I don’t pen op-eds too often, but when I do they almost always come from a place of raw emotion.
For a while, now, I’ve been stewing about a number of things that greatly disturb me that happen all too regularly in poker. I’ve been biting my tongue because I know there will be blowback from this piece, but I can stay silent no longer.
Certain behaviors just have to stop.
So, criticize me if you must, but here’s what’s been bothering me lately in the poker world.
Stop Insta-Shaming People and Companies
One of the great didactic concepts I was taught during my yeshiva studies was The Brisker Method – specifically the idea of “Cheftza/Gavra” – namely that a distinction must be made between an individual and the actions of said individual.
With large social media platforms at our beck and call, too many of us have fallen into a regular habit of shitting on people and companies. “He sucks!” “Fuck those bastards at that company!”
What ever happened to nuanced disagreement? What ever happened to being civil?
Would those so outspoken online be so quick to walk into that same company’s headquarters, guns blazing, and begin ranting and raving at the people working there? Probably not.
Are all the retweeters and sharers out there so confident they’d walk up to that poker player/official in the hallways of the Rio during the WSOP and talk the same shit to their faces that they’re helping spread online? Unlikely.
Do people do bad things? Yes.
Do companies make mistakes? Absolutely.
Online poker players have been hit repeatedly. Scandal after scandal. Funds withheld or disappearing. Bot rings and collusion. Promised rewards retroactively revoked. It can make a person want to pull their hair out and be afraid to trust anyone.
But why the incessant need to stoop to all-out, foulmouthed social media war about every little thing in poker that rubs you the wrong way?
Isn’t anyone else out there in the poker community tired of waking up to their timelines and asking “let’s see what’s bothering people today and who got pissed off at whom?”
You may not agree with this op-ed, but does that make me a bad person?
You may hate a decision made by a poker operator, but does that automatically mean everyone working at that company is doomed to be a horrible turd with no possibility of ever changing your opinion?
When you always insta-zoom from black to white with no room in the middle for respectfully debating anything gray, whatever message you’re hoping to convey will get lost and fall on deaf ears, never leaving the echo chamber.
Here are some alternative suggestions to consider:
- Disagree, but respectfully.
- Reach out privately instead of trashing publicly and engage directly without needing to involve the entire poker community.
- Ignore, dissociate yourself from, and don’t give any publicity to companies and individuals whose actions you see as untoward.
- Take your money and attention elsewhere.
- Use your time, effort, energy, and platforms to constantly heap praise on individuals and companies doing things right, rather than to tear others down for doing things wrong.
Stop Hating for the Sake of Hating
Related to the previous point, criticism – even very harsh criticism – is indeed sometimes warranted in the poker world, but it ought to have a constructive purpose.
The mob mentality of piling on with nothing of substance to add to an argument or disagreement other than vitriolic spew is misguided at best. Even so, it’s become so common that we’ve just come to accept the phrase “haters gonna hate”. But why give in like that?
Hate is a powerful emotion and can be used to tremendously productive ends. Hate can get you to stand fiercely and steadfastly against someone’s actions you deem wrong. Hate can drive you to demonstrate for change. Hate, when properly channeled and expressed, can genuinely work to enact that change.
But hate for the sake of hating? It’s a waste of energy, an immediate turn off, and dooms your expression to irrelevance. That’s precisely the type of hate to which people respond “fuck the haters,” only serving to widen the chasms of division.
Let’s get better at hating. Let’s hate with purpose.
Stop Not Paying On Time
This is probably my biggest pet peeve: when people and companies don’t pay on time. While this issue isn’t necessarily limited to our industry and community, for some reason it seems just a bit more prevalent in poker. Perhaps too many individuals and organizations are too willing to gamble with their reputations?
If you have provided a service or delivered a product to someone, you need to get paid for it in a timely manner. Full stop. Whether that service is lending money, producing content, marketing via social media channels, or anything else, once that service has been provided, it needs to be paid for without delay.
This issue in particular bothers me for two reasons:
- When I receive a product or service, I always pay for it immediately.
