POKER OP-EDS

Breaking Poker’s Fourth Wall

By Robbie Strazynski
October 13, 2023

In the performing arts, there’s a concept called the “fourth wall”. Essentially, it’s a construct that acts as an imaginary barrier between the performers and the audience. The audience can see through it, but the performers exist solely within their own world. In purely theatrical terms, that fourth wall must remain intact. The idea that poker media coverage also has a fourth wall would never have occurred to me. But Hamas blew all of that up a few days ago.

Yes, Hamas. Why? How? Because I am a Jew and I live in Israel.

For almost 14 years, now, Cardplayer Lifestyle has cultivated and grown its audience exclusively by bringing you poker content: interviews, news, op-eds, strategy, reviews of the best poker training sites, live event coverage, hosting Mixed Game Festivals, and much more. Starting out with just one poker writer (me), we’ve grown to showcase the work of dozens of contributors, bringing top-quality, unique poker content your way day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

Publishing’s rule of thumb is that one must always stay active; and, indeed, we have, for poker has no true offseason. We’re obviously not the largest poker media site, but we’ve undeniably made something of a name for ourselves in the poker industry. I’m so incredibly proud of the consistency we’ve delivered for so long. Just poker. We’re purists. We’re performing poker artists, for you, our audience.

But now Hamas has broken through the fourth wall, meaning I need to address you all directly. From my home. In Karnei Shomron.

fourth wall

Bigger Than Me; Bigger Than the Brand

In business, it’s all about branding. Sure, I’m Cardplayer Lifestyle’s front man and primary representative, but this site long ago got bigger than me. We’ve created something. We’ve worked tirelessly to compile a body of work that any group of poker media professionals could take pride in.

And that’s why writing this article, publishing it, and sharing it with you goes against every “professional” bone and instinct in my body. I desperately don’t want to ruin that illusion. I want to stay true to my craft; my undeniable calling. And believe me when I tell you that I’d much rather write about Phil Hellmuth dodging figurative bullets at the felt (baby!) than soldiers and reservists — like my home game buddies and their sons — dodging very real bullets aimed at very real babies.

But I didn’t break the fourth wall. Hamas did.

Hamas derailed me. Hamas threw me off my game. Hamas has made it nigh impossible for me to do this poker media thing; and impossible for me to continue separating the professional from the personal.

I’m so incredibly fortunate. I don’t live near the frontlines. I don’t serve in the army reserves. I’m safe. I’m home. My wife and my children are with me. How utterly sad that hundreds of thousands of people in my country cannot say that right now. Please read that last line one more time!

But while I’m muddling along on the home front, I’ve also been attacked. I’m one of the millions now experiencing and living through a national trauma that’s anyone’s guess re: how long it’ll take to pass, if ever. It’s a trauma that has affected every waking moment of my days. Naturally, that includes my efforts to run this poker media site and carry on with my business.

Have we continued publishing? Damn right, we have! Thanks to the efforts of our regular contributors, our editor, and our social media manager, (my hope is that) our audience hasn’t noticed too much of a disruption in our regular output.

But me? I feel like I’m malfunctioning. And while my ship might perhaps be able to navigate its way through poker’s seas without me holding tight to the wheel, a captain knows when his vessel is in jeopardy of running aground.

EPT Cyprus: The Poker Stop that Got Away

I was supposed to be heading to cover EPT Cyprus this coming Sunday. I was so excited. A European Poker Tour stop in my own time zone! A brand-new location for one of poker’s great longtime event series. The chance to see so many familiar faces at the felt once again. The chance to discover new up-and-coming rising stars. The opportunity to share a host of magical experiences with you. I was going to Cardplayer Lifestyle the heck out of my five days on-site.

Like a desperate poker player, I kept hoping for the one outer to come through; maybe this thing would somehow settle down quickly…

But foreign airlines are staying the hell away from this war zone right now, and justifiably so.

cyprus cancelled

But even if I had a ticket out on a national Israeli carrier, how could I in good conscience possibly leave my family right now? Now, when my kids decided on their own that they want to sleep in our house’s fortified safe room even though our region of the country is in (relatively) no ostensible danger. Now, as our nation’s orthodox rabbis have issued directives that when leaving the house to attend synagogue this coming shabbat we MUST take our phones with us.

