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thepokerbaffer

Gamble, gamble, gamble.

Love Fish: Hate Angling

Another week, another high-profile angle-shoot.

My therapist has just helped me get over the audacity of Alec Torelli’s video regarding his “not an angle-shoot” angle-shoot on PNIA, and now I have to deal with an angle-shoot incident from British poker darling Patrick Leonard?

Here’s a clip of the alleged angle-shoot (like you haven’t already seen it).

Pads felt compelled to make a fifteen minute video explaining various reasons why his angle-shoot was not an angle-shoot; reasons ranging from patch-size related stress, to the broken air-con, to a sibling-esque relationship of mutual understanding with his opponent (Luigi Shehadeh) in the hand.

angler 2
This guy’s definitely angling.

Pleno’s video was not as full of self-indulgent eye-grease and drum n bass snippets as Torelli’s, but it amounted to the same thing, a waffly, unlikely story carefully scripted to paint the protagonist-writer in any other colour except Midnight Poop.

The difference is, I want to believe Patrick, for no other reason than I like him.

Torelli always comes across as a soulless demon of celebrity whoredom, who would lubricate his own grandmother’s decrepit limbs to better facilitate using her entire body as his private slippy-slide into a position of fame and recognition.
Leonard, on the other hand, presents as a cheeky young chap, recognisable due to his passion for (and skill at) poker, coupled with a down to earth and immediately endearing personality. Yes, he speaks weird, but he’s from Newcastle, UK; they have long-standing issues with enunciation and the rest of Britain has forgiven them.

My instant reaction is to say that Torelli must have been angle-shooting (because imo he’s a slimy weirdo) and Leonard wasn’t (because imo he’s a lovely young man).

That would be a bullshit assessment; because an angle is an angle whether it’s performed by a devil or a saint.

I take interest in any disputes, I like poker rules, I like nitty discussions about minute points, and over my years in poker, I’ve never seen a change in the level of vitriol that an angle-shoot (perceived or actual) fires up in poker players.

When it was my job to bring down the final hammer on an angle-shoot ruling, I tried to apply thoughts from three separate areas of consideration:

  • Intent

Intent is a dreaded word for TDs, because it’s almost impossible to prove one way or another.

With regards to this hand, Pleno later claimed he intended to get information for future confrontations with Shehadeh, not to gain any immediate unfair advantage in this specific hand.

angler1
This guy has intent to angle, clearly.

If this is a true representation of Pleno’s intent, then his action would not be an angle-shoot, it would be part of some high-level meta-game strategy that I’m not capable of understanding (most TDs wouldn’t understand it either, we’re not all Kenny Hallaert).

The only way Patrick could prove his intent here would be if the guy insta-mucked and then Pads released his own cards without any comment as Shahadeh received the pot; if this had happened, no-one could now be accusing Leonard of an angle-shoot… but it didn’t.

I can’t prove his intent either way here, so had I been the TD watching the hand and Shehadeh HAD been an inexperienced player and HAD insta-mucked, I’d have put my career on the line to ensure Shahadeh got the pot after what I’d just witnessed Patrick say and do.

If a player is relying on proven intent as their defense, they’d best be able to actually prove it, cos otherwise I’m ruling on what my eyes and ears tell me, and in this case, based on that info alone, it would seem that Patrick clearly shot an angle.

  • Benefit

I personally believe the intent to angle-shoot was absent in this hand with Pleno, but it did look shifty, and years of experience tell me that most poker players will attempt to take maximum advantage of any genuine confusion created, whatever their initial intent and however lovely they are.

I can’t prove that’s the case with Leonard here, but he can’t disprove it, and it would be important to me as a TD that he not benefit from a grey area he created, whatever his original intent.

A grandfather and grandson fishing
Anglers start young these days

A good poker player will be attuned to taking advantage of ambiguity.
Any grey area represents a potentially unclaimed edge, and the sharpest minds in the game are experts at never missing an edge, however small.

Most people only have an issue with this when a player starts to create the ambiguity themselves, not with bet sizing or tricky lines, but by actively perverting the mechanics of the game, especially as it is only likely effective on a player who knows less about the rules than the angler.

If a player is accused of an angle-shoot, it’s always worth working out what their potential benefit is; the greater the potential benefit, the more valuable the angle-shoot, which increases the likelihood of an angle-shoot.
This might seem harsh to some players, but we are all products of our empirical experience and this is what a decade and a half of exposure to poker players has taught me: they never leave any value on the table.

In this exact spot, the potential benefit to Pads was huge, it’s exactly the sort of situation where a player might be desperate to pull off an angle.
When you bet 3 x pot on the turn and get snapped, you need the nuts or an angle on the river, cos without one of those, you’re not winning that monies.

Maybe Pads is as pure as Snow White’s honeypot, but circumstantial evidence is not on his side here; if there was ever a situation where the moral fortitude of even the most honourable poker player was to have its foundations threatened, this is it.

Experience

What we see from Leonard in this hand is a verbal version of “the fake action angle”, potentially used to get information/action from an opponent by intimating that the hand is over, knowing you can say “I never said call/fold” if it all goes off.

This is one of the original angles, so old-skool and crusty that it will only still actually work on the greenest of noobz.

angling
Angling GOAT

There is no way this angle was ever working on Shehadeh.
No, never; not even if the guy was tired, someone had made him wear a brand-patch the size of a peanut and the aircon had gone rogue and started stabbing people.
To suggest Patrick seriously thought Shehadeh was gonna muck because he said “you got it” is to say he’s an idiot, which he clearly is not. The known experience of his opponent and Patrick’s own experience provides evidence to suggest that this action was not an angle from Pleno.

When two players have played a lot together, they often develop a unique dynamic that seems odd to those of us outside their personal poker relationship.
If the other guy at the table was not caused any genuine confusion, and none of the other players saw it as an angle in the context of a friendly table that none of us were at, perhaps it’s not a problem (assuming there is no softplay or collusion that is detrimental to the tournament equity of the rest of the players in the field).
It could be said, in this case, given their previous dynamic, the guy was re-angle-shooting Leonard… but then we’re back to questioning intent and the cycle begins again.

 

I guess we can all agree none of this would have even been a discussion if Leonard hadn’t said “you got it” whilst keeping hold of his cards and staring at Shehadeh as if he had a dick drawn on his forehead.
As my beloved old mam says, “If you don’t like cold air, don’t open the door”, and whatever Leonard actually intended to achieve by his words and actions in this hand, he certainly opened the door on the angle-shoot discussion.

angler3
You would not credit the amount of angling related imagery online.

Angle-shooting is a grey area, but, like it or not, it’s also an established part of live poker, so when 2+2 react as if this sort of activity is the “ultimate disgrace to the game”, and refer to a fantastic ambassador for poker as “a scumbag” for doing something that happens all the time, in every live card game, it’s unnecessarily histrionic.

Pleno got caught being a bit cheeky and silly on a live stream, he’s not murdered any children, let’s keep some perspective.

Call me a cynic, but the commentators raising their petticoats on stream definitely helped whip up the stink around the situation. It’s probably worth noting they were working for PokerStars and commentating on a PartyPoker rep during a very dry part of the tournament with no face up cards for the third day in a row.
No shade on the PokerStars team, I think they were bored, not vindictive, but I think this point is at least marginally relevant.

Pleno is a good lad and I think he should be given the benefit of the doubt in this case, and not referred to as a “scumbag”.
Frankly, if that’s the best angle-shoot Patrick Leonard’s got, I’m not worried because we all spotted it, right?

I think we should all be more concerned about serious, competent and sly angles from pro-players away from feature tables, hidden in the depths of the field.
If the “fake-action” angle is so outdated that Leonard is cocky enough to attempt to throw it out live on stream as a post-poker ironic joke, the mind boggles as to what’s happening out there that us less experienced players are not spotting.

Maybe neither Torelli nor Leonard were angle-shooting.

Maybe they both were.

Angles Geometry
I got bored of fish pics

Maybe one was and one wasn’t.

Either way, that single action does not define them entirely as a human being, or even as a poker player.

I spent some time trying to wrap that up with an excellent and brutal Utilitarian analogy but ended up with nothing more than this as a final conclusion on this topic:

If Chris Ferguson gets to be called 2017 Player of The Year then anyone within the community now has to work pretty fucking hard to rip folk off enough to be called a “scumbag”.

 

 

Don’t Get Coolered, You C***

This blog was inspired by this video, Selbst v Baumann in the WSOP ME.
It’s a good hand if you haven’t seen it already:

 

I advocate studying poker, if you want to make a profit, or even just lose more slowly.
There are many people who have now made a long living from poker, and they know what they’re talking about; they are experts, although they may hesitate to refer to themselves as such.

