Mean Gene
Mean Gene
Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger, which I admit is like being the best shortstop in Greenland

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My Articles

Presto, the Arlo, & the Hammer
An Online Code of Conduct
The Ethics of Ratholing
"The Professor, the Banker..."
"Ace on the River"

My Columns

Lose the Shades
If You Can't Say Something Nice
Whither the Kicker
The Lady is a Champ?
Covering the WSOP (or not)
Statistics, Luck, and Poker
Poker and New Orleans
Managing a Bankroll
How To Tell A Bad Beat Story
Telling Lies
The Power of Poker Tracker
Advanced Card-Handling

My Greatest Hits

5 Things To Do Before I Die
Cafeteria Nostalgia
Mean Gene's Dubious Dating Tips
Poker and Business?
There's No Such Thing As Luck?
Isabelle, Je t'adore
No Shirt No Shoes No Service
Well, The Food Was Good
Good Morning, Mr. Matusow!
The Weekend of our Discontent, I
The Weekend of our Discontent, II
Books That Left Their Mark
Ode to a Fish Sandwich
Bill Simmons Ain't the Poker Guy
The Sports Guy Still Ain't the Poker Guy
Again, The Media Tackles Poker
Five Years After 9/11
Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face
Sixth-Graders Suck

Fellow Poker Bloggers

Guinness and Poker
Cards Speak
Tao of Poker
Up for Poker
Boy Genius
Chris Halverson
Poker Grub
The Fat Guy
Todd Commish
Poker Works
Bill Rini
Bad Blood
Love and Casino War
Double As
Lion Tales
Paul Phillips
Daniel Negreanu
Poker Nerd
Poker Nation
Poker in Arrears
Human Head
Sound of a Suckout
Chicks With Chips
TP's Table Talk
Royal Poker
This is Not A Poker Blog
Chick and a Chair
Go Be Rude
Poker Cheapskate
Poker & Other Stuff
Seven Two
Musical Poker
WPBT Online
Isabelle Mercier
Cardschat Blog
Amy Calistri
BJ Nemeth
Annie's Blog

Poker Sites

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Poker Pages


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    Friday, March 30, 2007

    I'm Gettin' Good At This Poker Thing

    So I'm playing a SNG and the very first hand I'm dealt Q-10. With four limpers ahead I decide to call one off the button and see if I hit something. And I do--the flop comes Q-8-10. Top two, but a bit of a dangerous board, someone certainly has some kind of straight draw. It's checked around to me and I decide to make a pot-sized bet.

    Except...the action skips past me to the button, who also checks. Wait a second...where are my cards?

    I don't think I've ever done this before, but I folded my hand by accident. OK, I've done that before, but I think this is the first time I folded by accident and not realized it. Totally whiffed. And no, I didn't have six Bloody Mary's for breakfast.

    Turns out the dude to my right flopped the straight. If I led out, and he raised might've gotten ugly. But because my poker instincts are so sharp right now I wriggled off that hook before it even, uh, hooked me. My subconscious rules.

    Sunday, March 25, 2007

    Quack Quack!

    I rooted for Kansas to beat UCLA last night...not realizing that my best bracket at the moment has UCLA in the final. True, I'm toast in the HUGE pool I'm in with like 500 people, but I'm in first place in Pauly's pool. I need Oregon to beat Florida today. That would help, like, SO much. Florida has had too much success lately. Duck 'em.

    Oh, God, I didn't really write that, did I, that's just awful.

    Turning our attention to poker...could I stop getting knocked out of tournaments on 3-outers, please? I'm happy with how I've been playing, with a few ghastly mistakes along the way that won't be repeated, but in my last three tournaments (or multi SNGs) I've been knocked out holding QQ. Against A-3, 66, and (this one hurt) Q-10. I flopped the set, he flopped top pair, he went runner-runner for the flush. Which is what I did to my commode after I vomited into it.

    UPDATE: Well, that'll teach me to talk about my brackets before the Final Four is set. What with Oregon losing and North Carolina going 17 minutes without a field goal to close out the game and overtime. Awesome. Well, at least now I don't have to give a crap and can just root for Ben Howland to win a title.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007

    Goin' For A Walk

    The non-traveling call on Jeff Green at the end of the G-Town-Vandy game was...appalling? About as bad as it gets. Not only does he hop on his pivot foot a few times, he goes ahead and does a whole 'nother spin move to get away from the double team. And gets his desperation heave to kiss glass and go through the iron. Pretty sick, that.

