Posted: 6/3/2011 6:05:27 PM
You wouldn’t blame Michael Jordan if your Hanes underwear didn’t provide comfort as advertised, and it’s doubtful you’d demand that Jamie Lee Curtis personally refund your money if Activia yogurt failed on its guarantee to regulate your digestive system.
So why are poker players, whose Black Friday refunds have yet to materialize, blaming their misfortune on the pros who represented their chosen sites?
It’s a simple question, with a bit of a complex answer. Well, poker players always have been an eccentric bunch to begin with. But these days, many of them are angry, frustrated, impatient and borderline broke, too.
All of which are still no excuse for the vitriol with which they have pointed a finger at the high-profile pros who represented the sites in the wake of the April 15 online poker sting that shut down services to U.S.-based players and froze hundreds of millions in accounts.
While the angst is understandable, zeroing in on guys like Phil Ivey and Howard Lederer as the target of their ire is misguided at best, abusive at worst.
This bizarre dynamic boiled over this week when Ivey, who is widely regarded as the world’s best all-around poker player, announced that he was suing Full Tilt over its failure to refund players since Black Friday, and that he also was sitting out the World Series of Poker as a means of protest.
And with that, Ivey officially became a martyr for a cause that shouldn’t be his to bear alone, and a sacrificial lamb for a predicament that he ostensibly has nothing to do with in the first place
The lawsuit alone was enough of a symbolic gesture to show that he feels the pain of aggrieved poker players who are standing on the WSOP sidelines empty-handed in part because they have yet to receive their refunds from sites such as Full Tilt and Ultimate Bet. Sitting out the WSOP is tantamount to self-maiming for a guy who has won more than $5.3 million and eight championship titles at the event.
But who can fault him for wanting to disappear for a while? Of the many curious reactions I’ve witnessed since Black Friday – many of which are steeped in inaccuracies from people who should know better – perhaps the most puzzling was the generally accepted notion that top-notch pros who were sponsored by the sites are somehow responsible for seeing that every penny is returned to players who had accounts there.
Some of the biggest offenders were other pro players, some of whom tweeted and made comments in the media along the lines of, “So-and-so from this website had better make sure I get my money back.”
To which I ask, since when was your fiscal responsibility their job? Your wait for a refund is their fault …because …?
Guys like Ivey and Lederer didn’t cut the checks at Full Tilt, they accepted them. They did the commercials, wore the logos on their caps and played a set amount of hours on the site. For these tasks, they were compensated per their contracts.
They were pitch men for Pete’s sake and, last I looked, working in sales is infinitely more legal than playing online poker for a living, as we all just found out.
Anyone who didn’t see Black Friday coming after the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act was passed in 2006 is either hopelessly arrogant, irresponsible, naïve, just plain dumb or some toxic combination therein.
In other words, if you can’t afford the buy-in to a WSOP event because the majority of your net worth is locked up in a cyberspace quagmire, then behind the ropes is where you belong.
Yes, thousands of people played online poker for a living, and the smart ones made an occasional cashout request and balanced their budget as to not have too much money locked up in any singular entity. Others just acted like reckless gamblers.
I consider myself fortunate because I played at the one site, PokerStars, that has made refunds to U.S. players. I got lucky. It could’ve easily turned out the other way around.
I am a somewhat serious live poker player – which I prefer – who tried online as a way to adapt to the skills and players that were changing the game. When I started, I tried out both sites and immediately had a problem with Full Tilt, so I canceled the account and went with PokerStars.
But when I first heard of the Black Friday indictments, I considered my money as good as gone. No matter how safe or secure online poker seemed, the idea always stuck in the back of my mind that the waters I treaded in were murky.
So whenever I landed a decent tournament score, I almost immediately requested a cashout, more out of an innate fear of what might happen if I left the prize floating in cyberspace than any sort of need to get my hands on the cash.
Coincidentally, I had won a decent chunk just a few days before Black Friday and lamented the fact that I hadn’t made a payout request.
But I wasn’t about to aim my chagrin at Daniel Negreanu or anyone who worked for the site, and Full Tilt players shouldn’t be blaming Phil Ivey or Howard Lederer.
Because doing so is sort of like blaming Jamie Lee Curtis for your problems with going number two. Which might lead to a problem with your Hanes underwear.