Do you know who is not a poker expert?
Me.

And by extension, everyone else like me.

What is it about games/sports that makes everyone who has more than a passing interest in them feel like an expert?

I do spend a lot of time playing, reading and thinking about poker; does that automatically make me an expert?

Selbst1When two world-class poker players are sparring with cards and chips, am I qualified, by passion alone, to say that one, or other, or both, did not do their job properly?

I must be an Expert, because the forums and FaceBook pages are full of players at my micro-level who all realise Vanessa Selbst is the worst for not folding there.

What other professions could possibly attract these experts?
Are there hospital corridors crowded with Casulty fans screaming “hold the knife THAT way” at surgeons?
Are the courts clogged with WikiPedia law experts tugging at the wigs of qualified barristers?

Doctors and lawyers get a certificate for the hours they put into studying their trade and, unless anyone can produce a bigger certificate, they automatically win the room on any relevant points of doctoring or lawyering.

Professional game players don’t seem to earn this respect because they don’t have a certificate.
Let’s not worry about the years spent at the top of their game, crushing their opponents and making a living out of what most of us look forward to at the weekend.
There’s no certificate from poker school, or darts school, or football school that the top game players can use for protection against The Experts.

Professional footballers get hours of Expert advice shouted at them from fat men on sofas.
Professional snooker players get their skills humiliated by drunks in the pub on a nightly basis.Selbst3

Professional poker players get called “stupid, fat, dyke slut” on poker video threads because they called a bet that everyone would call.

I was initially going to have a gunt-out rant about sexism, sexually-threatening  words, women being people, blah blah, but honestly, that wasn’t even what annoyed me so deeply about the comments thrown at Selbst after she called Baumann’s river bet.

That said, to have a brief, vagina-aside, I do think it’s weird that so many men comment physically/sexually on female poker players as a result of how they play poker hands.
I’ve never seen comments from players online after Phil Ivey or Gus Hansen played a hand (badly or well) such as:

“Well, he butchered that hand, but at least he’s the best looking man at that table.”
“He’s a great player. Shame he’s ugly as fuck.”
“That would have been less painful if he’d been topless.”
“He’s a dirty, heterosexual cunt, all he needs is my dick in his hole and then he’ll see the light.”

Naked male player
Oh mate.

I’m fairly okay with abusive language.
That’s a weird sentence to write, but it’s true. I’m not a whiney little weiner, and I can take, and give, sexist abuse, sexual/sexuality orientated banter, aggressive swearing and unspeakably awful topics for jokes.

I am not a woman of tight conversational boundaries; words say more about the speaker than the listener.

For the first time in a long time, I became hugely upset at the level of vitriol aimed at Selbst relevant not to her poker game, but to her gender and her sexuality. I was momentarily embarrassed for my species… again.

This is not the topic of this blog, so not gonna bang on about it, but can we please all start calling that shit out? There’s casual sexism, jokes, bantz and then there’s entry level insight into the minds of potential serial killers; when you see this stuff, call it out, whatever your age, sex, sexuality or gender.

What pissed me off more than Selbst’s gender or sexuality being cited as relevant to how she makes a decision in a card game, was the queue of Experts who were 100% sure that Selbst’s holding was a fold and were “10000000000% sure I snap fold, in game, right there”.

Oh just fuck ya all.

I was most enraged by Experts I know who play at or around my level declaring their instant snap folds. I actually know this has to be a lie, and here’s my logic:

I play av €8 tourneys online and in this hand, in either player’s spot on the river, in an €8 large field tourney, I’m shoving every single boat and a lot of flushes for value. Yes.
Because I expect to get called with every flush and all trips and possibly even a ridiculous top pair/decent pocket now and then. Not saying 100% of my opponents are playing that way, but in large field $8 tournaments, enough of them are playing that way for me to grind a profit.Reformed Liar

That means there is no way that all these micro/rec experts who claim they’d find a fold here are realistically capable of it, and if they are, then I should keep jamming the shit out of every single boat, every flush, all the trips and some top pairs while I’m  at it too.

Of course, this means that they should adjust and call AND THEN WE’RE BACK WHERE WE STARTED. Roll-up! Roll-up! Take Your Turn On The Levelling Merry-Go-Round!

Yeah, okay, I’m very sure if all you pro-players do your maths with your magic power-up poker engines it’s a fold. Well done, computers think for you.
When you need to play the most boring poker in the world because it’s the most long-term profitable play and you make your living from the game then, yeah, fine, whatever, it’s a mathematical fold.
If you pros are gonna tell me it’s a fold, I’ll listen to your expert advice.

Actually, I won’t, I’ll still call.

Thing is, pro-players, maybe it’s not a fold if you want to be high-profile?
Not all professional poker players want to be famous poker players, but poker is not just a mathematical game anymore, it’s also media career opportunity.

If someone can fully explain to me why Baumann (apparently REALLY obviously) has 100% zero bluffs on that river, AND is never playing A7h that way, then maybe I’ll retract this statement, but until then:

A poker player who values their celebrity profile should not fold that spot, it is minus media EV.
If the perfect storm has been created, and you are facing the 0.01% bluff from Baumann, with the lights and cameras, on the feature table of the WSOP Main Event and you fold top boat to a bluff… you will not bounce back from that.

GTOver.celebrity fame

If being a star of the poker media is your goal, then you want to leave the table saying what Vanessa said: “now I got a story”
When you’re promoting the Brand Of You, you really can’t afford to say: “now I gave the other guy a story”.

Plus, I’ve spent a decade lapping up all your fucking advice which says don’t play tourneys you’re not bankrolled for and don’t be scared, so call the river, shake the French hand and go do some interviews.

In my usual, silly, non-mathematical way, I want Selbst to call there, I need Selbst to call there, my heart MUST have that river as a call in Selbst’s spot, because, as a recreational player, if I can’t call off my money with the 2nd best possible hand out there and feel okay about that decision, then my dream of poker as a stable, mainstream leisure industry is dead.

If that call is so wrong, awful, terrible, so obviously a fold, and the player who made the play deserving of actual abuse… why would anyone ever want to join in and play with us?
We can’t grow, or even sustain, a financial economy based on a card game we can’t sell to new players and I think it’s fair to say a game where that call is “so obviously retarded” is a bloody hard sell.

Good call, Selbsty. Unlucky.

 

HashTag Car Crash

I don’t know why I even open the NVG forum on 2+2, it sucks my time away through a dirty hosepipe.

Some people say FB is a waste of time, but some of the threads on NVG make my FB timeline look like a collaborative project between James Joyce and Shakespeare.

Shit SoupOne such puddle of soul schlurping shit soup that drew my attention recently was a thread on a PNIA stream from SockDrawer (or somewhere) in the USA featuring a name I hadn’t heard before: #HashtagKing.

I don’t know if that was the name he was given at birth, or whether the # was added later, but despite his obvious attempts at building a public profile, I’d previously never heard of the lad.

Spoiler: The guy’s a cunt, and not the good kind.

He’s not a unique character, I’ve personally encountered ball-bangles like that at several poker games.
Loud, unfunny, rude and thick; only tolerated because they are terrible at poker and donate to all assembled. Other players will absorb the disgusting behaviour as a form of tax on the cash drop.

#HashTagKing would appear to be the high-stakes version of this character, as during the footage he challenged Doug Polk to a HU match for three times his total GPI recorded poker earnings, offering to escrow the entire amount like a complete plum.

How he was going to stump up $1m when he was trying to sell his passport on the stream to cobble together the $5k buyin for the table he was already sitting on is beyond me, maybe he could have a hashtag whip-round on Twitter.
Oh… wait… no, he can’t even do that cos he’s currently suspended from there for being a walloping shit-waffle.HashtagKing

Guys like HashTagHashTagKing do not display the finest side of poker, but long time players from the dark little cardrooms around the world will be familiar with the type.

Are massive cleg-goblins like ##King good characters for poker TV?
Is he a nod back to the big personalities of poker TV days gone by?

Nope.
He’s just a vapid waft of arse gas, spreading stink and stains all over the tables.

The raw stream footage is utterly unwatchable; at least with actual car-crash TV you might get to see some blood and guts or heads rolling about.
The PNIA stream was just a melee of shouting and bullshit offers of heads-up matches that will never happen.

Some decent salvage editing, with particular attention paid to levelling the shit out of everybody’s mic, might produce something watchable; these TV whizzes are experts at the magic they make, although I cannot imagine poker could be presented in a very good light from what they’ll be given to work with.

Wives being denigrated, attempts at selling documents, repetitive, unimaginative insults; there was nothing on that footage except an extended glimpse of poker’s dirtiest underneath.