    If it wasn't for Acie Law IV honking a layup I'd have all eight Elite teams in the bracket I filled out for the mondo pool I'm in with like 600 people. I also have seven of the eight in my leading bracket in Pauly's pool. I need Carolina to make the final to have any chance (have them winning in one and runner-upping in another) so I was happy to see the Tar Heels come back against an exhausted USC team. What's the deal with teams coming back from HUGE second half deficits? VCU did it to Pitt, Ohio State came back on Tennessee, and Carolina tonight. That damn three-point shot, no lead is ever safe.

    UPDATE: Of course I see that the person in first place in Pauly's pool has ALL EIGHT Elite teams. Showoff. Crap. But if Carolina wins it all, I might be OK. Go Heels!

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Who Needs A Civics Lesson? Or Composition?

    I just read Allyn Jaffrey Shulman's latest column over at Card Player. Headlined "Write Your Congressman", it discusses the news that Barney Frank, the new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, plans to introduce a bill to repeal the UIGEA. We're OK so far. Thing is, after identifying Frank as the chairman of the HOUSE Financial Services Committee, she spends the rest of the column calling him "Senator" Frank.

    Sigh. Now, last week Bill posted a little something about Frank's intentions and I teased him because he too gave Frank a promotion to Senator. Now, Bill just made a (quickly-corrected) boo-boo in a post, and besides, he lives in exotic Gibraltar and floats above our petty politics. Shulman actually calls Frank a "US Congressman" who chairs a House committee...and then refers to him as "Senator" the rest of the way. Shulman is identified as the "Card Player Resident Legal Expert". Uh huh.

    In the column there is a link you can click that takes you to a page where you can send a form letter to your Congressman and/or Senators. Fine. What's NOT fine is the form letter itself. Allow me to post it here in it's entirety:
    Dear Member of Congress:

    I am a voter. I am a poker player. And, I am mad.

    Under your watch, Congress passed legislation that prohibits me from playing the great game of poker on the Internet. Legislation that impacts millions online poker players in the United States like me, deserves more debate than a back-room deal. Today, you have an opportunity to correct this injustice.

    Poker is a great American game with deep roots in this country. Throughout history presidents, generals, Members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and average citizens have enjoyed poker with family and friends. Also, unlike other forms of gambling, poker is a skill game where performance is merited, and a community game, where the “house” is not your competition. These are real and significant differences. Simply putting the word “Internet” in front of poker does not change the qualities of the game and it should not make the people who play it suspect.

    I am urging you to support amending this new Internet gambling law so that it has a “skill game exemption” for poker. Please note, that other forms of Internet gambling, such as horseracing, lotteries and fantasy sports are already protected under this law. A skill exemption for poker is not unreasonable, it is good public policy and would help preserve and protect an American tradition.

    I look forward to your support for a poker exemption. Again, I am a voter and I remember.

    I mean, where to begin?? Beyond the fact that I'm sure every member of Congress gets mass-mailed form letters/emails like this and instantly deletes them? Well, first off are the odd spacing errors--indeed, there's a sloppy extra space before the greeting (though you really can't see it here, it's more noticeable in the letter itself). And why not have a way to instantly fill in the Congressperson's name instead of the sure-to-be-ignored "Dear Member of Congress"? Especially as the Message Recipients are shown to be "Your U.S. Senators". If it's only sent to Senators, why not have "Dear Senator" as the greeting? Not ideal, but less insulting to their Senatorial pride as "Member of Congress".

    There's also the subject header for the email--"Support Amending the new Internet Gambling Law". No! It should reference the precise name of the law, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Ideally it would have the actual number of the bill and the date it passed. Sloppy. Inexcusable.

