Tuesday, December 02, 2008

More On 60 Minutes’ “The Cheaters”

Dropping InSpent some time yesterday dropping in on others’ responses to the 60 Minutes segment on the Absolute Poker/UltimateBet insider cheating scandals. Watching the ripples, as it were.

Lots of folks on the forums criticizing various aspects of the report, with some sharing anecdotes about neighbors or co-workers now apparently asking them about their engaging in the so-called “illegal” activity of playing online poker. A few cool heads in there, too, though, pointing out (rightly) that the report wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.

I keep thinking about how the 60 Minutes story, coming many months after the news actually broke (for most of us) and therefore containing zero surprises other than the manner of its telling, was weirdly analogous to the delayed World Series of Poker Main Event final table shown on ESPN earlier in the month.

I made that point yesterday, saying how the report was too brief, too cursory, and thus only somewhat representative of the reality. Like a quick highlight reel, actually. A damn weird relationship poker has with the rest of the world, if you think about it. It’s like there’s no way for poker to be presented to those outside of our modest little community without its story being hopelessly compromised via editorial repackaging, embellishment, exaggeration, abridgement, what have you.

Anyhow, I have already shared my take. Let me point you to a few more smart responses to the 60 Minutes report, if you haven’t read them.

Haley Hintze offered a sharp, detailed overview of both the 60 Minutes segment and the accompanying Washington Post articles over on PokerNews, pointing out how the two outfits -- though ostensibly working together on the story -- took highly different approaches to the reporting. While the Post articles were detailed and (especially the second one) closely examined legal questions, Haley explains how 60 Minutes told the story in a “sensational manner, skimming many of the facts in the scandals themselves while becoming a superficial, politically themed fingerpointing, yet without connecting the dots or exploring the regulatory issues involved.” Haley goes on to summarize other aspects of both reports (as well as note an omission or two), highlighting in particular how both shed unflattering light on the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

Otis (on Up for Poker) also gave us a thoughtful take on the segment in a post yesterday titled “60 Minutes does its job, not ours.” Speaking from the point of view of someone who has some journalistic experience, Otis points out that “there was nothing patently unfair about the telling of the story,” then proceeds to do a nice job explaining what exactly a show like 60 Minutes hopes to achieve by airing such a segment. He also distinguishes what he believes “our job” (i.e., that of the bloggers and other non-mainstream types who report and comment on poker) is here. An insightful discussion all around.

Finally, Andrew “Foucault” Brokos (the Poker Philosopher) offered a level-headed view of what we saw Sunday night, hitting all the more important points about what the report actually said and signifies. Foucault is a professional player who (in my opinion) has consistently offered an intelligent view of the scandals and their signficance, and he provides more worthwhile commentary here. And I completely agree with his conclusion, in which he says he “continue[s] to be of the opinion that if we want greater legitimacy, we in the poker community must be willing to air our dirty laundry.”

There were other good takes in the blogosphere as well, but those three stood out for me. As Pokerati Dan pointed out yesterday, the airing of the 60 Minutes story concludes an especially busy month of poker news. Check out Dan’s summary of the November headlines.

Would like to think December and the subsequent months will be less tumultuous, although the various legal battles regarding online poker probably mean it ain’t gonna get any quieter around here.

I guess that’s okay. Most of us like the action, anyway.

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