The response came on this week’s Two Plus Two Pokercast (the 12/1/08 episode), the first half-hour of which was devoted to discussing the 60 Minutes story. As show hosts Mike Johnson and Adam Schwartz point out, Two Plus Two was given a bit of exposure there in the segment. The site is never specifically mentioned by name in the report, but there are references to “internet poker forums” and their participants having been largely responsible for uncovering the scandals. (I think there was a fleeting shot of the site up on a computer monitor at one point as well.)
Since Two Plus Two was part of the story (says Johnson), they decided to have Two Plus Two owner Mason Malmuth on at the start of this week’s show to offer his thoughts on the 60 Minutes piece.
“I want to talk about this from a little different point of view,” Malmuth characteristically begins. I say “characteristically” because as we all know, just about everything from Malmuth comes from “a little different point of view.”
After noting that “obviously” the report “was not good for internet poker or our industry,” Malmuth says that “sometimes events happen which on the surface don’t seem like they are very good but they create opportunities to get things accomplished which can be long term good.”
That little preface is kind of a false tell, actually. Most of us probably are thinking Malmuth is about to point out how the negative report might lead to legislative action that would clarify the murky legal status of online poker, and perhaps also ensure certain regulatory standards that would further prevent other, similar cheating scandals from occurring.
But no. Malmuth isn’t going there.
He then explains that when it comes to “our industry,” there are “certain groups who are important” who oppose online poker and who routinely associate internet poker with all forms of of “gambling, pornography, racism, [and] anti-religious themes.” Put ’em “all in the same basket” and “call it vice,” says Malmuth. It is therefore important for those of us who are invested in online poker to be wary of this prejudice.
A little out there, but okay. I’m not so sure that many people or “groups who are important” are arguing that playing online poker is somehow equivalent (or even comparable to) being racist, but I understand the point that there are those who see it as a “vice” and who have a very hard time thinking of it any other way.
Malmuth then focuses on the 60 Minutes piece, saying how it “began with a person and ended with a person” -- he won’t even say Todd Witteles’ name -- whom Malmuth clearly doesn’t like seeing on CBS speaking for “our industry.” (Malmuth isn’t alone in having this opinion, of course.) What most grieves Malmuth, though, is that Witteles’ “name is now out there, and what’s going to happen is people are going to Google his name, and they are going to come to the website that he’s associated with.”
That is, NeverWin Poker. Malmuth refuses to say the name of the site, too.
Says Malmuth, NeverWin Poker is a “cancer in our industry” which as far as he is concerned is “all these things wrapped up together” -- that is, the list of “vices” he’d previously presented.
Then Malmuth calls on Poker Players Alliance Chairman Alphonse D’Amato to issue “standards” according to which poker websites be recommended to follow in order to help disassociate poker from other “vice” or deplorable intercourse or behavior. “Those websites or members of our industry who don’t follow these standards should be treated as outcasts,” Malmuth concludes.
So that’s the silver lining or “long term good” Malmuth sees in the 60 Minutes piece? Not that it might affect in a positive way the legal status of online poker in the United States, but it might lead to the poker community making “outcasts” of NeverWin Poker, once and for all?
I’m not looking to defend some of what one finds on the uncensored NeverWin Poker forum and website. But what kind of a response to the 60 Minutes story is this? Is Malmuth right? Will some of those members of “certain groups who are important” now look up Witteles, find NeverWin Poker, and decide poker is a breeding ground for all other “vice” and/or socially unacceptable activities?
Host Mike Johnson compliments Malmuth for “taking the high road” here by not mentioning Witteles or NWP by name. But really, this sort of griping doesn’t seem much like the “high road” at all. Maybe there’s a point in there somewhere, but it all just sounds way too petty and personal to me.