    Let's move to the opening paragraph. And, what an opening paragraph it is! Let's look at it again, shall we?
    I am a voter. I am a poker player. And, I am mad.
    Terrific. In thirteen words we've demonstrated that we have the intelligence and emotional maturity of a five-year-old. Maybe a robot would enjoy prose like "I am a voter. I am a poker player" but most human beings, even the putative ones in Congress, almost certainly would not. And, how much do I hate the comma after "And" in "And, I am mad". Normally I love commas. I love, love, LOVE the comma. Here it provides a moment of hesitation that makes you think some profound statement is coming. And instead we get "I am mad". Awful.

    Let's continue.
    Under your watch, Congress passed legislation that prohibits me from playing the great game of poker on the Internet
    Under whose watch, buddy? My Congressman is Jason Altmire--he didn't vote for the UIGEA. In fact, he defeated Melissa Hart, who championed the bill in the House. Members of Congress get blamed for enough as it is; slagging them for stuff they had nothing to do with isn't going to get you in their good graces. Much better to simply say "Congress passed legislation..."

    Actually, let's look at the rest of that sentence, "that prohibits me from playing the great game of poker on the Internet". Does the UIGEA really prohibit people from playing online poker? Not according to...Allyn Jaffrey Shulman, who wrote a column three weeks ago that began with this sentence: "I have written many times that there is no federal law prohibiting the online gambler from playing poker online". Congress makes Federal laws. If there is, in Ms. Shulman's words, no federal law prohibiting the online gambler from playing poker online, then why are we pestering our Representatives and Senators. Should we not accurately discuss the issues at hand?

    We continue:
    Legislation that impacts millions online poker players in the United States like me, deserves more debate than a back-room deal.
    Again, we have felony comma abuse. And shouldn't it be "...impacts millions OF online poker players"? Yes, it should. And what with that timid, tiny voice saying, "like me"? Unnecessary. Weak. Get rid of it. Along with the "in the United States". We're writing to a US Congressperson. They don't care about the French anymore than we do. And saying that this issue deserves "more debate" than a "back-room deal" rather glosses over the fact that in a back-room deal there's NO debate.

    Then there's the grandiose, "Today, you have an opportunity to correct this injustice." Well, maybe not TODAY. Maybe not tomorrow. And, maybe not this year. Why not get rid of it? Also is the UIGEA really an "injustice"? I don't like using that word in this context. It's too emotional--we should stick to the facts and let Enlightenment (and Money, lots of Money) do the work for us. I fear this graf is beyond saving.

    Nor is the next one. The sentence "Poker is a great American game with deep roots in this country" reminds me of the great Spinal Tap song, "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You (Tonight)". Poker is a great American game...with deep this country". Which is...America.

    Tonight I'm gonna rock you

    It almost hurts the eyes to read the next sentence:
    Throughout history presidents, generals, Members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and average citizens have enjoyed poker with family and friends.
    Did I say almost? First of all, "Presidents" should be capitalized. You should probably capitalize "Generals" too just to keep the eye from getting airsick going UP and down this interminable list. Why not use specific examples (President Truman, General Eisenhower, Justice Scalia)? I also don't like "average citizens"--it makes being an average citizen sound less-than-average. I also don't like "with family and friends". The goal is to fully legalize online poker (or online gaming in general), which is rarely played with family and friends. Let's not muddy the waters.
    Also, unlike other forms of gambling, poker is a skill game where performance is merited, and a community game, where the “house” is not your competition.
    "A skill game where performance is merited". Um, that doesn't sound right. Because it isn't right. Poker is a skill game where performance is rewarded, maybe. Actually, "performance" AND "merited" don't work here. It's a game where skill is rewarded. Period. The line, "...and a community game, where the "house" is not your competition" should be reworked to say something like, "You play against your opponents, not the house".