How can I fathom leaving my country right now? Now, as my compatriots are scrambling to find flights TO Israel from all over the world, so that they can rejoin their army reserve units in defense of our Homeland. It’s simply anathema to abandon the Home Front at this critical moment, even if it’s just a one-hour flight away.

Hopefully things will be back to some semblance of normal soon. We need to fully regain that all-important sense of personal security. Our kids need to go back to schools in classrooms, and do so without fearful parents worrying about them having to scurry off to bomb shelters multiple times a day.

And, yeah, it would also be really nice to be able to travel again for poker trips.

Busted, But Still in Action

My sleep schedule is off. The little sleep I’m getting is of poor quality. I’m managing to (mal)function, but just barely. How, barely? Because of your love. Because of your care. Because of your support. Because I don’t want to let anyone down.

There are silver linings to this dark cloud. I have never seen my country, my nation, more united. Everyone is stepping up. Everyone is doing something, be it serving, volunteering, or even just an extra unnoticed deed of a Good Samaritan.

And you’re all helping me, too. Your messages, public and private, have swelled my heart with positivity. Some of you have sent me money to assist with my efforts to procure foodstuffs and supplies for our soldiers. Others have taken time out of their day to speak with me on the phone, allowing me the most delightful occasional respite from this situation’s incessant, unending anxiety. I even got a spontaneous video call directly from Poker Hall of Famer Linda Johnson‘s 70th birthday luncheon yesterday where, for a couple moments, the three dozen or so attendees very vocally sent all their love my way.

I’ll freely admit that I shed a couple tears of gratitude when that call ended. I’m exceptionally fortunate to have such wonderful friends.

Everyone out there is exhorting me to try and stay safe. I’m just trying to stay sane, folks.

Rebuilding the Fourth Wall

Poker media doesn’t “matter”. Not in the grand scheme of things. Not when a war of good versus evil is raging.

I don’t know how to defend my country other than to just stay and be here. Really. I quite literally told my wife: “this past week has demonstrated to me JUST how useless I’d be in defense of this country.”

But a local friend told me “Robbie, you have a following; you should speak out. That’s how you can help.” I gently corrected him: “There are many people out there who trust me. I can’t abuse that trust, but maybe If I say something they’ll listen. So yeah, I’ll try.”

Over this past week, I’ve been posting regularly on my personal social media platforms… wondering if it makes a difference.

I can’t remember anything I’ve written getting such tremendous “engagement”. Here are some of the incredible reactions:

“It’s not your job to ensure the rest of the world continues to pay attention, I know that your updates are doing an equal job to the news stories I read of making sure that people like me who are geographically far away from the horrific reality, understand the daily impact of it a little bit better than we otherwise would.”

“You always express yourself with tremendous foresight and fortitude… Please share your thoughts, we all get an abundant sense of being strengthened from it.”

“Your efforts are not lost or underappreciated over here on the other side of world.”

“Please don’t stop writing; your friends are listening.”

“Robbie you are part of my world in poker, and one of the good ones. However, there are certain aspects in life that hold far greater significance. I want to express my deepest appreciation for your willingness to share with us, as it allows us to establish a genuine human connection to something that our minds often struggle to comprehend.”

“What you wrote here would be suitable for an article, too. Poker takes a back seat when there is war.”

So perhaps even a broken fourth wall can be a hidden blessing, too. And it’ll get rebuilt soon enough, in due time.

So, What Can YOU Do?

Everyone… and I mean EVERYONE is asking me “how can I help?”

Well, if you want to help me then I’ll humbly ask that you please keep actively showing Cardplayer Lifestyle some love when it comes to consuming poker media. That’s the fuel on which I thrive.

Far, FAR more importantly, if you really want to help and can’t think of a way how, here’s a curated list of some registered non-profits and grassroots efforts that you can choose to support, to help get us back on our feet and rebuild: https://support4israel.com/

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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded Cardplayerlifestyle.com in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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