Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded. -- Virginia Woolf
Let's try an experiment: Type your first and last name into any search engine. Then, place quotation marks around your name. This brings up a list of all the Web sites where your name is listed.
If you play tournament poker with any regularity, it's quite likely your name will come up on more poker-related Web sites than any other. What you see on the screen is your life.
The Internet has become the official record. Long after we're gone, our names will remain circulating out there in cyberspace. The New York Times is no longer the paper of record. "All the news that's fit to print" is everywhere, and it's online.
I've written hundreds of tournament narratives. I've probably recorded more than a thousand tournament results dating back over 15 years. Virtually all of these reports are posted online at dozens of gambling Web sites.
These reports contain the names of thousands of poker players all over the world who, were it not for tournaments and poker reporting, would probably have no public identity whatsoever. This leads me to make a plea, targeted to all poker players.
I need your help. First and foremost, I want to get your name right. I want it to be spelled correctly. I want your name to be listed on the record the way you want it to be - with your proper nickname, or whatever you prefer.
But this is sometimes impossible. Later on, you come to me (and to others who write about poker). At times, you are angry. You ask why your name is listed wrong at Web sites. You wonder why a poker hand is not reported correctly. We all lose out because of these errors, which are entirely avoidable.
Those of you who play in tournaments know that at the end of each day, players are asked to complete a slip of paper. You're asked to include your name, hometown and chip count. Seems simple enough.
Unfortunately, you would not believe how difficult many of these slips are to decipher. This leads to problems with how a tournament is covered and reported.
There are also player bio sheets which are used by tournament officials and television networks. These sheets are usually filled out by players who make it to the final table.
I am astounded that some players do not take the time to fill these out properly. When the official report is written later and posted to various online Web sites, the information about you is either woefully inadequate or incorrect. Or worse - it's boring.
Think of it this way. You're not doing me a favor. You are doing yourself a favor.
"Player of the Year" point systems, career records and tournament archives, and many important undertakings depend entirely upon what we report. If your name is illegible or is not listed properly, you will not get points. Your tournament record will be incomplete. No one wants this, especially you.
Here are some helpful hints:
1. Always write clearly. Write out all the information as clearly as possible. Do not assume we know you. Do not assume we know your hometown of "Springfield" is in Missouri. Maybe it's Massachusetts. We want to get it right. But it's tough when so many tournament slips look like a chicken stepped in an inkwell and walked across the page. I'm serious.
2. Always use the exact same name at all tournaments. If you check tournament archives at several online sites, hundreds of names are duplicated. Their results are not recorded properly. Make up your mind, and stick to the same name - be it John Smith, John Q. Smith, J. Smith, J.Q. Smith, Dr. John Smith or John "Doc" Smith.
3. Volunteer information. Always feel free to tell a tournament reporter or poker writer more about you. Are you a military vet? Let us know. Did you win an award in your community? Tell us about it. Were you honored for your charity work? Please tell us. Too many of you have great stories, but we don't know you and therefore can't share them. Poker is an opportunity to tell the world who you are and what you are about. Don't be shy.
4. Tell us a story. We always want to know more about you. What motivated you to play in a tournament? What were you thinking during a big hand? Why did you make the decision you did? Almost everyone has something interesting to say. We are your mouthpiece to the poker world.
5. Read the tournament logs. PokerListings.com and other Web sites provide a wonderful service to the poker community. They often list tournament results hand-for-hand. There are also logs with many interesting hands during the early and middle stages of tournaments. These logs can be a terrific learning resource.
I know that playing poker is much tougher than it seems. But if you think your days are long as a tournament player, try reporting.
Keep in mind that if a tournament lasts 12 hours, the reporters must often arrive before the event starts, and then leave long after the day is done. I've seen many reporters work 16-hour days.
There are many fine writers and reporters in this industry. Many of these fine people could be writing instead for major newspapers and magazines. But they love poker. I think most of them are underappreciated.
Indeed, what we do is important. It's a craft that should be respected - especially by the players who benefit the most from the labor of others.
If you don't think writing and reporting is important now, later on you surely will. And those all around you - your family, your friends, and even your descendants - will appreciate the poker record you leave, which will be your legacy.