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Rant: It's Time Poker's Stars Stand Up and Fight for Online Poker
Anyone trying to prevent adults from gambling online is our enemy.
Sheldon Adelson is the end boss.
So it wasn’t the greatest idea for the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) to announce plans to host its summer summit at one of Adelson’s hotel’s.
It was a mistake. One that was later rectified, after they moved the event to the Aria. But mistakes are there to be learned from.
So how did this happen? What can the poker community learn from this mistake?
How did the most powerful group of tournament organizers even get to the point where they shook hands on a deal to host their summit in the enemy’s lair?
I believe it’s because we are coping. We gave up trying to do anything else a long time ago.
Leaders Don't Cope. They Act
It’s little wonder that we are coping. It’s what us humans do.
We are designed to exert as little energy as possible. Coping preserves energy, whilst trying to exert influence creates it.
It’s much easier to complain about the fact that Americans can’t play online poker. It’s even easier to emigrate and play somewhere else.
It’s easier to quit and find a different job. It’s easier to log on via VPN and play illegally.
It’s easier for the largest online poker rooms in the world to take their business elsewhere. It’s easier for the biggest faces in the game to knuckle down and earn money through a different source.
Coping means we have forgotten that we are at war. We are concentrating on ways to avoid short-term pain at the loss of a great deal of long-term pleasure.
This is not the way the greatest influencers of humanity have acted. This is not how they achieved change.
All the greatest leaders in the world have led great movements of change by setting an example for their people.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King are two that immediately spring to mind. Two people who managed to unite thousands of others to peacefully protest for their rights to be treated fairly.
These men didn’t cope. They acted.
The Screaming Man Was Promoted
I was sitting in my office. My managing director was filling the room with hate through the speaker rigged up on my desk.
It was 2008. The economic crisis had hit everyone hard. We were in the business of moving steel. Nobody wanted it moved.
He was screaming at me because he needed me to take costs out of my business. I knew that this approach would lead to a demoralized work force and affect customer service.
I knew there was a better way. He wasn’t in the mood to listen.
“I will not allow you to affect my family’s future. I will get my year-end bonus. You will do what I tell you, or I will find someone else that will.”
Not his exact words, but you get the point.
I went ahead and did what he said. I ruined people’s lives.
I destroyed the relationship I had with my customer. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I left.
The screaming man was promoted for hitting his targets. I see this happening in poker every single day.
So Why Don't We Do More Of It?
This is how powerful one person's influence can be in a single company. And this wasn’t the approach that the CEO wanted to take.
The thought of earning a big fat bonus was enough for my managing director to go against the wishes of his CEO and create short-term pleasure whilst simultaneously causing long-term pain.
Let’s go back to the TDA’s decision to host its summit at the Venetian. It was free. That’s the only reason why the TDA were going to host its summit there.
They thought that nobody would care. And why should they? That poker room is full of players who earn a living playing in the lair of the enemy.
But people did care. Social media exploded. Then something great happened.
Alex Dreyfus tweeted that he would pay to host the summit anywhere other than The Venetian. Then Eric Hollreiser suggested that they all get on a call and find a more suitable venue.
The poker world came together to solve a crisis that was created by the individuality that often rules all of the decisions in our community.
It works. So why don’t we do more of it?
Who are Poker's Leaders?
People bark on about the fact that we will lose this war against online poker because Sheldon Adelson is the 18th-richest man in the world.
The poker community is not exactly living on fish paste sandwiches and Monster Munch crisps.
PokerStars earn millions. Some of our players earn millions.
How many players have you heard, during an interview, say that money doesn’t change their lifestyle once they hit a certain plateau?
We need our leaders to stand up and be counted. But who are they?
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) currently holds that position. They are our driving force.
I received an e-mail the other day asking me to join their fight. I had to visit their site to sign up so I could eventually receive the e-mail asking me to fight.
These tactics won’t work. Personal persuasion is not the answer here. Especially when it comes from the PPA.