Car crash reality TV is an upsettingly popular genre, with a long history; let’s look more closely at the boom of reality TV and see if it offers any insight.

Candid Camera
The original reality TV show

The (abridged) truth about reality TV is that whilst it started as early as the 1950s with gentle gameshows and innocent talent contests, its real explosion came due to TV Networks in the early 80s being caught with their pants down when a load of script writers and content creators went on strike.

When another writers’ strike loomed in the early 90s the Network bosses were well prepared and had a fuckton of cheap-to-produce reality TV formats up their sleeves as a super effective middle finger to the disgruntled writers.

Reality TV exploded with the sort of characters that people liked to watch on the box, but would never invite into their own homes; and the reality TV stars that became the most enduring names were inevitably the ones who made the biggest spectacle of themselves on air.

Have PNIA just latched on to a tried and tested formula?
Possibly, but it’s a formula born of desperation, and that makes me nervous, because it’s more proof that poker is so out of popularity that those making their living from broadcasting it are desperate.

I will watch the edited footage when it appears, and I hope it’s a triumph, but I’m not holding my breath.
Poker TV needs to serve one of two purposes:

  • Be so accessible and entertaining to people who know nothing about poker that it encourages new players to enter the game and bring their monies.

OR

  • Provide such unmissable televisual stimulation to enough of those who already play poker that it brings in big chunks of advert money to support the growth of the poker industry.

I don’t believe any of the footage from that PNIA game will do the former; anyone on the fence about having a pop in a local casino would definitely be put off for fear that they will have to deal with someone like #HashTagCunt.poker-fight
They probably will, somewhere along the line, but let’s get them to see the beautiful dresscoat of poker before we let them look up the skirt at her unkempt minge.

The stream has obviously garnered a lot of attention from regs and serious recs, but I don’t see how it can be more than a one-hit-wonder.

If every PNIA shows turns into that sort of social warzone, then everyone will get bored of it, and pretty quickly.
The big characters of the past behaved better than #CrapMuncher, even at their very worst and rudest, they never went to the level of insulting anyone’s wife.

To be controversial and polarising without being an absolute gooch-canoe is a tough ask, and those characters are poker TV gold.
I wish PNIA producers the best with their casting endeavours in the future, but am absolutely convinced they hit the post on this one.

All that said, I could be miles off the mark given that the elected leader of the Free World is a reality TV star; perhaps being an obnoxious wank-puffin on budget programming is actually the fastest and surest route to global success for everyone and everything.

TrumpOn the plus side, we’ll all probably be nuked to shit soon anyway.

Have a great day.

The Maltese Job

My blog’s been quiet for a while, because I’ve moved countries and got a “proper job”.
I’ve been really touched by the (many more than I could have expected!) emails and messages asking me to fire it up again, I didn’t think anyone gave a tiny shit, so thanks very much!

Being back in an office full time has been a proper culture shock, and, as is pretty common when one moves to a new place, I’ve been spending time drinking, partying and getting to know new people.14689974_10154703678867755_1925566405_o
I’m also writing a monthly column for BluffEurope and have managed to find many excuses to collapse in front of Netflix at the end of a working day.

Before I moved, I’d spent the previous 18 months earning money from writing and playing poker; which I thought would be as close to living the dream as I’d ever come!

Turns out I’m not a fan of writing for other people as a whole, and even less of a fan of chasing invoices, which turned out to be a large part of the work.
Fuck. Dat. Noise.

What also happened, slowly enough for me to (almost) not notice it, was that I started to hate playing poker.
One evening in early December, I woke up from my afternoon nap to start a session at 7pm and felt miserable about it; worse than I’ve ever felt about going to a “real” job, and I’ve had some shitty jobs in my time.

I do not have the emotional control or analytical nature required to be a professional poker player; I love the game and I want it to stay that way, and if poker is seriously meant to be a part of my income, it can’t be from playing, because it’s fucking boring to me unless I can have fun with it.
And, just before anyone says it, it’s not cos I lost, I didn’t. I earned more from playing poker than I thought I would, and I still wasn’t loving it.

The realisation that I was doing exactly what I’d spent a decade wishing I could do, and now felt crap about it was not a happy one. I felt like a spoilt child, an entitled little bitch who had everything she ever wanted and still wanted more.
On that cold evening in December, just for a moment, I really hated myself.

redbetnap
I was thinking. Definitely NOT napping.

At the exact same time, a Malta based gaming company called Evoke offered me a position as Poker Manager for their poker brand, redbet (online room) and redbetLIVE.

I’d been working with redbet for a year on a freelance basis and really like the fun/low stakes poker philosophy they have.
I felt like it was a brand I could get on board with, and the offer came at the exact right time.

I had no partner, no children, no mortgage, so I packed a (large) bag and fucked off to Malta.

That’s where I sit writing this, overlooking a beautiful marina, with a pile of delicious, cheese filled Maltese pastries and a €5 packet of cigarettes.

I’ve been to Malta a couple of times previously, and I love it here; they drive on the left, everybody speaks English and their winter is a couple of degrees colder than the British summer.
I’m going to look like a forest fruit medley in the summer because I have the complexion of a bottle of Tippex, but I’ll deal with that when it arrives.

Sliema-marina-hotel-sliema-malta-361
This is my writing desk now!

I’m really excited about my new job, the office is fun and modern, the attitude of the company is very much about providing a decent product for players of all games, and, so far, they seem to be letting me really have control of the poker product.

We all know poker is on a decline, and it sucked to sit with the CEO of Evoke and have to tell him that.
Equally, I remain positive about the sustainability of poker because I know there are a lot of people like me, people who think it can be a fun way to spend their recreational time.
I also believe there is a way to connect with people who haven’t discovered the game yet, bring in new blood, and make sure the poker economy is healthy.

Plenty of people got into poker before The MoneyMaker Effect was a thing, so there is definitely something about this game that is attractive to people outside the idea of being “professionals”, being “poker celebrities” or just “not having a proper job”.

The redbet online room is in the process of moving to the MicroGaming Network, and when I spent nearly a whole office day reading the internal documents from them, I was pleased to see they seem to be making the move towards forcing the skins on the Network to be more friendly to recreationals and not pandering to bonus hunting, “rakeback pros”.

Charityredbet
Supporting local charity play2care

They impose a massive fine on any skin that offers a player more than 30% rakeback, and as I genuinely believe the ridiculous affiliate schemes offering ludicrous, cannabilistic rakeback deals were a significant factor in the decline of the poker industry by making the environment impossible for new players to settle into, I’m really pleased about it.

I have, so far, found that the other department heads and the CEO of Evoke seem to buy readily into my idea that our marketing money should be spent on rewarding net-depositing players and recruiting new blood; I feel like I’m really doing something positive for the poker economy.

There is a chance that I’ve somehow fooled these people into thinking I know more about poker than I do, but I have worked in the industry for a long time, I know the players and the potential markets well, and I’m feeling confident I can offer something good to both the business and the players.

There’s still a good chance that this blog will get me into trouble, because although I intend to crow about my successes, I will also talk about my failures. There is an element of Brave New World about my strategy; I’m not going to be attempting to copy any other brand, which is a risk for a smaller brand in a saturated market.
They said I could keep writing my blog as an employee, so we’ll see how it goes.

redbetkat
Smug cunt.

There is a limit to how much I can control the online product, as part of a network, but there are certain things I can do, so if you have any ideas you’d like to see activated, hit me up via email, or DM me.

I’ve already fired up some local games in Malta under the redbetLIVE brand, and hope to see a UK or Nordic appearance early next year; the prizepools won’t be massive, but neither will the buyin, and any event with redbet on it will be well structured and FUN.

I’m going to work on two driving forces:

  • Would I want to play this game?
  • Would I feel happy to bring my noob mates to this hotel and have them play this game?

I never do anything half-heartedly, I am always all-in or fold, so you will either be hearing a lot more from the redbet poker mouth in the coming months, or I’ll be working in a local Pizzaria, one of the two.

High-Stakes Pros: Lazy And Greedy?

Poker players are telling the media what is and isn’t acceptable, and that’s not acceptable. They are using intimidation tactics to cut out the tongue of the press.” – Lee Davy (full article here).

 

For the first time ever, I feel truly disillusioned with the poker world.

I’m not naïve enough to think that our little poker corner is exempt from the many oppressions and social negatives that affect the wider world, but I was always proud to be involved in poker, because as a whole, I believed the poker community demonstrated a higher percentage of intelligent and liberal people than the average cross-section of society.

