Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Poker Mags

I like Gary Wise’s podcast, Wise Hand Poker. Took me awhile to decide, but I realize I’ve come to look forward to listening to the shows whenever they turn up in the feed.

(Of course, Rounder’s Radio could upload them suckers more regularly. And more quickly. As I have mentioned before, I don’t generally sit around the computer waiting to hear live shows, so if it ain’t available as a download, I probably will miss it.)

Wise writes for Bluff Magazine, ESPN, and some other outlets, and so has a lot of connections in the poker biz. His two-hour shows generally consist of a couple of lengthy interviews with fairly well-known guests. The long format suits Wise -- he does like to talk . . . a lot. But he gives his interviewees a lot of room, too, to respond to his usually thoughtful questions. And ultimately I almost always feel like I get something out of the interviews.

On the February 6th episode of Wise Hand Poker, Wise had recent Women’s Poker Hall of Fame inductee Linda Johnson on as a guest. Johnson is another highly likable and thoughtful person (I recommend the interview, which takes up the second half of the episode). She is sometimes called the “First Lady of Poker” thanks to her important contributions to the industry, as well as her accomplishments as a player. Besides helping establish the Tournament Directors Association and being the publisher and owner of CardPlayer from 1993-2000, Johnson also has over a quarter million in tourney winnings to her credit, including a WSOP bracelet in the 1997 $1,500 Razz event.

About a half-hour into the conversation, Wise asked Johnson some questions about her prior experience overseeing CardPlayer. I was particularly interested in his question “Was CardPlayer intended to be a journalistic magazine, or was it intended to be . . . more entertaining?”

Without hesitating, Johnson answered that the magazine was not intended to be “journalistic.” “At least when I ran it,” explains Johnson, “we never made the pretense that were [producing journalism].” Rather, the primary purpose of the magazine “was to support the poker industry.”

Johnson then immediately brought up how this orientation affected the way CardPlayer would address, say, a scandalous story that might reflect poorly on the industry. (Her example was of a tourney director who was stealing from the rebuy pool in his tourneys.) Johnson explained how CardPlayer wouldn’t necessarily publicize such stories, “because I felt like we were sort of a ‘good will’ part of the industry.” Besides, if they did report such stories, “the advertisers would not support us, and unfortunately you have to have advertisers’ support to make it go.”

Makes sense, frankly. And such is most certainly still the case today, with advertisers having an even greater influence (I’d argue) over the editorial content of industry mags like CardPlayer, Bluff, All-In, and the like.

I mention all of this because I noticed the latest issue of CardPlayer (Vol. 21, No. 3) does, in fact, include an article on the Kahnawake Gaming Commission’s January report of the Gaming Associates’ audit of Absolute Poker. And yes, the article comes just ten pages after a two-page spread featuring Serinda Swan (in a Wicked Chops-esque get-up) encouraging us all to sign up over at Absolute (when we’re done lookin’).

The article (by Bob Pajich) is a straightforward summary of the report of the audit, with no editorial reflections on what the report says (or -- more importantly -- fails to say). Nor is there any attempt to address the relationship between the KGC and AP, or how that relationship perhaps makes that paltry $500,000 fine even less meaningful that it would be otherwise.

I suppose I appreciate CardPlayer’s having at least acknowledged the story. Still, rhetorically-speaking, a simple report might be read as implicitly arguing that all is A-OK at AP and we needn’t worry ever again about entrusting our moneys over there.

Which is fine, if we all understand how the relationship between CardPlayer and its advertisers means it cannot be a reliable source for unfettered, “journalistic” treatments of the poker industry. There’s great stuff in there -- the strategy columns, book reviews, and many of the other features all make it a worthwhile magazine, as far as I’m concerned. But for actual news about the industry, we still need to look somewhere other than in CardPlayer -- even if it does refer to itself as “The Poker Authority.”

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Blogger Random Table Draw said...

Great article. Its something that needs pointing out.

Feel like republishing any of your old articles over at LAB?

2/21/2008 5:35 PM  
Blogger Dantana said...

Linda makes some good points ... and it's nice to know where CP's mission comes from.

But to call themselves "the poker authority" and then not be that ... well it's a bit disingenuous.

Her points about what's good for the industry are well-taken, but i don't think poker should be afraid. the game and industry should be strong enough to handle some bad news. especially if exposing the bad apples can help better the game in the long run.

they also would find that by not being afraid to lose one advertiser, they would secure more of them overall.

does the wall street journal not write about problems at chrysler because they fear the automaker would lose them?

but whatever, i shouldn't be giving this advice out. because if cardplayer were to actually take it, they could put folks like me out of business.

fortunately, we now know why they never will.

2/23/2008 11:38 AM  

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