I had an interesting discussion with someone I know this week over Dara O’Kearney’s opinion piece on the EPT Barcelona.
The discussion (which admittedly degenerated into a slightly circular argument) was stimulated by the accusation that I was unprincipled and hypocritical if I shared Dara’s blog and still continued playing micro-tourneys on PokerStars.
In short, he suggested that too many players sit around complaining and that they should “vote with their feet” and seek to bring PokerStars to their knees if they aren’t happy with the service.

The person I was having the discussion with works, and has done for some time, in Poker Media. His income, like a pro poker player, is dependent on the continuing success of the major operators; unlike poker players, he does not have the freedom to write exactly what he wants about the major operators, well, not if he wants to keep his current source of income!

Lappin Tweet

I don’t feel qualified to write about the EPT, because I have never played an event, or even attempted to satellite into one. I consider them to be outside my financial scope and skill level, so if someone is looking for an opinion on the EPT, I would not advise getting it from me.
Dara O’Kearney, however, is a European circuit pro, has played events on this tour for years, seen it evolve and change and I would recommend that anyone with an interest in the EPT (or its soon to be rebranded equivalent) considers him a source of information worth listening to.

I have also found Dara’s previous blogs to be honest, forthright and written from the heart; so aside from his experience as a poker player, I respect his integrity as a human and as an independent writer. As far as I’m aware, Dara is not paid to write his blogs, they are his own thoughts, uncensored and uncommissioned.
Integrity CompassThis is why I shared his work, not as part of an overall agenda to destroy PokerStars; I love PokerStars, I play the online games that suit me, and I’d be devastated if they make changes that result in them shutting down.

I also work in Social Media, I understand how the algorithms work; I know that if I want my own work to be noticed and shared, I have to notice and share other people’s work.
I know that if I don’t click on links and read other people’s stuff, they won’t click on links and read mine; my (ad free, independent) website currently gets around 2500 hits per week, and I am not kidding myself that’s due to good writing, it’s due to knowing how to play the social media game.

I like to think my writing is competent and always honest in its core, any opinions you read here are mine, but you’re probably here because I forced the link through with an understanding of social media, not because I’m a literary genius.

This is the way media is going… and I guess the mainstream media people just don’t like it. The chap I was talking to said, “Clicking ‘share’ on a blog is pathetic. It’s not action. It doesn’t create a dialogue.”
The irony of this being uttered during a discussion about the blog aside, it makes me wonder what EPT are thereby hoping to achieve by employing such a monstrous media team, if simply sharing links, remote from the event, is “pathetic”, in terms of its ability to garner interest and discussion.

I used to work in the theatre, and production companies invite reviewers all the time to shows. These professional critics are given the best seat in the house, free drink, access to the stars of the show and generally fawned over like they are Gods; they still go away and crush souls (and careers) with their poison pen.theater-critic-home

Can you imagine what would happen to the guy writing the PokerStars blog if on Day 1a he wrote “Stars seem to be trying to weed out the pros and other winning players, while making no effort to make things better for recreational playersorTours like WSOP, MPN, Party, Winamax, GUKPT, GPPT and Unibet who are all making a much bigger effort to make their events fun and profitable rather than merely profitableorAmaya in particular have shown an amazing ability to think they can squeeze an extra buck profit by slaughtering the golden goose to sell the meat”?

I’m pretty sure another guy would have replaced him before the end of level 2, and they’d be powering through writers until they found one that wrote the copy they wanted to see.
That’s what you get when you pay a writer, you don’t pay him for his opinion, you pay him to put yours into words… and if he can’t/won’t… there’s plenty more where he came from.

Will operators ever, in the style of the theatre, pay the buyin/hotel/costs of an independent media person for a festival, and then let them write what they want about it? Or, from a brand development perspective, will it always be better to spend every inch of the available budget on marketing in various forms, and hope that overwhelms any independent blogs that pop up with different views on the “truth” that the operators want us to see?

During the discussion, there was also the suggestion that Dara would not have written this blog if he’d made the final table, or cashed very deep, “Take all poker players’ opinions with a huge teaspoon of salt because when it’s all going well, ain’t no moaning going on”.

I don’t think that’s fair at all, especially as I chatted with @Aseefo, the legendary poker tourist, who also said that EPT Barcelona “wasn’t as good as last year”, and he’s always joking about how he never cashes, nor seriously expects to cash, in any event he satellites into (which is all of them).
TouristIf PokerStars/Amaya are trying to impress recreational players who have EPT on their radar and Aseefo’s falling off the fan-bus, something has gone wrong.

