Friday, March 21, 2008

PPA Can Do Better

Poker Players AllianceBack in January, Frank “Life’s a Bluff” Frisina started a thread over on the Poker Players Alliance forum regarding the Absolute Poker scandal. Specifically, Frisina was wondering why the PPA had not chosen to issue any sort of statement regarding the AP scandal.

Some reasonable discussion ensued. Rich “TheEngineer” Muny offered his thoughts on the subject. The subsequent back-and-forth between the two then moved onto some other PPA-related subjects, and while Frisina and Muny disagreed on several points, there was a genuine dialogue going on between them. Incidentally, Muny is actually one of those PPA State Directors (he represents Kentucky). He’s also a PPA Board member, and made clear to Frisina that his responses to him were as a board member, not as a state rep.

The thread died down after the first week or so, but in February another State Director, Randall Castonguay (of Massachussetts), chimed in to point out some of the good things the PPA has been doing.

In fact, earlier this week the PPA helped stage a rally across from the Mass. State House to oppose a recently-proposed casino bill that included a clause making playing online poker a felony for which one could get two years in prison and/or pay a $25,000 fine. The turnout for the rally was apparently light -- Foucault was there (see his summary). In any event, the protestors’ efforts were not in vain as the bill was thankfully voted down by the committee considering it, so it never went to the full MA Congress for its consideration.

Anyhow, after lauding the PPA’s efforts in his state, Castonguay ends his post by censuring Frisina for having raised his criticisms. Writes Castonaguay, “So, you wanna b%$#@ and moan because you think the PPA isn't doing enough of this or that...then look in the mirror and ask how much action YOU have taken to support the cause.”

That’s how one PPA State Director responded to Frisina’s criticisms. Not the sort of tone one would like to see from someone charged with leading others, but there it is.

Then another State Director, Steve Brubaker (who represents Illinois), added his two cents yesterday. After dismissing worries about Ultimate Bet -- Brubaker says he continues to play at UB because he sees the current troubles there as an “isolated incident” -- he echoes the sentiment of some others by saying that the PPA doesn’t need to publicize any given online scandal since “most people know about it and can make decisions based on their trust of the site.” A few debatable claims in there -- that UB is A-OK, that “people know about” the scandals -- but Brubaker is certainly entitled to his view.

However, his post doesn’t end there. After making his point and defending the PPA, Brubaker saw fit to add this bit of paranoia-fueled vitriol:

“Now - a word on ‘trolls’. In any open forum, trolls (haters that only want to stir up problems) abound. I think Lifesabluff [i.e., Frisina] is a troll. Perhaps he's an employee of casinos or others that want to see the PPA or online poker fail. I think he should be blocked from posting.”

Again, this is a State Director of the PPA, here characterizing a member who has raised questions about the organization as an enemy combatant who needs silencing.

Can’t say I blame Frisina for cancelling his PPA membership. I realize those who have volunteered to serve as State Directors are especially passionate people who believe not only in fighting for citizens’ rights to play poker but in the PPA’s strategy for accomplishing that goal. They have to be that way -- the organization would be ill-served by State Directors who didn’t feel so strongly about the cause.

Even so, I find the responses of Castonguay and Brubaker to Frisina to be appalling. State Directors simply cannot come onto the PPA forums and address members in this way, no matter how much they might disagree with the opinions to which they are responding.

As the PPA’s recently-altered mission statement claims, the organization allegedly “consists of enthusiasts from around the United States who have joined together to speak with one voice” in the effort to preserve our rights to play poker. How can that happen if issues raised by members are met with derision and/or calls to suppress those offering a dissenting view?

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Michael said...

With their lack of transparency and their board composition, I believe that the PPA is doing nothing more than serving the interests of the online poker affiliate farms. Sure goes a long way in explaining their attitude towards the AP and UB scandals, doesn't it?

3/21/2008 8:08 PM  
Anonymous TheEngineer said...

Hi everyone,

Your point on tone is well-taken. I thank you for sharing it.

Randy Castunguay and Steve Brubaker are highly motivated state directors who have volunteered to do a ton of work, for free, for our right to play. On that topic, I do this on a volunteer basis as well. As such, sometimes we just assume that other poker players will join the fight. However, it often seems we spend more time fighting each other than our opponents, which gets tough at times. So, while I do think Randy and Steve may have been tough on Frank Fristina (and while I'm personally very happy that Frank chose to visit our forum with his inquiry), I hope we can cut them a little slack and remember how hard they're working for our freedoms. Likewise, I'm sure they'll be more careful with their responses as well.