    Moving along:
    I am urging you to support amending this new Internet gambling law so that it has a “skill game exemption” for poker.
    How about, "I urge you to support amending this law..." Better, yes? Actually, why are we arguing for an amendment, a "skill game exemption"? It's a bad law, we should want it repealed. Let's not perform surgery on the law with a Bowie knife--that leads to confusion. Repeal it. It's a lousy piece of legislation. Start over if you want to, but get rid of this first.
    Please note, that other forms of Internet gambling, such as horseracing, lotteries and fantasy sports are already protected under this law.
    Goddam it, learn to use the goddam comma correctly! Either ditch the comma or say, "Please note, other forms of Internet gambling..." Or just say, "Other forms of internet gambling such as lotteries and horse racing (should that be two words?) are still legal under this law. Is this not hypocritical?"
    A skill exemption for poker is not unreasonable, it is good public policy and would help preserve and protect an American tradition.
    It's good public policy? How so? Explain how it is. Or, just cut the damn catchphrase. Actually, cut this whole sentence.
    I look forward to your support for a poker exemption.
    Sounds like you're sending a resume in response to a want ad, "I look forward to hearing from you". No. Better to reinforce the message you've sent, something like, "Please support the repeal of the UIGEA, it's the fair and honest thing to do." Something like that, only better.
    Again, I am a voter and I remember.
    Ah, the not-so-subtle threat. "I remember". Yeah, that'll get them shakin' in their boots. What's the saying, you get more flies with honey than vinegar? Wouldn't it be better to say, "This is a very important issue for me and for millions of my fellow Americans. We aren't criminals and we don't think Congress should treat us like criminals. Thank you for listening to our concerns about this very important issue." The threat is there, but it's more cleverly veiled, yes? Not my best work, but I think it shows that a bit of arm-around-the-shoulder is better than the angry, balled fist.

    I wonder who the hell wrote the text of that letter. And, did anyone READ it before they decided to use it for mass-mailing Congress? This stuff isn't hard, but it's important, dammit. The poker community should be linking arms and working together to make online gaming legal. Sloppy, ill-considered nonsense like this does not aid the cause.

    UPDATE: The column by Allyn Jaffrey Shulman I referenced above has been corrected to show that Barney Frank is a member of the House, not the Senate. Thing is, the word "Representative" is in a slightly bigger font. A bit of petulance, perhaps, after the comments to the column pointed out the error? Or perhaps I'm just being a bit mean-spirited. I think I'll go with the latter option. Though I am in a pretty good mood. A correction is a correction.

    Also, as pointed out by bitguru in the comments to this post, the word "president" should not be capitalized, nor should "general". Nor "member of Congress". My goof, for some reason I thought "President" was capitalized when it referred to the President of the United States. Shouldn't have used my old AP Stylebook to balance that wobbly table.

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Now THIS Is What I Call Madness!

    Sitting in a bar, beer at my side, doing work, watching hoops. These are the days.

    Stanford is getting the everlovin' crap kicked out of them by Louisville, and folks in Syracuse and Manhattan (KS) are doubtless going apeshit. Fans of Florida A&M are also justifiably pissed, since they won their conference tournament and then found out they had to win ANOTHER game to actually make the Dance. Which, of course, they lost to Niagra.

    Here's what the NCAA should do--have four play-in games among the eight teams in the running for the final at-large bids. Teams like Syracuse, Arkansas, Illinois, Stanford, Drexel...have them play at various neutral sites on Tuesday night, make it a mini-Madness. Big schools, big fan bases, big stakes. The winners get 12 seeds. The losers shut the hell up about getting screwed by the committee.

    And I'd add even MORE Madness to the mix. You pick seven teams for the play in game...and then you have a BIG LOTTERY on Selection Sunday for the final spot! You get this big, BIG drum, and fill it with Ping-Pong balls with the name of every team not in the tournament or the play-in games. You spin that drum, you friggin' spin it, and you pick out one team that gets a final, miraculous shot to make the tournament. You could have Dick Vitale pull out the winning ball and scream, "IT'S TEXAS CHRISTIAN, BABY!!! OHHH, OHHH, OHHH!! AWESOME BABY, THE HORNED FROGS ARE IN!! OHHHH, OHHHH, OHHHH!!"

    OK, I gotta get back to my drinking now. Let's go Pitt!

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    More Stuff I Don't Understand

    Watched the most recent episode of High Stakes Poker today. Um, how come Playtex was advertising so heavily during the show? Playtex, eHarmony, and Weight Watchers. Is this poker or Lifetime? I find this very confusing and a bit disorienting.