It’s very true that people are more inclined to be vocal when they have a complaint, and less so when they are happy with everything, so perhaps the mainstream poker media is needed to address that balance. If people only write independent blogs when they’re pissed off, then maybe it’s fair that the PokerStars blog makes everything sound golden in the interim.
Equally, perhaps people are just getting a bit sick of reading marketing copy as “news”, which is why opinion editorials are consistently dominating all media streams on all topics. These days there’s an op-ed piece available on a breaking news story before the live report has even finished.

Poker media is traditionally fairly hyperbolic and slightly disingenuous. We all know that “live earnings of £15mil” is a statement that might mean the player being discussed has anywhere from £14.9mil to £1k in actual profit… right?
We all know that a guy who won a European Poker Tour title from a $27 satty probably played a few of them, and it’s almost impossible that his actual outlay was only $27… right?
We all know these statements are designed, reworded and jammed with adjectives specifically with the intentions of getting the recs excited about a brand so they start shovelling their money in at the bottom end… right?

Do the poker media writers think serious, low-stakes recs are fooled, nearly 15 years after poker exploded into mainstream consciousness? How long did they think they’d get away with writing the same stuff over and over and over?
Amaya/PokerStars is never going to pay someone to write the words “our shareholders are very happy with the direction the company is going”, even if it’s the truth, because that is not the image they want to project.promisevsreality

I don’t want to boycott PokerStars on the back of Dara’s blog, and unless I missed something, I’m not sure he’s suggesting anyone should.
I took from his blog that he’s suggesting Amaya listen to the people who pay to play with them, before those people take their business elsewhere. His words may well have been scathing, but I still felt they came from a place of loving the brand, and a sadness that he felt it was on a path to self-destruction.
The EPT is a brand I aspire to, even if they rebrand it, I aspire to the ideal; it’s the Gucci to the Primark of tournaments I currently play.
If, in my poker future, I do win a $7k package to a $5k EPT/PokerStars Tour event, I can’t wait to be treated like the luckbox poker Goddess I am. I took from Dara’s blog a warning that this may not be the future that I can look forward to anymore.

I went to the €550 buyin BoM tournament last year on a $1500 package and stayed in a 5* hotel; it sounds like I had better accommodation than anyone who won an EPT Barcelona package this year.
I cashed for €0 but still had an amazing time, with 100s of players like me, free food whilst I played and side events that were affordable and well-structured.
If the Primark product catches up to Gucci… why would I still aspire to Gucci?

I think trying to attract recreational players to $5k events on the promise of a top prize of $1.1mil is the PPI mis-selling of the poker world. It’s a MoneyMaker Media model that’s a decade out of date; packages like that should be sold to recs on the basis of it being a holiday, a great experience, with the poker as an incidental.
How can mainstream poker media write corporate sponsored marketing about winning €1mil from one $27 satellite bullet and post it next to a strategy article on good bankroll management aimed at beginners/recs?
It’s definitely time to change tact, and sell this aspirational poker ideal to recs as a getaway, not a heist.

If all the money spent on marketing and media brings EPT back on to terrestrial TV, then that has to be good for the poker economy, and players like Dara should perhaps be prepared to take a hit.
However, if a player, whether a rec or a reg is qualifying for a $7k package for a $5k event, and some of that money is being syphoned off to pay for an extensive media team or directly into the pockets of shareholders, then this should be clearly stated everywhere from the tourney lobby to the final media coverage.

Liar NewsAs soon as that fact is stated, the regs will stop playing for packages, they’ll play seat-only and sort their own hotels, possibly being forced into lower buyin events as a result of added costs (whether cash or time costs).
The knock-on effect of that is less packages available for the recs to aim for with their one or two $27 bullets on payday (do these people actually exist? Say hello!).
Rec players want packages, and they’ll start playing for lower buyin events that offer the 5* hotel accommodation; after that, the regs will follow them, because they like the fish in their water, not in a different pond.

I like the EPT video coverage (I can’t be bothered reading hand transcriptions, but the footage is highly entertaining).
I love PokerNews as a site and use it all the time, but I also read and share many blogs, written by pro-players like Dara and no-marks like myself.
I think sharing those is vitally important as a method of creating a source of independent poker media, because in the absence of an eccentric millionaire funding a truly independent poker media channel, there is, as Lappin tweeted, none available.

A poker media professional accused Dara of being bitter because he didn’t win the tournament, I’m throwing it back to him and suggesting that he’s bitter that people are not just reading the bought and paid for work that’s easy for him to churn out, copy and pasting a different operator’s name next to loads of positive adjectives.
Poker fans are reading work that someone like Dara has taken time out of his busy schedule to write for free; Dara may not be 100% correct (no opinion piece ever can be, there is no such thing as truth, only perspective) but at least he’s 100% genuine, and that is more interesting to me than the words of someone who has a corporate sponsored script to conform to.