
LSU and Jacob Hester will face Ohio State in Monday's BCS National Championship Game.  (Photo courtesy

"It's unique." 

Those are the words that FOX hopes will coax disgruntled fans into tuning in for the BCS Championship Game this Monday night.

They are Chicago Tribune writer Teddy Greenstein's words, and they can be found on the official Bowl Championship Series website.

"It's unique."  

The BCS system is nothing like the World Cup or the NCAA Basketball Tournament, so in that regard, it is unique...I'll give them that.

But is that really the goal, to be unique?  Is that really what we were looking for back in 1997...uniqueness?

I'd like to introduce the BCS computer nerds to a fad that has blown up recently—online poker.  It's a phenomenon that actually resembles the BCS system quite closely.

It's very simple—you just download the software, make a screen name, enter free tournaments, and compete for cash.  

Within minutes, you're playing real poker...just like the pros on TV, right? 


The computer version isn't much of a substitute for the pure version of the game—kind of like the BCS.

I signed up thinking the style of play would be like real-life poker, but boy, was I wrong.

The online version isn't even close.

"Who's to say that the regular season can't be an unpredictable two-hour thrill ride with the good guy getting the girl at the very end, too?"
Some games are literally like a lottery—everyone immediately pushes all of their chips in the pot and prays for the best hand to come their way, which means  skill is completely abandoned.  And if your prayers aren't answered, no big deal...just enter the next tournament.

Recently, I won a whopping $20 bucks playing online poker.  But, you know what?  I Kansas-ed and Hawaii-ed my way to the money: I hesitated to play good cards in fear of losing my chips too early. 

Don't be so quick to blame me, though—I had to adjust my style of play in order to survive.  If I wanted to land the big payday, I had to change it up a bit.  I was just doing what I had to do to secure my spot at the final table.

The game is different, so I had to change my strategy.

And that's exactly what the BCS is doing to college football—by rewarding schools with huge paychecks for merely surviving a season.

What kind of competition is that?   

We've learned from the BCS that a weak schedule can land your school a big payday.   

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to take anything away from Hawaii or Kansas—they both accomplished great things.

Kansas celebrating
Kansas players celebrate their 24-21 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech by eating oranges.  (Marc Serota/Getty Images)

In fact, with Kansas' victory over No. 3 Virginia Tech, I'm sure they now want a shot at the national title.  What true competitor wouldn't?

As an online poker winner, I know how it is—I wish I had the opportunity to play the best of the best.  I want to know if I'm actually good, or if I was just more prudent in hesitating to play certain cards.

So why no change? 

That's right—I forgot that the ratings are up, and that the BCS somehow brought out all of the parity this year.

But just because people keep signing up for online poker doesn't make the game pure.  Similarly, just because the BCS is on everyone's mind doesn't make it a sound system.

I'll tell you what—if nothing else, playing online poker really is unique.  One could call it wildly entertaining, even—watching all of those chips fly around left and right. 

And as we all know from BCS lovers, entertainment trumps competition any day.

Along with calling the BCS unique, Greenstein also says college football under the BCS has "never been wilder," and "never been more popular."  He then compares the 2007 regular season to an entertaining movie, saying it was "an unpredictable two-hour thrill ride." 

I have to say, Greenstein is correct again—the '07 regular season was pretty entertaining.  But who's to say that the regular season can't be an unpredictable two-hour thrill ride with the good guy getting the girl at the very end, too? 

Why do we have to settle for just entertainment?  Can't we incorporate passion and competition along with it?

A change needs to be made, because "unique" isn't getting it done—not for me anyways.

Robert H. Spain is an Alabama-based columnist for  His entire archive can be found here.