- Too often, I have personally provided a service or delivered a product and have had to chase payment for an inordinate amount of time.
Life happens and on occasion a (reasonable) delay is understandable and forgivable, but it’s a shame that a pattern of delayed payment is condoned even in the slightest.
“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” might work in cartoons, but a modus operandi of that nature has no place in real life, especially in trying economic times like these where so many are struggling.
Stop Reacting to Things Taken Out of Context
Save for some scientific experiments, nothing happens in a vacuum. There’s always context. It’s become the way of the world – and the poker world in particular – for snippets of conversations and statements to be taken out of context and then amplified by agenda-driven people and agencies.
As mentioned, it’s become the way of the world, so that’s perhaps unstoppable. Content creators and influencers have mastered the art and science of thumbnails, editing, and other forms of clickbait to grab your attention. Hell, I click on it all, too! That, in it of itself, is not necessarily a “bad” thing.
However, as media consumers we have the power – and the responsibility! – to think critically.
How often do we ask ourselves “wait; he said what? What was the context?”
Knee-jerk reactions are only natural; we are human. The very definition of “knee-jerk,” however, is “automatic and unthinking.”
As a community of poker players who pride ourselves on the ability to think critically, it behooves us to be an audience of responsible poker media consumers.
- Don’t just read a headline or a selected quote. Read the whole article.
- Don’t just listen to an audio snippet. Listen to the entire podcast.
- Don’t only watch the video clip. Watch the whole video.
Stop the Victim Mentality
You know how nobody likes to hear a bad beat story?
Now, stop and think for a moment WHY nobody wants to hear a bad beat story.
Because bad beats happen, and they happen to everyone. It’s part of the game of poker and just a fact of life.
No matter how skilled a player you are and no matter how well you’ve played, there’s always the element of luck, and bad luck is bound to strike at some point. Bad luck sucks, but it happens to us all.
We can’t control the bad beats or cards we’re dealt, but we sure as hell can control how we deal with them. Some players tilt. Other (more successful) players think, reflect, and come back stronger.
The pandemic has dealt our community a mighty blow. Many of us, players, poker room staff, and members of the industry, cannot currently practice our craft or carry out plans we had envisioned.
It sucks. Royally.
So PIVOT! Change gears. Try a different game. Try playing online instead (or, if not possible in your jurisdiction, get yourself somewhere where it IS possible). Dust off and send out your resumes. Actively pitch yourself and your services to someone. Try vlogging. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and think outside the box.
Years ago I found myself in a situation where for a variety of reasons I was unable to get a job. So I cleaned houses and did random errands for people until I could get back on my feet. And I swallowed my pride and did that with my Masters Degree in tow. Because after the tears dried up, I still had bills to pay and I knew that dollar bills weren’t just going to rain down from the sky.
More recently I had HUGE plans in place for this summer and was 24 hours away from making a major announcement. Then the pandemic hit. It still hurts. There have been some days during these past five months where I’ve been nearly paralyzed to a catatonic state with the inability to go on. Personal challenges. Business challenges. Things beyond my control. But I’m still here and still grinding, trying to make the best of it until things get back to normal.
Sometimes life will throw you a barrage of curveballs, but you’ve got to keep swinging until you figure out a way to get on base. Complaining that the pitcher isn’t throwing to your sweet spot will get you nowhere except benched in the dugout.
There Will Be Time Enough for Counting When the Dealing’s Done
When our time’s up and the great poker game of life comes to an end for each and every one of us, words will be etched on our tombstones and in the memories of the people we leave behind.
I don’t want to be remembered as a guy who didn’t pay on time or as a guy who became well-known through destroying other people’s reputations. I would rather be remembered as a guy who built up a smaller, but strong and loyal, audience through producing meaningful and thoughtful content than as a guy who built up a massive audience through trying to endlessly capture meaningless virality through loaded, reactionary social media posts.
And, finally, I would rather be remembered as a guy who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and who “went down swinging”… and who hopefully made a tangible, positive difference because of it.