The first time I saw Marcel Luske without a suit on I didn’t recognize him.
I was boarding a KLM flight heading to Amsterdam and he was standing in front of me wearing a tracksuit.
“I would have thought an elite poker player like yourself would have a private jet,” I said to Luske.
“It’s poker son. Nobody has any money in poker,” Luske replied.
When he said it I thought he was joking, but the more time I spend in the poker world the more I realize that Luske was just being brutally honest.
Poker is a Mirror for Real World
Poker is a mirror for the real world. A tiny percentage of the field has money and everyone else is broke.
When I interview poker players and ask them why they sell action they always say it’s because of the variance in the game, that it’s the smart thing to do.
In the past four years no one has ever told me they sell action because they can't afford to play on their own, and if they didn’t sell action there would be no action.
Geshkenbein's WSOP Provides Recent Example
Take Vladimir ‘Beyne’ Geshkenbein as an example of what I'm talking about. The PKR-sponsored pro recently wrote on his blog that he was selling action for two reasons.
The first was his ability to sell action at a mark-up, meaning he makes money on his reputation alone without even playing a single hand.
Secondly, he said it makes him focus if he has 30+ investors watching his every move, curbing his desire to just say [email protected]!* it and gamble.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan. Beyne went to Vegas promising not to do his bollocks and ended up doing his bollocks.
He lost the stake before the Main Event even began and announced he'd have to cancel his action because he was getting his $10k buy-in from someone else.
Geshkenbein went on to finish in 62nd place for $123,597 and now his 30+ investors don’t know what is going to happen to their money.
In that same blog post Beyne called people who play in the WSOP $1k events ‘brain dead.’ As I personally struggle to put together the money to play in a $1k I must fall into that category. Comments like that rub me up the wrong way.
This sort of loose-lipped libel is pouring out of the mouths of young professionals with increasing frequency these days.
But Who Are the Real Mushrooms?
Recreational players are lambasted for doing anything mediocre in the eyes of the pro. They're called mushrooms, brain dead and donkeys. But who is the real mushroom here?
The amateur player who earns six figures and plays poker for fun or the so called professional that has to sell his action because he isn’t good enough to win using his own money?
Or maybe the mushrooms are the people who keep giving these people money? Are the 30+ investors who gave a known problem-gambler like Beyne money on mark up mushrooms as well?
The pro poker economy may have a shiny veneer, but the truth is a lot of players are broke.
I know players who are struggling to get into the game because they're broke, and are owed six figures by other poker players who can't pay them because they are also broke. I look at them and I think they’re all mushrooms.
Beyne said, ‘I have my best game technically but money management is and remains by biggest leak.’ I believe that if you can’t display good money management skills, and get into financial trouble your technical game will falter. Any mushroom can see that.
If a amateur doesn’t display a technically fundamental strategy he’s called a mushroom; and yet in my book money management is a fundamental that is more important than any technical aspect of poker.
I like Beyne. I like his crazy attitude and think he is an interesting and exciting player to watch. But I would never invest in a man who has a gambling problem. It’s just not a good investment. I know because I am a gambling addict myself.
I often wondered what the fallout of Black Friday would be. I assumed it would be a smaller universe with lots of players running off to find real jobs.
Instead we have a lot of players desperately short of cash, who fear losing the one thing they love. Now they're begging, stealing and borrowing just to remain in the game.
They are turning into mushrooms.