You know, those what-the-hell-do-I-think-I’m-up-to here kind of posts. Knowing that number 900 was coming up today, I was thinking a bit along those lines over the weekend when I came across an interesting post by Amy Calistri from yesterday regarding the passing of Bob Stupak.
Not so unusual to encounter an interesting post by Amy -- all of her posts are. After a few years of poker writing, Amy not too long ago took a step back from poker to rejoin the so-called “straight” world. Among her many credits before moving on was having co-authored Mike Matusow’s autobiography, Check-Raising the Devil, published earlier this year (read more). She does still keep her blog, Aimlessly Chasing Amy, though, where she’ll occasionally reflect on poker-related items.
As I say, Amy was noting the death at age 67 of Vegas entrepreneur and poker player Bob Stupak, who succumbed over the weekend after a lengthy struggle with leukemia. His varied life included many notable milestones, the most prominent (literally and figuratively) probably being his having been responsible for the building of the Stratosphere, that unmistakable, 1,149-foot addition to the Vegas skyline.
Stupak’s significance to poker and poker history is considerable, too. He made a half-dozen WSOP final tables over the years in a variety of games, winning a bracelet in 1989 in the $5000 Deuce-to-Seven Draw event. He also made a final table of an early WPT event, and some may remember him from a TV appearance there in 2003 or perhaps a little later on “High Stakes Poker” where he played during the first season.
Additionally, Stupak was part of the story of the early days of creating “poker bots” or computer programs to compete with humans in poker, insofar as he was the human opponent to Mike Caro’s computer in a quarter-million dollar match that was shown on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” There are many other intriguing tales surrounding Stupak, including those stemming from his political campaigns, failed attempts to become the mayor of Las Vegas and then, more recently, the state’s Lieutenant Governor. But as the many tweets from the poker pros over the last couple of days indicate, he was a fairly central figure in the poker world, thus making it needful to note his passing.
Amy’s post had a couple of purposes (besides sharing some of her photos of Stupak from the 2006 World Poker Open, one of which I have included here). One was to reflect on Stupak a bit, but the other was to reflect on the somewhat surprising lack of coverage his death received in the poker media. There were a couple of articles out there (e.g., Card Player had one). And of course Pokerati was on top of it. But mostly silence elsewhere. Which seemed strange, but, perhaps, understandable.
Amy notes that she realizes that while “the news used to be a public service,” these days “it’s mostly a thinly veiled ratings grab.” True for all news, for sure. Including poker news. “Hey I know times are tough,” she continues. “With poker affiliate and ad money vanishing like [fill in the blank]’s bankroll, the mad traffic grab is on. And I get the fact that an article with Durrr in the headline or a guy whacking off in the Borgata will get more reads than Bob Stupak’s obituary. But c’mon.”
It’s true, of course, that most poker news seems primarily designed at accumulating hits and, most importantly, generating click-throughs on those affiliate links and banners which can potentially generate the hosting sites some revenue. Like the deal of the cards and the order of betting, that’s how the game is played.
Amy’s Check-Raising collaborator, the Poker Shrink, Tim Lavalli, recently noted that he, too, was bowing out of the poker media game, not long ago announcing his “retirement” in a interesting “Exit Interview from the World of Poker.” He also acknowledged how money has become tight in the poker media game, thus making it harder to accommodate what we might call “real” reporting. “With poker magazines down more than 50% in pages printed and online sites getting 90% less poker ad spots,” writes Lavalli, “there simply is no money left to pay for ongoing quality poker journalism.”
Regarding that latter point, I’m one of those strange people who doesn’t instinctively react to the phrase “poker journalism” with a smirk or derisive comment to “get real.” There are others who feel as I do, I know. And there are some among them who are consistently producing quality poker journalism, though much of it seems to happen despite sites’ pressure not to be overtaken in that “mad traffic grab.”
Getting back to the navel-gazing... I don’t know how valuable my occasional reflections here are in the grand scheme of things. But I enjoy using this space to try to add something to the conversation now and then. And while I’ll happily sell you an ad or try to make a little cabbage if I can, that’s never been a primary purpose or something that unduly affects what I write about here.
The Poker Shrink added one last piece of advice to his “exit interview”: “When the time comes, get out before you burn out.” I guess all this reflecting tells me I ain’t quite there yet. Gonna stick with this Hard-Boiled stuff for a while, I think.
Hell, only a hundred more ’til a thousand.