Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ethics (Again)

Shame, shame!Been mulling over the whole Chris “BluffMagCV” Vaughn-Sorel “Imper1um” Mizzi account-buying saga -- the original incident, Vaughn’s November 18th interview with Big Poker Sundays, the pair’s PokerNews interview (Part 1 and Part 2), Bluff Magazine’s decision to place Vaughn (its Managing Editor) on probation, and Bluff’s subsequent rethink and new decision to sack Vaughn altogether. The whole affair brings to the fore a host of different, overlapping ethical arguments regarding online poker and poker journalism.

That’s right. I said “ethical” and “online poker” and “poker journalism” all in one breath there. Hey, it’s my blog.

As far as the incident itself -- wherein Vaughn allowed Mizzi to take over his account near the end of the 10/21/07 Full Tilt $1 Million Guarantee (subsequently won by Mizzi) -- I don’t have too much to add to what has already been discussed ad infinitum on the forums and elsewhere.

Has been interesting to discover just how prevalent this sort of tourney-in-progress account-buying has been. Looks as though it wasn’t until relatively recently -- ca. early 2007 -- that sites began explicitly forbidding this sort of activity in their terms & conditions. Just to give you a for instance, here’s a story about how Jeff “ActionJeff” Garza did something similar in the PokerStars Sunday Million last New Year’s Eve, prompting the site to alter its policies.

Clearly the sort of monkey business that shouldn’t be allowed, although again -- as is so often the case in online poker -- the rule against account-buying and/or sharing is another one of those that is potentially difficult to enforce. Unless the perpetrators are logging in from different IP addresses (as was the case with Vaughn and Mizzi), who knows for sure who that person is behind the avatar?

Beyond the TableThe dudes over at Beyond the Table had a more sober than usual discussion of the matter on a recent edition of the show, titled “BTS: The Cheating Beating.” Listen in the jukebox (located at right), or head on over to Pokerati to hear it. Co-host Tom Schneider’s viewpoint is quite interesting here. Schneider agrees what Vaughn and Mizzi did was wrong, but argues it much less of an offense than other contraventions of rules governing online poker. There are “so many more egregious violations of rules and cheating,” says the WSOP Player of the Year, that this sort of tag-teaming really doesn’t rate that high on the scale of what folks have been trying to pull of late. (Unfortunate, but true.)

Tom, Karridy, and Dan do get around to discussing Vaughn’s firing as well. You might recall that Bluff originally came out with a statement in which they described themselves as “unhappy” and “disappointed” with Vaughn. “However,” the statement continued, “we feel that Chris has always acted in a professional manner at Bluff in the past, and we have no plans for terminating his employment with the company. He has been given a warning, and is on probation. We hope that we can all move past this, and learn from it.”

Bluff’s statement was not received terribly well, with posters opining at length about the decision in all of the forums, including Bluff’s own. So yesterday Bluff changed its tune. As Ian McKenzie reports from the Bluff news desk:

“Bluff Media, publisher of Bluff Magazine, has made the decision to terminate Chris Vaughn as Managing Editor. In light of Chris’ involvement, recently admitted facts and the feedback obtained from industry professionals, it became apparent that the credibility required to perform the job functions of Managing Editor of Bluff Magazine at our company’s level of standards have become severely diminished. While we regret having to make this decision, we believe that it is the best alternative for all parties involved, including Chris, Bluff Media and the poker playing community at large. We wish Chris the best of luck.”

Can’t really fault Bluff’s decision here, although it surely would’ve been more effective as an unequivocal assertion of the “company’s level of standards” had it not been preceded by that insistence they had “no plans for terminating” Vaughn.

Some interesting perspective on this part of the story as well from the Beyond the Table guys, including from Schneider (whose background as a CEO means he’s had some experience with firing folks before). Like I said, go check ’em out.



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