It took a year or so for Twitter to gain the notice of folks outside of the small podcast publishing and aggregation group at Odeo.com who first introduced it. Twitter became its own company in April 2007, and by the summer of that year 340,000 accounts had been created. A year later, in June 2008, there were approximately 2 million Twitter accounts. By September 2008, that number had crossed 3 million.
In April 2009, Oprah Winfrey did a feature on Twitter on her talk show, a moment some have pointed to as having finally signaled Twitter’s having made its big splash into the mainstream. (I don’t watch Oprah, but now that I think about it that’s right about when I first got my Twitter account, @hardboiledpoker.) Estimates from May 2009 suggest that by then over 30 million Twitter accounts had been created. Today that number is approximately 60 million. Even though not all of those accounts are active, Twitter’s reach is nevertheless extensive, and the site is one of the most visited on the internet, usually turning up around 12th or so (behind sites like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia).
When I helped cover the 2008 World Series of Poker -- my first -- there were a few folks here and there sending text messages from the tables, though these messages were primarily being sent to individuals, not groups of “followers” on Twitter. But when I returned in 2009, Twitter had fully arrived, and those of us reporting on the action were well aware that we were surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of others who were also communicating the action to the outside world -- that is, the players themselves. I wrote a post at the time describing the scene titled “Land of 1000 Reporters.”
In that post I speculated about Twitter’s effect a bit, noting that I thought it served as a useful complement to the reporting I was doing. I also talked about the difference between the live blog (which remains well after the tourney is done) and the tweets (which are accessible later but tend to fade from the “historical record” soon after they are sent).
Of course, one factor I was conscious of all summer was that seemingly meaningless “Rule No. 88” that stated (in bold, no less) that “iPhones, iTouch, Treos, Blackberrys, and other similar devices will not be allowed at any time.” Unambiguous, that. But the players -- if they were even aware of the rule -- were obviously not bothering with following it. Nor were tourney officials too concerned, it seemed, although once tourneys reached the money there was usually some announcement about putting the electronic devices away.
I didn’t care so much one way or the other about folks Tweeting at the tables. I suppose if I had a choice I’d rather they didn’t -- that the poker be contested unmediated by all those communications with those not playing -- but it really doesn’t matter to me. The fact of having a rule, though, and not enforcing it, did always seem a bit strange.
So I was glad to see that when the rules for the 2010 World Series of Poker were released last week, changes included an updated policy regarding players communicating with those electronic devices at the tables. The new rule (No. 55) is stated as follows:
“All cell phones and other voice-enabled and ‘ringing’ electronic devices must be turned off during tournament play. Players not involved in a hand (cards in muck) shall be permitted to text/email at the table, but shall not be permitted to text/email any other player at the table. If [the] Rio [i.e., the Tournament staff], acting in its sole and absolute discretion, believes a player is communicating with another player at the table, both parties will be immediately disqualified from the tournament and face imposition of additional penalties as described in Rule 36. All players desiring to talk on a cell phone must be at least one table length away from their assigned table during all said communication. Those individuals who talk on a cell phone not at least one table length away from their assigned table shall be subject to a penalty to be determined by Tournament Staff. No cell phones or other electronic communication device can be placed on a poker table.”
Seems reasonable to me, and as I say this change makes the rules fit more closely with what actually was going on there in the Amazon Room and elsewhere in the Rio.
Of course, players will want to continue to be mindful of what they tweet at the tables -- one is, after all, giving away information, which could theoretically be accessed by one’s opponents! (See “Twitter Can Be Bitter, Or a Tweet Can Be Sweet.”)