    ESPN has hired a new ombudsman. Not that anyone knew that ESPN had an ombudsman in the first place. I think I emailed ESPN three or four times about issues I thought deserved comment (including ESPN's tiptoe around the extra $2 million in the WSOP) and not once were those issues addressed. George Solomon (the exiting ombudsman) wrote a single column of about a thousand words a month. Nice work if you can get it. Thought about sending an email complaining about Mark Kreidler's absurd column, but I think the reader comments showed the displeasure people felt about it. Displeasure that, almost certainly, won't be discussed by the ombudsman, past or present.

    Actually, if I was going to send a note to the new OBM, I'd ask, "Can you explain to me why Skip Bayless keeps appearing on my television? I've really tried to think of reasons why ESPN would employ him--as a joke, as shock value, as camp, as an example to children who think faking illness to stay home from school is a good idea--but none make sense. Please get him off my TV."

    Played in a $5 tournament last night, 1500 people. Played well, got down to the final hundred even though I really didn't get cards, and with my stack getting short I got it all in with QQ vs. A-7. He went runner-runner for the gutshot and put me out. I think I've said this before, but I don't know how you guys who play BIG buy-in events, live and online, deal with tough bustout hands. I howled, howled, howled, howled when that eight hit on the river to knock me out. I played for 3 1/2 hours and made five bucks profit. Awesome.

    I've been running very well in the Mookie's lately, but not tonight. For I think the third time this year I crippled myself playing the Hammer for all my chips. I keep forgetting, the Hammer is a RAISING hand, not a CALLING hand. Fool!

    UK Casinos

    This is a paid advertisement for UK Casinos

    These days our cousins across the pond seem to have a more enlightened attitude toward poker than we in the U.S.A. And if you're planning a trip to the United Kingdom anytime soon, it might help to know what gaming options you have once you get there. UK Casinos is a online directory that gives you info on a wide variety of topics.

    You get listings for casinos throughout the UK, as well as phone numbers and addresses. Which is important—in Britain you can’t just walk through the front door with a purse filled with pounds and start gambling. You either have to be a member of the casino or be a guest of a member. And once you apply, you MUST wait 24 hours after you submit your application before you can gain admittance. Getting turned away and being told to return on the morrow is likely to ruin your evening. I remember reading about this rule in Anthony Holden’s classic Big Deal, and it’s still in effect today. Plan accordingly.

    UK Casinos provides info on other subjects as well (like bookmakers, online forums, even careers in gaming). If you plan on crossing the Atlantic and want to have a flutter while you’re there, this guide can give you some useful information.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Is There No Problem Gambling Can't Solve?; or, OK, Maybe Now I'll Buy That Malkin Jersey

    So the Penguins are going to stay, and Pittsburgh is going to have a brand-new arena to replace the beloved but pretty disgusting Mellon Arena. It was touch and go for awhile, but the deal is apparently done. We'll get to watch Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury et al build a new dynasty. The city is already in a tizzy over the Pens--with the new arena in the works and the playoffs looming I pity the poor Pirates. Opening Day will be overshadowed by both the NHL playoffs AND the NFL Draft.

    We could argue over why a financially-strapped city like Pittsburgh, fresh from bankruptcy, would spend oodles of money building an arena for a team that plays in a sport without a national TV contract. We could also argue why cities pony up hundreds of millions to build stadia and arenas...if these sports are so popular and successful, why don't the TEAMS build them and keep all the revenues? But that's a subject for another day.

    Instead I'll bring your attention to some comments made by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell:
    "Make no mistake about it -- without expanded gaming in Pennsylvania, the Penguins would be gone. The first puck would have been dropped next year in Kansas City."
    "If you don't like gaming, understand that we would have lost a very important institution for Pittsburgh. The Penguins would have been gone," Mr. Rendell said.
    It's rather a conflicting message our governments are sending about gambling, yes? To some in government, online gaming is an evil comparable to child pornorgraphy. Gambling is a vice that is ripping apart the social fabric and is turning our young people into a mob of degenerate grifters. To others, gaming is our great Economic Saviour, which magically multiplies loaves and fishes and erases in a flash years of financial mismanagement and short-sighted politics.

    Personally, I think the true nature of gambling falls, oh, somewhere in between those two extremes. But then, I'm not a politician. I don't have to take extreme positions.