Of late, I’ve started to doubt that, and I’ve even started to doubt whether I’m part of the “poker community”, because following the recent Marty Derbyshire furore, it would seem that the top end don’t consider me as such.champagne-socialism
If you’re reading this, then they probably don’t consider you as such either, as my readership is most predominantly micro/low stakes recreational players.

The “big boys/girls” playing high-stakes games use the words “poker community” to describe themselves.
They don’t seem to have room to include rec players, media, floor staff, dealers, massage teams, valets, receptionists, cashiers or any other functional role within the community on whom they fully depend to play their game/earn their living.

If you missed the Marty Derbyshire carry-on, and it is entirely possible you did because you probably have a full time job and have better things to do, allow me to summarise:
Derbyshire wrote a badly worded, poorly researched, clickbaity opinion piece which claimed professional poker players were “lazy and greedy”.
The real poker community (high-stakes players, not us lower-echelon plebs) were horrified, screaming for the ‘article’ to be removed and for Derbyshire to be sacked; their demands were, almost immediately, met.

As background, it seems that Derbyshire has a long history of ill-considered, barely-literate scribblings and seems to enjoy winding up high-stakes pros. I can’t decide if it’s a form of sport for him, or if he just recognises that this will garner clicks and attention on social media; the Kings of Poker don’t engage with structured, factual pieces that appear in poker media, they only respond to being insulted.
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There are many poker writers who create well-researched, educational, informative work, that is (albeit slightly dull) written with the integrity these high-stakes pros claim should be the norm in poker media.
Do the high-stakes pros regularly share links to these articles or comment on them on social media? Rhetorical question, because, no, as a majority, they don’t; however, call them a cunt and they’ll go batshit for it.

Clicks mean revenue, revenue means media survival, so why wouldn’t any media outlet hope to publish work that garners clicks?

Derbyshire also has many good pieces, promoting poker in a positive way, but let’s not dwell on that too long, cos the Lords and Ladies of Poker didn’t, they focused on his aggro opinion pieces.
The article has long been removed, and I haven’t managed to find a working link, so please let me know if you have one so I can update here.

If you call a high-stakes player, “lazy and greedy” then apparently you’re offending the whole poker community.
Are you offended? Cos I’m not. I consider myself to be part of the poker community, and Derbyshire’s clumsy word splatter in no way offended me.

Either I’m not part of the poker community, or his words are only offensive to a small part of the poker community, you decide.

It’s a dangerous route to say that words that only offend a small part of a community are automatically allowable, because that quickly becomes marginalisation, and attacking a small group, especially one incapable of defending itself is pretty shitty.gummy-bears

Is it fair to say the high-stakes pros are a marginalised group incapable of defending themselves?
The removal of the piece, Derbyshire’s dismissal from PokerNews and the (arguably now historic) propensity for the major operators to deep-throat the high-stakes pros strongly suggest otherwise.
High stakes pros are not the marginalised workers in our community, they are the landowners, and this incident proves how powerfully they can throw their weight about.

I started to think about how justifiable it is to call high-stakes pro players “lazy and greedy”, and came to the conclusion that’s it’s probably not too far off the mark.
I’m going to justify that a bit further than Derbyshire could be bothered to in his piece.

When I was a dealer I thought that job was hard work and I reckoned that the floor staff were lazy, mincing about the place looking serious, doing nothing more than arbitrating a few petty disputes and drinking brews.
top-guys
When I became floor staff, it turned out that was quite hard work, and I then thought that the media team were lazy, sitting on their fat arses typing hand transcriptions and fiddling about with photoshop.

When I joined the media team at tournaments, the load seemed never-ending, and I decided that the players were lazy, slobbing about at 5* breakfast buffets and then getting to play all day.

I don’t have the natural intelligence, base skill or patience required to be a high-stakes pro, so I guess I’ll never be in the tournament environment and know who high-stakes pros think are lazy, maybe they think the casino owners are, I dunno.

No-one is born being great at poker; it requires natural skill, combined with many hours of fucking boring study and a huge amount of emotional resilience to realistically make your entire income from poker.
If I recognise this, how could I ever think that pro players are “lazy”?

Because part of me thinks that anyone who gets to do something they love for a living is a bit lazy. I get to write and create social media content for my income, and I love it, I work reasonably hard, long hours some weeks, and I still think I’m a bit lazy, because I love my work.
I’m massively privileged to have been born with reasonable intelligence (genetics, no credit to me) and have been given a spectacular education (my parents’ hard work, no credit to me); this privilege allows me to do something I love for money, it allows me to be a bit lazy.

There are two groups of people I consider are not lazy:
Firstly, those who do a job they hate, day after day, week after week because they have to. They hate getting up in the morning, they are thrilled when they day is done, and they grind away endlessly to keep their family afloat. These people are not lazy.job

The second group of people are those that have jobs that directly help others or benefit society as a whole, such as nurses or teachers.
They may have a job they love, but they probably also had the option to do what I do, or become a stock-broker or a poker player, but they chose a harder option because they wanted to help other people. These people are not lazy.

That I, on average, earn more per hour of work than a teacher or nurse confounds me, but I’m not going to become a helpful member of society, because I’m lazy.
I like that I get to work in my pyjamas most days, and, because I’m lazy, I won’t put my privilege to better use; I will use it in the way that suits me, and that is my right as a privileged Westerner.
To tackle the moral implications of this truth is way outside the scope of an opinion article about poker players.

I don’t think this makes me an inherently bad person, I think it makes me a pretty standard product of modern, Western society, and if someone calls me lazy, I’m not going to get upset about it, I’m going to have to agree with them and accept it. It’s a small price to pay for all the benefits that have been unjustly afforded to me in my life.

Can these high-stakes pros really not see that, from the perspective of some others, they are a bit lazy? Are they really so blind to their privileges?

The other offending word in Derbyshire’s tirade was “greedy”, he definitely meant it as an insult, but is it?
The origin of the word “greed” in Modern English is from Old English “grædig” meaning “voracious, covetous, hungry” and/or “eager to obtain”.
It cannot be a coincidence that the frequency of use of the word rocketed post-Industrial Revolution when the demarcation between the standards of living of the middle and working classes became more definite and wider.

greed2Greed, in a modern context, can be usefully defined here as the attempt to obtain more than is needed, and that is applicable to most of us, no?

If you are trying to get more than you need to survive, you are a little bit greedy, and the further above the survival line you are, the more greedy you are.
Is this really an insult in the context of our society?
Is this mentality not the foundation of Capitalism?
Pro-poker players are no more greedy than the majority of society, but this cannot exempt them from being called greedy.
I try to earn more money than I actually need, even if that is because of the fashion of my privileged cultural background, I am still greedy. Until I’m prepared to give everything above my basic to those less fortunate, I have to accept that I am greedy.

Western culture is lazy and greedy, and the option to earn a living from playing poker is a product of that culture; pro-poker players cannot be exempt, for them to claim they are is ridiculous.

So, if pro-poker players are just products of their culture, then why am I feeling so disillusioned?
Because their failure to accept it on any level is horrifying to me; I want better from the people in my community, I expect  better from people who, in the main, are well-educated, privileged and afforded a lifestyle far above most in our culture, let alone in other parts of the world.

Pro-poker players being successful in shutting down media outlets because they don’t like what’s being said about them is a disgrace.fullsizerender-2
Pro-players having embarrassing dick-measuring contests in public on social media, bragging about flipping coins for sums of money exceeding some people’s annual wage is a disgrace.
Pro-poker players being lauded for “never having a proper job” when some people have to work 60 hour weeks for minimum wage is a disgrace.
Pro-poker players calling people “peasants” because they can’t afford to travel first class is a disgrace.

Of course, some pro-players donate to charity, and spend their valuable time working hard for important causes; there are always class people in every sphere of the world (here’s looking at you Miss Boeree, you set an example to us all).
That said, I’m not sure any pro-player donates a similar % of their annual profit as a nurse pays in tax, so until they all do, I can’t see them as Social Justice Champions. They may hand over large sums of money, but how significant is it to them really?

fullsizerender-3
Now deleted tweet from a guy who’s definitely had more cakes than cunts.

I donate a small portion of my earnings to charities (I earned €14k this year including poker winnings), but it doesn’t cause me a tiny bit of deficit or suffering, so I don’t deserve any accolade.

I’d have more respect if I believed any of the pros complaining about Marty Derbyshire’s PokerNews article would actually boycott the brand, but they won’t.
Where PokerNews offers them an opportunity to maximise their own profile, they will still take it; just like Cate Hall is still working with PNIA, despite claiming solidarity with and defence of women who are subject to sexual assault.

