“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Greed, 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.
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?
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.