When the poker community looks at the PPA whom do they see? It’s not clear.
The opinion leaders don’t stand out for me.
Tweeting and Retweeting Won't Cut It
This isn’t a criticism of the PPA. After all, they are the only force trying to do good. But they need help.
They need faces that we recognize; that the world recognizes.
When Andrew Lichtenberger tweeted that he was going to join forces with the PPA there was a ripple of excitement.
Here was a face that we recognized. But it’s still not enough.
Mike Sexton sent a congratulatory tweet to Lichtenberger for his efforts. Mike Sexton is a face the world recognizes.
Mike, Lichtenberger doesn’t need a tweet. He needs you standing next to him in the trenches.
Tweeting and retweeting messages of support is not going to help the PPA in the way that they, and you, need it to.
Hellmuth Has a Platform We Need
During the World Poker Tour (WPT) Alpha8 event in London I listened as some of the world's top players deliberated over the question of Phil Hellmuth’s relevance in the poker world.
It was obvious that this group of people felt his time had passed.
Mukul Pahuja recently called Hellmuth a ‘Cheeseburger Salesman’ and tweeted:
“The more I see both recreational types and people directly involved in poker focus on all the wrong things it’s easy to get frustrated.
"Hellmuth is supposedly one of the major faces of the game yet never addresses anything important about poker. It’s always something self-serving.”
Pahuja is suggesting that Hellmuth is playing the role that my MD did back in 2008. He is looking out for number one.
Whether he is or not is not the vital point here. Hellmuth has a platform that we need. He is vital to poker.
He just doesn’t realize how vital he is because nobody is telling him. And it’s not just Hellmuth.
We have plenty of poker players, both recreational and professional, that have a great platform that can be used to create a vicarious experience to influence others to follow.
They Play Poker
Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey both got mentioned in tweets from Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather has over 5 million followers.
Justin Smith plays poker with Manny Pacquiao - the Pacman has 1.7m followers and was a judge on Miss World ffs.
Daniel Negreanu, Liv Boeree, Victoria Coren and Vanessa Selbst are four professional poker players who have platforms that gain worldwide media attention.
Jason Somerville is doing likewise with his work with Twitch.
Then you have a wide range of celebrities and sports stars: Michael Phelps, Jennifer Tilly, Jason Alexander, Boris Becker, Nelly, Gerard Pique and Don Cheadle are just a few who can help promote the positive side of poker.
PokerStars have signed Rafael Nadal and Ronaldo. Don’t just stand there with a racket in your hand Rafa - use your platform to help poker.
These are two of the greatest sportsmen, past and present, the world has ever seen. Phelps is the greatest Olympian in our history. They play poker.
We Need to Make This Personal
Then you have people like Guy Laliberté. He's brought joy to millions of people around the world through Cirque Du Soleil.
His One Drop Foundation generates millions of dollars for people who don’t have access to water. The poker community contributes heavily to that cause.
Then you have Raising for Effective Giving (REG), the WPT Foundation. We help other foundations such as the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Do you realize the power we have at our disposal for influencing people through our TV coverage of the WSOP and WPT?
It’s been scientifically proven that people are heavily influenced by the subliminal messages that are deliberately introduced into our television coverage.
India has used this knowledge to reduce abuse to women, for example.
We need to make this personal. Sheldon Adelson and the Cronies are focusing on children. It’s a tactic used to influence people into believing online gambling is Satan.
We need to do the same. The Bet Raise Fold story that focused on Danielle Andersen’s struggles was on the right track. We need more of the same.
We like to follow. That’s what we do best. But whom are we following?
That Was Unity
Why aren’t more people within poker using their platforms to stop Sheldon Adelson from destroying our online game?
When Eric Hollreiser and Alex Dreyfus jumped to the defense of Matt Savage and the TDA, it was a great thing.
That was unity.
Can you imagine the power that could be created by the names and organizations I mentioned if only they could get together and create a tactful and intelligent attack on the heart of these issues?