Marty Derbyshire’s article was shite, his subsequent “apology” and admission that it wasn’t even his true opinion was shite, PokerNews removing the article and then publishing the most ridiculous statement of distance from the article was shite, but the pro-players’ reaction to it was embarrassing and elitist in a way that makes me ashamed to have anything to do with poker.

I’ve often said I feel that high-stakes pros are a long way removed from me as a low-stakes rec, and I feel that even more strongly now.
They don’t see me as part of their community, and I’m glad; it don’t want to be part of a community of self-important, lynch-mob mentality muppets who are completely unaware of how lucky they are to be able to work hard at poker for millions of dollars instead of slaving in a factory for minimum wage.

Yo! High-stakes Pros- Get a grip, remind yourself what the word “opinion” means and above all else: Check Your Fucking Privilege.

privilege2

UnibetOpen Bucharest: After The Event

I returned from UnibetOpen Bucharest on Monday, and I was going to write this yesterday but I was so exhausted, I had to sleep all day.
I’ve been drunk three times in the last eighteen months, and two of those times happened in the last week at the UnibetOpen in Bucharest! It has been a very long time since I went almost a whole week with no more than four hours sleep a night, and my creaky old body needed to recuperate.

If you missed my blog post from a couple of weeks ago, then the short version is that Unibet invited me to come and play a ladies event and the €1100 Main Event over in Bucharest, Romania. They covered all my expenses and all they asked me to do was to write-up my experience on my return.
I did warn them that I can be exceptionally caustic, and if I found the event disappointing, then I would write my honest opinion.

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We were looking at dick-pics.

From what I understand, excluding the entry to the Ladies Event, I was essentially on a standard UnibetOpen Main Event package, which can be won from a €4 starting point via their online satellite structure, with the only difference being that they booked my flight for me instead of giving me cash for expenses, which made perfect sense.

The venue was “The Grand Hotel Bucharest”; no, nothing to do with Wes Anderson or a very camp Ralph Fiennes, although The Grand Budapest Hotel is a great movie.

The Romanians know how to build shit, seriously. The People’s Palace in Bucharest is the second largest building in the world, and that seems to be the general vibe of buildings there.
The hotel was massive, impressive and made me feel like a princess the minute I stepped out of the cab onto an actual red-carpet.
Unibet obviously didn’t build this hotel, but choosing a venue is massively important, and they picked a superb one. There appear to be some slightly stricter gambling controls than I’m used to in the UK, so I don’t know if Unibet had a massive range of choice or not, but either way, it was a fantastic place for a poker festival.

One of the best bits about it, aside from a great room, great staff and amazing city, was that the hotel lobby was so extensively vast that there was always somewhere to sit and chat.hotel-interior
It sounds like a small thing to worry about, but consider how many times you’ve busted live games, been ushered out of the tournament area, and then had nowhere to go but your hotel room!
During this week, it was not possible to cross the lobby without finding a group of people to sit down and have a conversation with. This was, by far, the most social poker festival I’ve ever been to.
I can’t quite put my finger on whether the layout of the venue was key here, or whether the Unibet regulars are just super-friendly; probably a bit of both.

I met so many new people, and they were all cool as fuck.

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Barry: my new bestie after a random dinner chat.

I am the kind of person to gate-crash a conversation, sit down with strangers and say hello, and sometimes it doesn’t go well! This week, everyone I spoke to was welcoming, open and really cool, from Unibet staff down to random players. The whole atmosphere was really matey and relaxed, I’m not sure how it happened, but it was brilliant.

I love to sit up all night chatting absolute shite, and the opportunities for this were endless; I felt like I was at University again, spending time with smart and interesting people, talking about everything.

The events were really well organised, and the tournaments were under the supervision of my beloved Nick O’Hara and his hard-working team. As soon as I see that guy wafting about, I know I’m playing in a well-run and secure game. I was really pleased to see that Unibet understand the importance of having a massively experienced TD in a low-stakes festival.

The start-times of a couple of events were pushed back due to the huge numbers the Main-Event attracted (603 uniques), but this was communicated early, clearly and in multiple languages, so that was no problem.

TD Nick O'Hara makes the announcement about extended play
Nick O’Hara: if he talks, you listen.

The festival schedule was varied, and the side events were in line with the Main Event buyin. I bought in direct for a €115 game because even I can afford that when I’m on holiday. Okay, it’s outside my micro-roll, but I wasn’t thinking “poker”, I was thinking “fun”, and I certainly got my money’s worth in that respect.

Unibet also forked out for quite impressive media coverage, which is sometimes left out of lower stakes tours because these media types are bloody expensive.

I like to see it, because it means that all low-stakes and recreational players get a photo to share, or a mention, or a chance to be on a TV/feature table.
This works for the business because it improves the reach of the brand, but it also works to pull new players into the game.
30970546970_85caca8100_oMy mum watched the Twitch stream because I was on the feature table, then, because she liked the commentators’ banter, she continued watching! My old mam watching poker for six hours; I was gobsmacked!

Hilarious that she has never played a hand of poker, but suddenly had an opinion on some Romanian guy’s 3bet shove! She’s now up for playing a game on Unibet… my mother, whom I would have said was the least likely candidate for ever being interested in playing poker; it just shows the potential effect that creating a social buzz around poker can have on feeding new money into the game.

If my mother starts to have better results than me in poker, I will be devastated, but if Unibet encouraged even a hundred friends/family to get involved, then they’ve done a great service to the poker economy.

One of my biggest issues with low-stakes tours is always food and drink. I’m a fatty, and I like to eat a lot, meaning that if I get a ticket to an event, the cost of food and drink for a week can really add up, and sometimes results in me not eating properly.
This didn’t happen at UnibetOpen! As well as my breakfast being included in the package, there was a daily players’ buffet, and it was tasty as fuck. I’ve managed to put on about ½ a stone this week… thanks for that, Unibet!
It’s not actually Unibet’s fault that I ate four pieces of cheesecake a day, but I’m not about blaming myself for my own gluttony, so I have to blame someone.

I’d been pretty open with David Pomroy (Marketing Manager for Unibet Poker) that I would be very honest in my review of the week, so I kept my eye on the way people who don’t write gobby, aggressive blogs were treated, and they were all treated like gold too.
The drinks vouchers were flowing, Pomroy (and the rest of the team) were always visible, always friendly, and were dealing with players’ queries 24/7.

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David Pomroy: Poker Geek and super nice guy.

They all worked like absolute dogs for the whole week, and everyone I spoke to felt like they had a personal contact over the course of the festival. There is a real sense that they are all insanely passionate about poker, and genuinely respect the low-stakes qualifiers at their events.
This makes everyone feel important, and for some low-stakes qualifiers, who have to grind “normal” jobs and sometimes have quite hard lives, it’s amazing to be made to feel like a valuable part of something special; if you qualify for a UnibetOpen event, you will be treated like royalty, whoever you are.

I rarely comment on “Players’ Parties”, because I don’t really see it as part of the event, and if they are held in the venue with a male to female ratio of 95%/5%, they’re just giant sausage-fests that I can happily avoid.

The Unibet party was in a great venue, and mixed with locals; they organised transport to and from hotel and they really looked after us in terms of making sure we all had a great time (got pissed for free).
30605666953_fb12c0ddda_oI had a top night, even as someone who isn’t a huge fan of nightclubs and dancing, it was the overall atmosphere that I enjoyed, and somebody at Unibet worked hard to make that happen.

I played three tournaments over the course of the festival and cashed for a massive €0, but I didn’t seem to care. For the first time ever at a low-stakes event, I felt like the poker was almost incidental, a side-attraction in a well-organised holiday week.
I think this is how it should feel to recreational players, because if we’re zooming off purely to win money, and there is nothing else for us, then the potential is for us to think we had a shit week.
A €1100 event attracts some very decent players, and although the field was softer than I expected, I still wasn’t in the top end of skillz at any table I sat at. This means that the other stuff has to be in place for me to have a good time, and UnibetOpen provided the experience.

Unibet is the fastest growing low-stakes poker brand, and I believe this is because they care most about recreational players, have a dedicated team that work their arses off and the people with the power truly and deeply care about the future of poker.31372403866_97c48bd295_o

The only negative thing I can say about the UnibetOpen Bucharest is that it ended; I did not want to come home, seriously, I had a little cry when my plane took off because it was over.

If you’re not playing on Unibet and trying to qualify for the next UnibetOpen, then you’re a mug, get on it IMMEDIATELY and I’ll see you there to chat shit, get drunk, eat food and… what was that other thing? Oh yeah, play poker!

