Saturday, November 17, 2007

Get Ready to Rumble

The Rumble” is how I categorize those posts in which I talk about how poker is discussed and presented in various media. The rumble has been fairly loud these last few days. Three items stood out from the usual noise this week. (Gobboboy vs. The Professor was a close fourth.)

WSOP, the Next Frontier

WSOP to go online?On Wednesday, BusinessWeek reported that Gary Loveman, a chief executive from Harrah’s Entertainment, has said the casino giant was looking to create a WSOP online poker site -- to operate outside of the U.S., of course. In passing along the info, I saw Dan Michalski Robert Goldfarb over at Pokerati suggesting Party Poker as a possible site for Harrah’s to purchase and rebrand. Not seeing any specific references to Party Poker when I scan about for further news of the story, but that certainly sounds like a possibility here. Amy Calistri has a good write-up over on PokerNews that adds further details and context.

Incidentally, I happened this week to chat with a person from Party who was looking to promote their new German online poker site. I asked him what he knew about the possibility of Party ever coming back to the U.S., and he said he felt sure that would not happen unless the UIGEA were repealed.

Speaking of which . . .

Rescue Annie

Annie Duke testifying before the House Judiciary CommitteeWednesday was also the day Annie Duke testified on behalf of the Poker Players Alliance before the House Judiciary Committee. Her brief (6-minute) presentation is an abridged version of the 10-page testimony entered into the Judiciary Committee’s official minutes.

The “dazzling diva of Las Vegas” -- as committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) referred to Duke -- did fairly well, I thought, given the time constraints. She invoked John Locke and John Stuart Mill regarding the principles of non-intrusive government, correctly characterizing the UIGEA as violating such principles. She said she understood and respected those who believed gambling to be “immoral or unproductive” -- however, she objected to the idea that those who do not consider gambling as such should be prevented from doing so.

Her list of other activities that could be harmful if done to excess -- “shopping, day trading, sex, chocolate, even drinking water” -- makes a point, I guess, but who is really convinced by this “if the gov’t is gonna outlaw this then we’re all headed down the slippery slope” argument? (I also wouldn’t necessarily have kept referring to those interested in enforcing the UIGEA as “prohibitionists,” even if that is what they are.)

The post-hearing vibe does seem optimistic, though, and as a PPA member I’m glad about Duke doing her part this way. Here’s a PokerListings article summarizing some of the good guys’ excitement about the current state of things. Still feels like a long, long way to go, though, before any of this activity actually breathes life into a UIGEA repeal (or replacement).

Sklansky Says Relax

Sklansky Says RelaxFinally, I saw a couple of days ago where Iggy had pointed us to David Sklansky’s post titled “My First, And Perhaps Only, Statement About Absolute.” The thumbnail goes like this: Sklansky is 59 years old, and thus says “the stuff” (i.e., the Absolute Poker cheating scandal) “doesn’t horrify” him the way it does others. Such stoicism stems from what sounds like the poker author’s fundamental theorem of human nature: “the majority of people who don’t do wrong, at least as far as money is concerned, choose that honest path only because it is the better play.” That is to say, we’re all essentially greedy and self-interested, and would cheat each other at every opportunity if we knew we wouldn’t get caught. Your basic Hobbesian pessimism here.

Sklansky does express some outrage at AP’s stubbornness to admit any wrongdoing had occurred, particularly after statistical evidence indicated the contrary. Ultimately, though, Sklansky says relax and “do what is [in] your own best interest.” Hey, we’re all selfish anyway, right? As far as continuing to play on Absolute goes, Sklansky says “if you are a cheater and a colluder you should rush right over there,” but if you are not, then don’t refuse to play on the site “as a matter of principle.” “This isn’t the Civil Rights movement,” he concludes. “We’re talking about internet poker.” In the end, he says go play on AP if you think you can come away a winner. “As long as the profit motive is your main motive,” says Sklansky, we should go play (if we want) and not get all uptight about the fact that those running the show cheated customers out of hundreds of thousands.

Have to say I ain’t too keen on Sklansky’s conclusion here. And it isn’t because I have a more generous view of human nature, either. (I don’t.) Sure, online poker is hardly the Civil Rights Movement. (Few things are.) It’s mostly something a lot of us do for fun and perhaps for a few other, more or less noble reasons.

I wish my government hadn’t made it so the WSOP cannot even entertain going online in the country where the damn thing originated, but they did. And so we have no regulation beyond what the sites are willing to do themselves. Annie Duke and the PPA go to Washington and suggest preventing us from playing is, in fact, a civil rights issue. I don’t disagree.

The hope is to get online poker fully legal and regulated so we don’t have to shrug our shoulders and say, like Sklansky, that when someone cheats us we just have to accept that as part of the game. “When I play poker,” Sklansky clarifies, “I always factor in a very small chance that I might get cheated. You should too.”

Perhaps I should -- when I play today, at least. But I don’t have to accept that as another fundamental theorem, do I? In fact, if we humans are such selfish types ready and willing to cheat if at all possible, it seems even more imperative to do something when cheating happens -- for example, not playing on sites where the owners cheat the customers and then try to cover it up. That’s doing what is in my best interest.



Blogger Mark said...

Interesting thoughts re human nature and poker cheating Shamus.

I'm of the view that the majority are honest in most areas of life.

It is the fact that most are honest that makes 'cheating' possible in the first place - after all if everyone were cheats then the cheating itself would not be possible, there would be no viable platform from which to cheat from...

Having said that my only real concern with Absolute is the way they handled this - pretty sure that colluding 'spotty teenagers' are a bigger day-to-day problem at all poker sites!

Anyway. interesting read!

Cheers, Mark

11/18/2007 6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record ... point of order ... it was Robert Goldfarb suggesting the connections between Harrah's and PartyGaming.

In general, however, I love taking credit for other people's work.

11/21/2007 7:20 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Apologies to Robert (I have revised the post) . . . I missed that he had authored that Pokerati post.

Such honesty . . . Sklansky must be wrong about human nature!

11/21/2007 12:48 PM  

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