Thursday, August 26, 2010

Negreanu and Duke’s War of Word

You’ve no doubt heard something over the last week about this brouhaha between two of professional poker’s highest profile players, Daniel Negreanu and Annie Duke. Right?

The one who sometimes goes by “Kid Poker” called the other one a bad word. Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, I guess it’s time for someone to wash his mouth out with soap.

The conflict between Negreanu and Duke goes back quite a ways, perhaps more than a decade to the days when both were making their first cashes on the professional poker circuit in the 1990s. Duke arrived on the scene slightly ahead of Negreanu (in terms of starting to rack up WSOP and tourney scores, anyway), and the story goes when the pair first played with one another Duke was openly critical of Kid Poker’s play, which led to some return criticism in various contexts from Negreanu.

Back in the early 2000s, the old rec.gambling.poker forum (or “usenet newsgroup”) became the site where the Negreanu-Duke feud became more openly known by the general public. Probably the most notorious exchange concerned an incident from early 2003 in which Negreanu and Duke were playing against one another online (at PokerStars).

Some chatbox abuse from Negreanu caused Duke to write Stars support to complain, and apparently Negreanu was made aware of Duke’s grievance, prompting him to send a not-so-nice email to Duke. Duke’s brother, Howard Lederer, then shared the contents of both the complaint and Negreanu’s screed in a post over at rec.gambling.poker which remains archived here.

There are numerous other highlights (or lowlights) to point to which help document the pair’s dislike for one another, including occasional blog posts by each criticizing the other. The battle was revived somewhat again this summer when a few men played in the Ladies Event at the WSOP, and both took to their blogs to share their opposing views on the matter. Duke once more voiced her objection to ladies-only events, while Negreanu took the “let the ladies play!” side.

Last week the U.K.-based Poker Player website published an interview with Negreanu titled “The Evolution of Daniel Negreanu.” I believe the interview went live on Thursday, August 19th, as that’s when I first started seeing folks tweeting about it. That means more than a month had elapsed since the interview was conducted, as references in the piece indicate the WSOP hadn’t yet concluded. In fact, we’re probably talking six weeks, as it appears the interview probably happened around July 4th or so.

And, as most reading this blog probably already have heard, in the interview Negreanu uses an especially offensive word with reference to Duke -- the “c-word” (and no, he didn’t refer to her as a calling station).

“Hey Daniel, nice job representing poker and reinforcing that our attitude towards women is still Neanderthal,” posted Howard Lederer on Twitter shortly after the interview appeared, humorously referring to the article’s title.

Like I say, this has gotten many folks buzzing this week, despite the fact that in terms of poker news there’s a lot else going on. I’ve already mentioned one reason for all the fuss -- these are two of the most well-known poker players in the world, known even to non-poker people.

Last October Wicked Chops published its own “Poker Q Score Rankings” (from a Bluff article) in which the Entities assembled a panel of industry experts to help create a “Q score” for poker players -- that is, a measure of an individual’s familiarity and appeal or likability, the sort of thing that matters a lot to advertisers when looking for actors or athletes to endorse their products.

Daniel Negreanu vs. Annie DukeOn the WCP list, Negreanu ranked number one. And Duke was ranked fifth -- the highest ranked woman on the list. In other words, when it comes to things like familiarity and even likability, Negreanu might well be the most known male poker player out there today, and Duke is most certainly the most famous female player. Their not getting along thus becomes an ongoing point of reference for those who follow poker, and perhaps even for some who don’t. Sort of a Woods-Mickelson or Shaq-Kobe type thing.

I had a couple of reactions to seeing Negreanu drop the “c-word” in the interview. Was obviously surprised and not too pleased by Negreanu’s language. But I soon found myself wondering also about the interviewer and his intentions.

I’ve already noted that the interview was posted several weeks after it was conducted (not necessarily recommended protocol). Negreanu’s shot at Duke comes in the context of his answering a question about the Ladies Event, and the name-calling seems almost like a weird, unprovoked postscript to his response -- the kind of thing that could easily have been excised from the interview.

(Negreanu did say this week he thought he was “off the record” there, which I tend to believe.)

But not only did Mark Stuart not omit it -- the outburst appears in bold! In other words, he consciously drew extra attention to it.

I’m not defending Negreanu at all here, but just wondering about the interviewer a little bit. We definitely might say “What was he thinking?” about Negreanu. But I’d also say something similar about the interviewer.

I’ve had the chance to interview a number of people in poker. Generally my method has been to record the conversation, transcribe everything, then go back and edit it down to make it more readable (i.e., remove repetitions, the “ums” and “you knows,” and other non-vital digressions).

I have also always tried either to let the subject read over the interview before publishing or, if online, to invite them to suggest after it goes up any needed edits if anything appears incorrect or just doesn’t sound right.

All of which is to say, my instinct here would have been either to omit Negreanu’s epithet or, if somehow I’d thought it needful to include it, to run it by him before publication. I realize, of course, that some may reasonably disagree with that instinct and say, hey, if an interviewee wants to put himself out there like that -- to play the part of a “Neanderthal” who somehow thinks it is permissible to use such language in such a context -- then that’s his choice. But that’s how I think I’d approach this one.

My other reaction was just to be disappointed at the negativity and immaturity of it all. And how poorly such silliness potentially reflects on poker. F-Train posted a tweet yesterday that may or may not have referred to this particular issue, but when I read it, it seemed readily to apply:

“Oh, poker. Will you ever graduate from high school and move on to, I don't know, college?”

(EDIT [added 8/28/10]: For more on the subject, see Nicole Gordon's PokerNews op-ed “The War of the C-Words)

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1 Comments:

Blogger Paboo said...

Don't remember the PS chat emails post, but do recall this post that I read years ago. Turns out it's same day, couple hours later:

http://groups.google.com/group/rec.gambling.poker/browse_thread/thread/d3269fb1595761f9/65fd6aea60ce40eb?q=kidpoker+duke&lnk=ol&#

8/26/2010 5:07 PM  

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