 

See all videos at: https://www.youtube.com/user/UnibetOpen/videos

Official Tournament Photos at:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/unibetopenofficial/albums/with/72157677259592015

Unibet Open Bucharest: Low Stakes Loving It

I was sitting at home last Friday, lazily playing some tourneys, watching an old American TV series called Journeyman and scratching myself (normal Friday) when my phone pinged with a Twitter message from Marc Convey.
You’ve definitely read Marc’s stuff, he’s been knocking about writing poker for over a decade, and he’s everywhere. He and I connected on Twitter about a year ago, but I didn’t think much of it, because he’s a poker celebrity, and I’m a bum.

marc-convey
@The_Conv: 2014EPA Media Person Of The Year and part time bunny girl.

Marc’s message was (paraphrased) – “Oi. Ya gobby bint, wanna play a €6k gtd ladies only SnG at Unibet Open in Bucharest? They’ll pay expenses and a Main Event entry.”

Now, when stuff like this happens, if I want to earn street-cred, I should be cool; I should gently pull down my hoody, tilt my sunglasses and reply, barely audibly,“Yeah man. Whatevs”.

Except I have no street-cred and I am not in any respect “cool”, so I fell off my chair, excitedly whooping.
OF COURSE I WANNA PLAY! Let’s Fucking Go!

So, why are Unibet doing this?
I’m not a great player, I’m a complete no-mark and I’m a massive liability after half a bottle of wine. Why would they invite me anywhere?

It would seem that I share a passion with the powers-that-be at Unibet, in that we all have a boner for low-stakes poker.
They want to put together a Twitch streamed table of ladies with character (diplomatic description of me), for a fun event.

Marc was very clear that the emphasis here is on fun, and having a laugh, and I’m better at that than I am at poker, so fair enough!ladies-only
I can’t wait to see what other raucous girls rock-up, it’s going to be cocktail fuelled carnage, I’m sure!

A lot of my low-stakes, recreational friends play on Unibet, and they do it because the site does not allow the use of HUDs or scripts or any other tool that professional/serious recreational players use to hunt fishes.

I never recommend a product until I’ve tried it, so I signed up to Unibet, and was initially a bit weirded out by the fact I can have multiple identities and switch between them.
It’s not multi accounting, I can’t play five identities against one guy in a 6-handed sit and go!

The multiple identities allow a level of anonymity, so that new players can settle in, and not be targeted. It’s unusual, and it was new to me, but I can see how it prevents inexperienced players quickly becoming targets, given that there are now experienced regs at all stakes.
I have discussions about equity and ranges with people who play NL $2; what realistic chance has a total noob got on PokerStars after they’ve been tagged as a whale by one of these guys?

no-noobs
How some sites must look to new players.

I am always banging on about committing to bringing new players into the game, creating an environment where they feel comfortable and not pandering every poker product to the high-rolling pros. Unibet are walking my talk; well played, Unibet!

Another thing I like about the site, in terms of new players, are the “achievements”.
A few sites do this now, and I think it’s great fun, as well as helping new players find direction in what can be a hard landscape to navigate the first time you walk across it.
Some of us may have been playing online for so long we’ve forgotten those “WTF??” moments when you join a site and are faced with page after page of madness, I think the achievements, and the prizes associated with completing them, really break that up.

I also like the free money when you sign up; the no-deposit bonus is really simple!
You get some $0 value beginner freeroll tickets (pretty standard), but you also get a €4 Unibet Open package satellite ticket, giving you a route into the live Main Event (€4>€25>€215 package satty).

The bit that really rocks is the £10 “cash ticket” they give you.
It’s basically a cash bankroll that you can play at 2c/4c beginner tables. It stays as a “cash-ticket” until you see 750 flops with it, and then is converted into hard cash.
I don’t play much cash poker, I like the stories of tournaments, but I’m not turning my nose up at a free tenner, ever, so I got involved.free-money

The games are loose, fun and it’s not as hard as you think to see 750 flops! I played for four hours, pushed my €10 up to €31.56 and saw 200 flops (fish alert!).
Provided you see at least one flop every six days, that money stays in contention; there does not appear to be any strings or bullshit attached to that bonus money; absolutely perfect for noobs!

I used to recommend 888 for totally new players, but from now on, until someone else does better, I’ll be recommending Unibet, because I think they’ve nailed it for total beginners. In fact, I am signing my Dad up this evening… he asked me when he should “stick or twist” whilst playing, but I still think he’ll be okay at those beginner tables!

I wrote a rant a few weeks ago, moaning that live poker operators never buy independent bloggers/media into events and let them say what they want, like a theatre industry review.
I take it back now, because that is what Unibet are doing here.

They have asked me to write a blog during/after the live event, but I have no obligations to them on the content! Regular readers of my blog will know I am always honest in what I write, you cannot buy space on The Poker Baffer, so they are taking a risk.
criticIf I go to Bucharest and it’s a bad event from a low-stakes perspective, I will say it, irrespective of them paying my entry.

I can only assume Unibet are confident about their event being a good one for their target market in a way that other operators are not, because they have invited an independent blogger, on their dollar, and are letting me say what I want.

Between the online poker function, the event schedule and treating me to a short poker holiday, Unibet have certainly made a very positive and exciting first impression; I can’t wait to get there!

Watch this space!
I’ll be writing a piece on the Ladies game the day after, will make some attempt to keep y’all updated as I play the €1100 entry, €500k gtd Main Event, and will write a review of the whole shebang when I get back.
The Ladies event will be Twitch streamed (Marc Convey is commentating), so I’ll post the link when I get it, and I’d love to have some of you rail me/troll me as I play. Bring the NOISE!

In addition, I’m going to give away 10% of anything I win, since I’m in for free, it’s seems a bit tight not to pay some of that forward, so if you want to have a shot at 10% of my winnings (bear in mind 10% of £0 is £0), then follow the instructions below to take part.
I hid it at the end of the blog so it favours you lovely people who always read all the way to the end of my pieces without throwing your device across the room in disgust!

10% Competition T+Cs

  1. You need to “quote” the Tweet of this blog post link with the hashtag #UnibetOpen (no hashtag=no entry).
  2. Due to FB’s ridic rules, I cannot offer this through there, so you have to join Twitter if you haven’t already; it’s better anyway, FB sucks. Find me @ThePokerBaffer.
  3. Entries close 2pm CET on 30th Nov 2016.
  4. Prize is 10% of any winnings from two tournaments: Ladies Invitational and Unibet Open Main Event Bucharest.
  5. You need a Unibet online username to claim the money. If you haven’t got one when I announce the winner, any monies will go to the next person in line.
  6. Winner will be selected by the list of Tweeters being given a number and then a browser RNG used to select one of those numbers.
  7. This competition is nothing to do with Unibet, it’s all me, so don’t pester them with nonsense. I won’t skank you, if you think I might, don’t enter.
  8. I will transfer the money when I have it in my bank account, then put it on Unibet and transfer it, so it will not be instantaneous.
  9. I’m not the world’s best player, so don’t get your hopes up too high!
  10. Wish me luck and give me your rungood. (That’s not a rule, but it would be nice!)

 

The Kassouf Bandwagon

I’ll be honest, I’m only writing about Kassouf because he’s industry click-bait at the moment, and everyone who plays or works poker has heard of him and has an opinion on him.
Opinions are fun, but stimulating a discussion between people who are already obsessed with poker probably doesn’t do much to grow the fish pool, ie I don’t see how me and other poker nerds arguing about whether or not Kassouf is good for poker can, of itself, be good for poker.

Increased traffic may grow ad-revenue for larger sites, but it will be, like all media phenomenon, short lived, and in the long-term, I don’t see how the same people visiting poker news sites a couple of extra times in the space of a month to see what Kassouf has done now is really that “good for poker”.

The only things I see as “good for poker” is attracting more recreational fish to the tables, or more long-term passionate spectators for reliable ad-rev, and I don’t see how Kassouf behaving like he does will do that.
kassouffinalhandThe details of the incident between Benger and Kassouf made the national mainstream media here in the UK, and exposure should always be good, but exposing poker tournaments as places where grown men act like petulant toddlers probably isn’t the public image poker’s PR manager would endorse.

Poker has been in my life for many years, and I have three routes of contact with it: Firstly as a player, secondly as a tournament director and thirdly as a viewer, and my reaction to Kassouf varies depending on what hat I’m wearing.

Viewer

When I watched the first episode of Kassouf I laughed my arse off. I thought he was hilarious, with his nuts and his gravy and his constant chatter.
I definitely thought he was a breath of fresh air in a time when too many thick-armed jocks are sitting silently because they sweated their personalities out at the gym.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a handsome boy to look at, and they’re clearly not idiots, and they’re obviously better poker players than me, but does this new wave of GTO pros have the sparkling personalities of the less physically attractive early characters from televised poker? Hell no.