I'm looking forward to continuing to work with you all to fight for our freedoms.

Thanks,

Rich Muny
PPA Board Member & KY State Director

3/22/2008 9:38 PM  
Anonymous TheEngineer said...

"With their lack of transparency and their board composition, I believe that the PPA is doing nothing more than serving the interests of the online poker affiliate farms. Sure goes a long way in explaining their attitude towards the AP and UB scandals, doesn't it?"

I guess I don't understand this comment. PPA publishes its tax returns. Its leadership answers any and all questions, frequently on the forum. In fact, John Pappas spent a considerable amount of time answering all of the questions from Lifeabluff.com. Seems open to me. As for the board, its simply comprised of people who care about the game.

I also don't get the comment about PPA's attitude regarding Absolute and UB. I absolutely condemn their actions, but the PPA can't be the poker BBB and the advocate for the game. They can be one or the other, but not both. I hope you'll read the thread in question to understand the nuances, and I hope you'll ask lots of questions if you have any remaining. You'll get answers to whatever you're wondering about.

Cheers,

TE

3/22/2008 9:46 PM  
Blogger MA_PPA_REP said...

Greetings Short-Stacked Shamus;

I am Randy Castonguay the MA State Director of the PPA and I would like to comment on your post.

You may be surprised by this, but I entirely agree with you regarding my misdirected and misguided tirade toward Mr. Frisina. My statements directed to Frank Frisina were entirely inappropriate and appalling and I regret having made those statements. In fact, I plan on posting an open apology to him on the PPA forum and via his website contact info.

For whatever it's worth; I'd like to offer the following circumstances, not as an excuse, but rather as mitigating circumstances leading up to those comments.

As you pointed out in your posting,
"I realize those who have volunteered to serve as State Directors are especially passionate people who believe not only in fighting for citizens’ rights to play poker but in the PPA’s strategy for accomplishing that goal. They have to be that way -- the organization would be ill-served by State Directors who didn’t feel so strongly about the cause." An unfortunate consequence of the "passion" that some of us State Directors have is a delicate balance between being somewhat overzealously protective of the organization with which we have helped build and a level-headed pursuit to try and make everyone happy (or to at least try to that end as very best we can). Often the stresses associated with the above is likened to a pressure cooker; and in the instance of my comments made about Mr. Frisina on the PPA forum, I had quite frankly, "boiled over". Does that lessen the responsibility of what I opined on the forum? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Another issue, for me at least, is an overwhelming tendency to take attacks on the PPA very personally. The reason for this is that when you have put as much time, effort and energy into an organization as I have, it becomes very "easy" to defend from a perceived attack (whether it has the appearance of being reasonable or not).

I am human...I make mistakes, and when I am wrong, I readily admit it. In this instance, I was very wrong, and I am truly and sincerely very sorry for my behavior toward Mr. Frisina on the PPA forum and I hope that he, and my constituents in Massachusetts will forgive my moment of "idiocy".

Additionally, the very last thing that I want is to tarnish the reputation of the PPA with such behavior on my part. I hope that your readers will understand that the views expressed were my own and not the views of the PPA as a whole.

Again, I apologize for my behavior on the PPA forum and ask that those directly involved and even those remotely offended to forgive me and to overlook it this one time. Everyone should be entitled to a "second chance" and I hope you will afford me one in this instance.

All In,

Randy C~
MA PPA Director

3/23/2008 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Brubaker said...

Thank you for writing this blog Shamus. My apology goes directly to the PPA - a great organization doing good work. I am sorry if my comments smeared the reputation of the PPA. Poker is a high spirited game not for wimps. It shouldn't be surprising to anyone that tempers flared over what were perceived as Frank's attacks on the PPA. (An association he quit, BEFORE I posted BTW.) Should cooler heads have prevailed? Yes. The troll comment was a bad decision on my part for which I am sorry. On AB/UB, my comments on the PPA site are valid. The market will decide, as it should, if AB/UB continues in the marketplace. So, what is the takeaway? Frank, a cartoon drawer I didn't know existed, gets more hits on his site than he normally would. (You're welcome.) I eat a little crow, and learn a lesson that I shouldn't need to learn at my age. When you represent somebody else, keep your personal feelings to yourself. Once again, my apologies all around.

Steve Brubaker
IL PPA State Director

3/23/2008 9:44 AM  
Blogger Waldo's Wild Kingdom said...

Wow Steve...that's up...quite an apology...or something.

3/23/2008 8:35 PM  

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