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Here We Go Again

    Sigh, another day, another half-assed (well, quarter-assed) article about the dangers of gambling. As I've said before, I'm not saying that gambling addiction doesn't exist. I'm not saying it isn't a potentially destructive vice. I'm not saying that it's OK for 13-year-olds to play blackjack. But if we're going to discuss the issue, we need to be diligent about the facts and examine them with clear yet critical eye.

    Which didn't occur in an article that appeared in today's San Diego Union-Tribune (Google news alerts are addictive). We get the usual anecdotes, the usual anonymous "studies", the "experts" whose vague statements are taken as gospel truth. Statements like this one:
    “This is the first generation of kids growing up in a gambling-permissive society,” said Bruce Roberts, head of the California Council on Problem Gambling(.)
    Is this accurate? I don't think so. I played poker with my uncles and cousins when I was growing up. My dad brought home football pools from work for me to fill out for fun. The state lotteries existed when I was a kid. Seemed like society permitted gambling back then. It's true that gambling is more pervasive and more popular these days, with casinos springing up all over the country and the winners of SuperMegaHyper national lotteries becoming the lead story on CNN. But kids today aren't the first to live in a gambling-permissive society. No way.

    From Charlene Simmons, the assistant director of the California Research Bureau (they do the research on EVERYTHING in California?) we learn that underage gambling is a "serious issue". Ms. Simmons:

    Studies have found that “adolescents, particularly boys, who engage in adult forms of gambling are more likely to develop into problem and pathological gamblers,” she told members of a state Senate committee last week.

    Data collected in Oregon suggest “California could have as many as 600,000 adolescent problem and pathological gamblers,” Simmons said.

    I know I sound like a broken record, but...WHAT STUDIES? Conducted by who? Whom, sorry. And the statement "data collected in Oregon suggest CALIFORNIA could have as many as 600,000 adolescent problem and pathological gamblers" does NOT fill me with confidence. Why use data from another state to analyze California teens? And the 600,000 number sounds ABSURDLY high. California's total population is around 37 million. Ms. Simmons is saying that around 1.6% of California's ENTIRE POPULATION is a degenerate teenage gambler. One out of 63 people. Before I believe that, I need a lot more information.

    So the statistics aren't good, and the anecdotal evidence ain't much better:

    It's unclear how prevalent gambling is among high school students.

    “We have quite a few students who are active in gaming and gambling,” said Scott Chodorow, director of student activities at Torrey Pines. “To what extent, I do not know.”

    I don't mean to pick on a high school kid who was probably nervous talking to a reporter. But that reporter should've known better than use this quote. Lead him into a more logical statement than the one used here. Basically what we have here is, "Kids here gamble...I think. Actually, I have no clue".

    Perhaps the most outrageous statement in the piece came from Fred Becker, described as a Carlsbad educator. After making some reasonable statements about kids being more likely to take risks and that they don't always think long-term, he makes this baseless accusation:
    Local Indian casinos are on the lookout for young gamblers, Becker said.
    Um, that's a pretty serious charge. Any evidence to support this? Nope, the reporter just throws that line in there with no preamble. Oddly, this is the very next paragraph:
    At Viejas, for instance, those 17 and younger are allowed on the casino floor only if they're walking to a restaurant with an adult, and not at all after 8 p.m. or before 8 a.m., said spokesman Robert Scheid.
    The reporter seems to present this as evidence that Indian casinos DO target young gamblers (hence the "for instance") but the quote is from a casino spokesman saying that people 17 and younger aren't allowed on the casino floor unless they're going to dinner AND accompanied by an adult. Very strange.

    It's also strange that in the middle of the piece Ms. Simmons is quoted as saying, "as far as I could find out, no California lottery retailer, racetrack or card room has been seriously disciplined for allowing . . . minors to engage in gambling,", while we don't read until the final paragraphs the attitude of the casino spokesman Robert Scheid:

    It has trained staff members to look for underage and problem gamblers, he said.

    “Ultimately, they're destructive to themselves, their families and their communities,” he said. “Frankly, it's not good for business.”