After initially enjoying Kassouf’s waffle, I’d heard the same few phrases on repeat and I started to feel like the hooker in that shit 00’s drug culture movie, Spun; tied to the bed with a CD skipping loudly.skipping-cd
I applaud and enjoy banter and waffle as a viewer, but Kassouf needs a more varied script and a greater ability to improvise.

When he was being mocked for playing $100 tourneys or posting a picture of a $500 cash stack, why didn’t he have more to say to defend himself?
As a viewer, I was excited to see a guy who played in a £120 tourney in England a few months ago sitting deep in a $10k tourney in Vegas, and yet he genuinely looked ashamed for a moment when Josephy and Moss were taking the piss. He had a really good opportunity to be proud of his low-stakes games on an international forum, and he didn’t have the social skills to finish the banter he started.
If you’re going to be entertaining with your poker banter, you have to be able to think on your feet and be funny (with actual jokes and comebacks) and Kassouf can’t do either.

Kassouf seems to have a lack of genuine emotion, common in lawyers, but not common in the early poker characters like Tony G, Matasow, Negreanu and Hellmuth. Those noisy buggers actually took us on an emotional journey as a viewer; Hellmuth so angry, Negreanu so honestly passionate, Tony G so unashamedly rude and Matasow cried at a beat for fuck’s sake!
The only viewer engagement I can find with Kassouf is seeing how he winds other players up, but then it’s narratively disengaging when he looks all shocked and sheepish as they explode!

SONY DSCKassouf is like a shop dummy with a tape recorder lodged in his chest cavity; an expansively bad actor more than a genuine big character.

Kassouf doesn’t encourage other players to interact in a fun or entertaining way; in every bit of WSOP footage I watched this year, his opponents seem to react badly to him, making some moments uncomfortable and others just boring as they shut down, refusing to talk.
At one point he defends his behaviour with “If we want to make poker popular again, people need to start talking a bit more. I think we should make a song and dance about it. Poker should be fun.”
At that moment, there was not one person at that table having fun. Not the dealer, not the players, not the audience, not the TD; and by looking at his body language as he went over and blustered to somebody on the rail, neither was Kassouf.
I agree people should talk more at live tables, I agree it should be a song and dance, I agree it should be fun, I just don’t think Kassouf has the formula.

There was a lot of table noise and nonsense from Keating over the same period of play, and his table was having fun. Are poker viewers really only interested in watching aggro and awkwardness? I hope not, because unfortunately for poker, it really won’t stand up to a Big Brother or Real Housewives format treatment.
If we can’t pull in viewers for poker with poker, and have to rely on bad drama, I’m worried. I don’t want to watch high-stakes final tables where “some scenes have been edited/scripted for your entertainment”.

Kassouf apparently found a friend in fellow Brit, Andrew Christoforou (British players generally seemed to be better equipped to deal with Kassouf) who entered into Kassouf’s banter arena, but I didn’t think Kassouf was very good at it. This exchange, for example:

Kassouf: You should write a book, I’ll buy it.
Christoforou: You’ll have to learn to read first.
Kassouf: Yeah? You’ll have to learn to write first too.

OOOOOH! Zinger! The Saturday Night Live team are on hold waiting for you to contribute to the script.

bengerBenger gave him some back, at which point, Poker Twitter went mental calling him a bastard for doing so.
That was my favourite bit of the footage, that’s the point of enjoying someone like Kassouf on televised poker, because he pokes the bear, and I wanna see him get pawed.
I cannot believe how many people turned on Benger for fighting back, whatever his reasons! What entertainment are you looking for if Kassouf is cool but anyone who reacts to him is a wanker?

If people are scared to react how they want to Kassouf for fear of people turning on them, then they may just shut-up when the cameras are on, and that means Kassouf will be performing a soliloquy, and after a very short time of laughing, it quickly becomes dull.
Ten years on I still enjoy watching the personalities that are Matasow, Tony G, Negreanu and Hellmuth.
Does Kassouf have that level of interactive longevity? Not from where I’m watching, and I’m not blaming him. The original poker characters came to televised poker having no idea what it would bring. Kassouf knew he’d be making a name for himself with his on-camera activity, which is fine in principle, but deprives viewers of a genuine personality to engage with.

Player

Fuck. That. Noise.

Seriously, live poker is already too slow. Yes, the WSOP ME is a two hour clock, but at Kassouf speed that’s about twenty hands per level.
I wouldn’t like to play with him, because it would be one of those very rare occasions I get my headphones out.

He’s really got nothing to say, so I wouldn’t want to chat with him; and I can’t chat with anyone else because the atmosphere is treacle thick and everyone’s in a bad mood.
gorillaHe gets alpha-male players’ backs-up, so I wouldn’t want to be seen as “on Kassouf’s team” because I’d then have to combat these angry gorillas and I’ve just done my nails.

I’m not joining in with the ganging-up and high-school girl bullying that Kassouf’s presence encourages. Kassouf is bloody annoying, and this brings out the worst in others.
The feature table turned into an absolute bitch-fest with King Of Gorillas Cliff Josephy ring-leading the other little sycophants into some, in my opinion, insidious and nasty behaviour.
In theory, it’s not Kassouf’s fault that they all need to hold eachother’s hands to get into a fight with him, but we all know what happens when you push people.
I hate it when some male players get all ego-war with eachother, puffing chests and cock-measuring and boring the absolute tits off me. It ruins my live game, and it does for a lot of other men and women too; putting people off playing live cannot be good for poker.

If I was at a live table with Kassouf, it would be among the most boring games of my life because I’d be headphoned and listening to podcasts, so I don’t want him at my table, no good there.

If a new player came into a cardroom for the first time, braving the outside after months of playing online and got sat at Kassouf’s table with the noise, the aggro, the bad atmosphere, arguments with players, arguments with the floor and one hand dealt every six minutes, I’m gonna say they’re not that likely to come back.
That’s not much good, is it?

Tournament Director

There is always one player who has to take the rules to breaking point.
They will constantly say “I’m not breaking any rules”! They may even have it on a t-shirt.
They will be very comfortable with the room’s rule book, having read it alone in bed when socially tolerable people are fucking.the-rule-book
They are in no aspect interested in the integrity of the game, only finding potential angles for shooting.
They are dickheads and all TDs hate them.

Kassouf rings my TD alarm bells straight away as “but I’m playing within the rules!” is a phrase he used multiple times during the WSOP and in interviews afterwards.
In the last cardroom I operated, there was no written rule that said “players may not shit on the carpet”, but be absolutely certain that had a player opened their bowels on my fire-resistant, double-pile threads, they’d have been DQ’d from that tourney, no warnings, no arguments, no refunds.

Jack Effel has come under fire for the way he handled Kassouf, but anyone who has worked as a TD will have to respect how calm Jack actually was.
When you have 100 players in your care, and there is one who is draining your energy and resources, compromising the experience of others and then pretending they’re totally innocent when you pull them on their behaviour, it makes you want to pick up a chair and smash them in the face.
That Jack issued a fair penalty and then took time later to talk to Kassouf makes him TD of The Universe in my eyes.

malkovichI’m not going to imagine a cardroom full of Kassoufs, because it would be the End of Days, but let’s imagine there’s enough Kassouf characters to have one on every table, what would that be like?
It would be like a closed cardroom, because business would be lost as genuine recreational players drop off through boredom of poker nerds arguing about rules whilst they waited to play hands.
In addition to the loss of business, there would be a massive spike in labour costs as (and this had to happen in WSOP2016 on Kassouf’s table) two or three floor staff will need to be at every table, monitoring clocks, penalties and player aggro.

More than one Kassouf per cardroom is not good for poker, if lots of players start copying Kassouf’s behaviour without his intelligence, (and thus even less discernible charm and humour) then the only noise louder than Kassouf’s voice will be the swansong of low-stakes live poker.

 

Overall, I do not think Kassouf is good for poker, not by himself, or as a template for others to model their poker room behaviour.
He’s not enough.
He’s not clever enough, he’s not funny enough, he’s not engaging enough, he’s not interesting enough; none of what he does is enough.
He’s got the right idea, let’s have more fun, let’s stop pretending poker is serious, let’s have a laugh when we play live, whatever our stakes!

Let’s have an actual laugh though, not just try to convince potential new players that poker has to be one socially inept guy making everyone else feel emotions on the negative spectrum, because it doesn’t, and we all know it.

 

James Hartigan interview with William Kassouf:

 

 

Good Poker Player, Bad Person?

“There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective ‘knowing’; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our ‘concept’ of this thing, our ‘objectivity’, be.”

