Poker players engage in fruitless blame game

Forum: Poker
Author: [Poker] Topic: Poker players engage in fruitless blame game
Josh_Nagel PM Josh_Nagel
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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.    

depeche2 PM depeche2
Joined: Feb 2002
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Posted: 6/4/2011 11:35:48 AM
Terrible terrible analogy.  Many of these 'poker pros' were much more intwined with their sites than Michael Jordan with Hanes or Jamie Lee Curtis with Activia.  They weren't just pitch men.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe many of them had or have actual ownership stakes.  They were part-owners.  They were extended special deals.  Extended credit.  They had special access to those sites that regular players did not.  They were on the inside.  None of that is to say that they knew what was coming or now have the power to force the sites to immediately pay everyone.  But to suggest that they were merely pitchmen is ludicrous.

You mentioned Howard Lederer.  Lederer is one of the founders, co-owners and CEO's of Tiltware, Inc., which is a part owner of Full Tilt.  Just a pitch man?  Hah, now that's funny.  Some of the pros wearing hats were just pitch men, but many of them were much more involved than that.
Josh_Nagel PM Josh_Nagel
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Posted: 6/4/2011 2:01:28 PM

You have a point; I didn't realize until Full Tilt released its counter statement, and other reports emerged, that Lederer was involved in the ownership of Tiltware.

But, as you also point out, it doesn't mean he knows what happened to their money or how to get it back. I still think he has been made an unfair scapegoat. It's clear now that Full Tilt was playing with money that wasn't theirs to play with, and now they are caught with their tail you know where.

I think my analogy still has some merit, but knowing what I do now, I wouldn't have lumped Lederer in the same category as Ivey. Even the lesser-involved pros who are just wearing the gear have taken their share of heat.

Thanks for your feedback and thanks for reading.

Josh_Nagel PM Josh_Nagel
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Posted: 6/4/2011 3:27:11 PM
Perhaps a better analogy would be the relationship some golf companies have with the players they sponsor. Some of the players are heavily involved in the development of club technology and other gear.

I'm sure Phil Mickelson gets all sorts of benefits from Callaway, and is privy to information about the company that most of us do not know.

However, if Callaway, a publicly traded company, went bankrupt tomorrow and you were a share holder, would you demand Mickelson refund what you lost?

I think this is a more relevant comparison to the Full Tilt situation than the original one I wrote in the above blog. Thanks to Depeche for helping me clarify what I was trying to say. 
Bling PM Bling
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Posted: 6/5/2011 7:03:03 PM
Is this a post by you or are you copying an article?  It reads like an article, not a message board post.

My opinion is that the Pros deserve to take on some responsibility.  They whored themselves out to these websites to bring in tens of thousands of U.S. players, many of whom have lost a significant amount of money due to black Friday.

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