    I've never been to Commerce or the Bicycle Club, but I assume they card people who look like teenyboppers but show up to play poker. Not that I would assume this, if I were a reporter--I'd call them up and ask how they keep the underage out. I'd also double-check Ms. Simmons' statement about there being no action taken against those who let minors gamble. Is that true? Why should we rely on her research? Shouldn't the reporter have done his own?

    I guess these little screeds are more about the state of journalism these days than the debate about the evils of gambling. It's easy to snip at reporters who don't fact-check or think or ask follow-up questions, and I know there are deadline pressures and whatnot. I sympathize. But...come on! When someone tells you that there might be 600,000 problem teenage gamblers, you're B.S. detector has to start chiming. "Really? That many? How do you know that?" That should be automatic. But these days, it isn't.

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    Fuck Mark Kreidler

    Funny, I always thought that ESPN would be against the government trying to restrict online poker. After all, how many programming hours has ESPN filled with the World Series of Poker? A zillion?

    But after reading Mark Kreidler's hackjob, it looks like ESPN has it in for poker too. Kreidler's column is such a sneering putdown of the game I wonder if the Worldwide Leader will assist the Feds in a sting operation come the World Series.

    Here's what Kreidler had to say about former Senator Al D'Amato joining the Poker Players Alliance:
    Take the announcement this week that D'Amato is taking a "leadership position" with the Poker Players Alliance, a group you've never heard of that nevertheless is committed to doing God's work by protecting the rights of card players everywhere to lose money online.
    No one's ever heard of the PPA? Odd, as ESPN's Poker Club ran an interview with Michael Bolcerek and Phil Gordon spoke at length with Bolcerek on The Poker Edge podcast. And, of course, it'd be nice if ESPN did more to promote the PPA (and other issues surrounding online poker as well), but it took ESPN about 10 days to acknowledge the arrest of the 2 Neteller founders--and that only merited a paragraph. And of course ESPN assisted in the whitewash concerning the extra $2 million in chips that was introduced in last year's WSOP Main Event. I know, expecting courageous leadership from ESPN on a controversial issue is the height of naivety.

    But let's return to Kreidler. He writes that D'Amato "railed against the law passed last year that makes it extremely difficult to play poker on the Internet, saying Congress ought to be more concerned with terrorism and drug trafficking (assuming it isn't)". In fact, here's what D'Amato actually said in the New York Times:
    The money being spent to outlaw poker and enforce the ban, Mr. D’Amato said, could be better spent “in the battle against money laundering, trafficking in drugs, or trafficking in terrorism.”
    In no way did D'Amato say that Congress was more concerned with poker than terrorism. Rather a difference, yes?

    Kreidler also has some difficulty understanding big numbers. He quotes D'Amato (accurately, for a change) "You don't have 70 million people participating in baseball." Kreidler then writes:
    In fact, the PPA's news release estimates that only about 23 million people played Internet poker last year, meaning Al has a bunch of Friday night garages to fill if he's going to get his sport up to 70 million nationally. But why let all that cigar smoke get in the way of a good story?
    Or, in Kreidler's case, why let the facts get in the way. For while the PPA states that 23 million people played ONLINE poker last year, their website says that 70 million Americans play poker...PERIOD. Online, in home games, with Grandma at Christmas. Again, rather a difference between online players and ALL players. A difference Kreidler is unable (or unwilling) to discern. I don't know that I believe either number, mind you--but I do understand the difference between them.

    Then Kreidler, sitting in a glass house, decides to throw some stones:

    "D'Amato is one of the more famous poker players in congressional history, assuming such a list might exist, and that takes in a whole lot of territory normally reserved for calculated liars, convicted cheats and general obfuscators -- and we still haven't gotten to the poker table yet."

    There's probably only one group of people more reviled in this country than politicans...and that's journalists. And Kreidler doesn't do his profession much credit with this piece.

    Nor with this graf:
    Of course, D'Amato is working for money. The PPA, which puts its membership at 160,000 (again, take it or leave it as an estimate) is taking aim at a bill passed last year that banned using credit cards or online payment systems as part of online poker and other gaming activities on the Internet. D'Amato is a longtime player, mostly with a regular group of friends and colleagues rather than online. Still, put such theological synergy together with the ability to pay up, and you've got yourself a lobbyist.
    Huh. Did Kreidler call D'Amato to ask how much he's getting paid by the PPA? Or if he ever plays online? Nor did Kreidler do any research to find out if the home games D'Amato plays in (or similar games around the country) are in danger of being raided by SWAT teams--which of course has happened in certain places. Nah, why bother doing any research, thinking, work. Not when there's easy snark to be had.