Friedrich NietzscheOn the Genealogy of Morality, 1887

I read a blog post this week by @RobVegasPoker about an obnoxious jerk at a poker table. It made me chuckle, but I also felt his pain, because anyone who has played live poker a few times will have come up against somebody who they felt was just a massive arsehole.

I usually read the comments on blogs, especially popular ones like Rob’s because they are invariably hilarious.
One comment did give me pause for thought, and it was this:

“Is it that there is a lot of scum in poker, or does poker bring out the scum in us?”

Bloody good question, I thought.

Poker is a game of deception and aggression, and if “nice guys” come last in life, they certainly come last in poker. A good poker player will routinely destroy his opponents and is not expected to feel anything approaching remorse about that.
In fact, if you do feel bad about taking your opponents’ money, preying on the weaker players and using whatever intellectual/social/mental means are at your disposal to achieve this end, you probably aren’t going to be a very good player.

scumThere is some evidence that people who register higher scores on Sociopathy tests are likely to have attributes that make for a good poker player, most notably a lack of emotional involvement.
“Sociopath” is generally not accepted as being a complimentary way to describe other people, but perhaps for poker players, it should be, because it is a way of saying that you display personality traits that increase the likelihood of you excelling at poker.

The behaviour of the guy detailed in Rob’s blog does not tie in with traditional Sociopathic definitions, because charm and/or the ability to socially manipulate others is a key trait of those described as Sociopaths.
Rob’s “obnoxious jerk” did not seem capable of charming anyone, and in fact Rob’s analysis that “he should be nice to people to keep them at the table” is, as well as being a far more sensible approach to playing poker with recreational players, a more traditionally Sociopathic response.
“I want something from you, I want to own you, and I’ll charm you so hard you won’t know it’s happening”; something or someone that seems “nice” isn’t always “nice”.

In certain environments and in different lights, it would seem that “bad” traits can become “good” ones, and vice versa.

I’m with Rob that this guy’s behaviour should not be allowed, but not because I care if some terrible poker player goes home crying with his ikkle wikkle fweelings hwurting, but because he might not come back and donate again.
Does that make me a bad person for good reasons, or a good person for bad reasons?

This confusion got me to wondering whether characters in the poker world  are particularly “bad” people, or, outside physically hurting someone, whether “bad” or “good” is simply a matter of preference and we should all be looking to associate with like minds, and not looking to find a universal quality of “goodness”.

babyface
Will I grow up “good” or “bad”?

There’s been a bit of a furore in the high-stakes poker world recently, surrounding money lending, agreements between friends and involving constant accusations of this person or that person being a total bastard.
I’m referring to the Dreyfus/Holz carry-on and the Polk/Tollerene brouhaha. I’ve watched videos and read blog posts, stuffing popcorn into my mouth and laughing my tits off.
I was particularly enraptured with Polk’s video… LOL! Mean Girls With Penises! I’m back in high-school!

I’ve often stated I don’t really care what high-stakes players do, they’re not my people, and I didn’t form opinions on any of those involved in terms of whether they were “bad” or “good”.
I think all parties made mistakes, and both situations are so removed from me that I can’t really care about them, so I’m not going to bang on about someone else’s business. (I’ve included some links at the end incase y’all missed the spectacles.)

All I can offer is some personal anecdotes in the quest for comprehending “universal goodness”, and I thank you in advance for your judgements, because sometimes it’s hard to know whether you are right or wrong in a situation.

The Wonga Wangle

In January 2012, I was in such a poor financial state that I borrowed £1500 from Wonga (a short term lender in the UK). On the date I was due to pay it back, I blocked my bank-card, phoned them up and said “Yo! Wonga, not paying this shit back. See you in court, bitches” to see what would happen.
They sent me a rainforest worth of red-topped, threatening letters, all of which I ignored. They phoned me daily and told me I was in trouble.
I told them they were unscrupulous lenders, and if they’d considered the loan properly they’d have realised it was not a good idea to lend me money.

wonga-contact-phone-number
Pretty sure she wasn’t the one phoning me.

They were intimidating, bullying and massively harassing, but I never actually received that court summons.
I had no mortgage, family, or possessions of any value (I didn’t even own a TV at the time), but I did have a daddy who’s a lawyer and advised me to wait for the court summons before shitting my pants.
The result of this was that I was able to sit-out an almost two year period of relentless attack from Wonga’s various recovery departments.

In 2014, following a serious and thorough investigation by financial services governing bodies, the UK media was alight with stories of the poor lending practices of some short-term lenders.
In February 2015 I received an email from Wonga apologising for them offering me an illegitimate loan and a statement that I was no longer liable for the £1500. BOOM. One for the little guys!

Legally, I was a massive winner, but where did I sit morally? I’ve never been comfortable with the law directing my moral compass, the law is, unquestionably, an ass.
When  I clicked “accept” on that loan agreement, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pay them back, so was I in the wrong?

Realistically, they must have known that too, because I’d honestly declared that I only earned £1200 pcm… so how the fuck could they think I’d be able to magic up £1500 in a month and still pay my rent and eat? Dumbasses.
In reality, they didn’t think that. They thought I’d be forced into a long term repayment agreement to save my credit score and they’d make more money out of me; a route I’m sure many of their customers took because they were not in the position, emotionally or practically, to withstand the collections department’s bullying tactics.

Who was more immoral in that situation? I expect it depends on perspective. Neither party was perfect, nor either party perfectly wrong.

This was an agreement between me and a massive, faceless organisation; it’s not really comparable to an agreement between friends or professional acquaintances, is it? You should be able to trust those people with your money, right? Or is lending money always a gamble, whomever you lend it to?

I’ve Been FriendLoaned

In my early 20s, I went to a casino and ripped £1200 off a Roulette table after the dealer trebled zero when I was using a “system” of pressing winning bets. I was £1180 up after 3 spins and I was booking my taxi home before the dealer had cut out the chips to pay me.
A friend was also in the casino and he’d lost the £100 he’d come in with and asked to borrow £50. I chucked a couple of ponies at him, not thinking how he’d pay me back, but actually not caring, because I was buzzing from winning a large sum of money (for me).

I never got back the £50, and I really didn’t care. Perhaps I have the wrong attitude about money, but if I have it, I’ll throw it about; if I don’t, I’ll smell some flowers and not give a shit.
Just under a year later, I was horribly skint three weeks from payday, as my partner and I were partying hard, gambling, drinking and spending far more money than we had. We didn’t care, life was good and money meant nothing to either of us.
The friend from the casino had a nice bink and won £2500 from BJ and Roulette on a night out. I asked him if I could borrow £50 to buy food and coffee for the rest of the month, he refused on the basis that “he never lent money to friends”.friend-money
Never. No matter how much money he had, he NEVER lent money to friends… not even ones he’d borrowed/taken from.

I could have reminded him of that £50 in the casino a year previously, and he’d probably have given me the money, he’d have felt obliged.
I didn’t want him to feel obliged, I wanted him to act like a I would act as a friend.

I just stopped being his friend. It did not feel like a loss, we just didn’t have the same view on life, so the friendship was a waste of time anyway.
I didn’t think it made him a bad guy, he was still funny and clever and a good father and nice enough bloke, but I couldn’t call him a real friend anymore, because, at the very core, we were just too different.

I didn’t run about the place slagging him off, but if anyone asked me, I told them both stories, like I just have you. Loads of people decided he was a cunt for acting like that, and I did what I always do, defended his right to be a cunt, if that’s who he is. I do that because maybe he’s not a cunt, maybe we just have a different perspective on the world, perspectives that can never align.

I don’t believe there are more scummy people in poker than anywhere else, and, perhaps naively, I still believe most people are fundamentally good souls who do their best to live their lives within their own set of standards, which is all any of us can do.
The obnoxious jerk at Rob’s table wasn’t a bad guy, he just wasn’t Rob’s kind of people, or mine, or probably yours, but that doesn’t make him scum. Just like I wouldn’t be scum for telling him to shut the fuck up and doing my best to get him barred.

Sometimes people fall short of our standards, and sometimes we fall short of theirs; sometimes there is a massive shortfall, and those people annoy us too much to have any sort of relationship, whether professional or personal.

Be you, do you, as real as you can, life is too short for fakery and falsehood. If you have the opinion that someone is behaving badly in the poker world, or in the wider world, call them out, loud and proud!

———-

Sociopath Test: How Cold Are You?

Links to the high-stakes moral high jinks:

Joey Ingram summarises stuff and provides links via YouTube
2+2 thread on Dreyfus/Holz
2+2 thread on Polk/Tollerene

Polk’s Video/Dear Diary LOLZ!

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