    Easy snark, but not intelligent snark, as we see here:
    What D'Amato and the PPA seem to hate the most is the fact that Congress casually lumped in poker with other online games of chance. As they see it, poker is a game of skill and chance, which therefore entitles Al to call it a sport, which blah blah blah -- you can see where this is going.
    This is just fucking stupid. What bothers online poker players isn't that it's being called a game of chance--it's that it's being called a FEDERAL CRIME. Call poker a sport, a game, a pastime, a goddam blue kangaroo--just let me play it when I want, for the stakes I want, without government interference. THAT'S the issue, for Chrissakes.

    Of course, this isn't the stupidest thing Kreider wrote, oh no!
    D'Amato rallies to the defense of those brave and heroic online gamers, who evidently need protecting in the form of Congressional legal re-interpretation. (Translation: Exempt poker from the no-credit-card law, and we're good to go.)
    Let me say this so slowly that even a 20-watt bulb like Mark Kreidler can follow along: online poker players aren't calling themselves brave and heroic. We're not asking for protection. What we want is for the Federal Government to stop telling us how we can spend our time and our money. Get off our fucking backs, that's the message we're trying to send. I mean, does Kreidler live in a cave? He doesn't see how the Federal Government has been stripping away our civil rights? Habeas corpus, Jose Padilla, Guantanamo Bay...these are all foreign to him? And while online poker hardly counts in the big scheme of things, it's part of an overall pattern of the government taking away the rights of citizens to live as they please. The extremists our government panders to want to keep Americans from engaging in behavior THEY think is icky. Online poker, trans-fats, smoking in much longer before booze, porn and cunnilingus all face legislative oblivion?

    Why not let Kreidler prove one last time how frigging stupid he is with his own words?

    D'Amato also raises a point with which American history is likely to agree, even if it's comically misguided here. "Prohibitions don't work," he said in the PPA's news release. "They only create unintended consequences."

    Just like liquor, in other words. Well, drinking, gambling  you get the idea. Try to ban card games online, and they'll only start playing poker in somebody's living room late at night, buying their own chips or using makeshift materials like pretzels and M&Ms as token "money." Where will the madness end?

    Like you, I don't see what's "comically" misguided about this comparison, but perhaps Kreidler's sense of humor is warped as well. D'Amato actually answered Kreidler's point about how this ban will affect online poker: "Online poker will only go further underground, (D'Amato) continued, providing an opening for unscrupulous foreign operators seeking to take advantage of the hunger of Americans to play poker. 'When you have regulation, where you have openness, you can ensure you have a game that won’t be unfairly cut or disadvantaged or manipulated,' Mr. D’Amato said." Seems pretty obvious to me--ban online poker, players will turn to shady operators who are far more likely to rip them off or take advantage of them. A good parallel to the Prohibition of alcohol in the Twenties, I'd say.

    When I took my first journalism class at Penn State we had an assignment to write a simple news story. I turned it in, and the next day I got it back with a big red F that covered the entire page. "You misspelled a person's name," my prof said, in front of the entire class. "That's inexcusable. You had the information right there. You didn't check. You were lazy. You get an F." I never forgot that lesson. Of course, maybe that's why I didn't go into journalism--these days you can make stuff up, invent facts out of whole cloth, misquote people, proudly display your ignorance of a subject--and all that means is that you'll get a gig with a big media company like ESPN.

    UPDATE: In the comments Gary Carson left a link to a post he wrote that listed his concerns about the PPA. Just because ESPN ripped the PPA, and I ripped ESPN, doesn't mean that the PPA should get automatic support from poker players. No way. If they propose to speak for all of us, then we need to pay special attention to WHAT they're saying and HOW they're saying it.

    Daniel Negreanu also wrote something about Kreidler's column, though he didn't use the word "fuck" as much as I did. I should've given that word up for Lent--it's lazy, base, and beneath my dignity. But I was ticked off. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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