Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Covering the WSOP

On Covering the WSOPBlogs can go a variety of ways.

For some, the blog is an intensely personal, utterly truthful record of the author’s existence, with autobiographical accuracy representing its goal and purpose. Others will mix fact with fiction, creating characters (so to speak) through which to communicate their thoughts, beliefs, and/or opinions with the world.

Still others use their blogs to discuss everything other than themselves, perhaps focusing on a favorite area of interest like politics, culture, religion . . . or poker.

I suppose all of those potential blog varieties have informed Hard-Boiled Poker from time to time. Even though the focus is mostly personal, I’ve always tended to approach the blog as a journalist might. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve had some experience with print media (columns and book reviews), and thus am aware of the various guidelines and ethics one generally follows in that realm. And even though I write under a pseudonym here, I’ve nonetheless always followed those procedures here. In other words, I never misreport or spread false info -- about myself or others -- and when it comes to editorializing I always aim to be constructive and balanced.

Helping cover the WSOP for PokerNews this summer has got me thinking a lot about the so-called “poker media.” When I report on those tourneys over at PN, there’s no question, it’s Journalism with a capital J. The goal is accuracy, first and foremost. Keeping the reader’s interest is also high up on the list, and there are a variety of ways that can be achieved (without forsaking accuracy, of course). A little creativity here and there, if only to help minimize the soul-crushing repetitiveness of yet another “they-got-it-all-in-before-the-flop” march to the showdown, goes a long way (for both reader and writer, I’d imagine).

I’ve expressed a lot of cynicism here in the past about the poker media, particularly the way its efforts are usually hopelessly blinkered by unseemly allegiances to advertisers. With PokerNews that actually is not so much the case. Sure, they heavily rely on revenue from online sites. But when it comes to reporting on the poker world, including the WSOP, the coverage is only minimally affected by such affiliations. Some players are designated by their sponsoring sites in the chip counts, but other than that there really is no discernable slant in any particular direction other than what is suggested by the usual standards of “journalistic ethics” -- i.e., a “bias” in favor of being truthful, impartial, and fair.

But what about the prejudice in favor of name pros? Surely that exists, doesn’t it?

My buddy Cadmunkey alerted me to an interesting thread over on Two Plus Two about all of the “year of the pro” talk which I addressed a few days ago and which Dr. Pauly also wrote about over on PokerNews earlier in the week. Actually it was one post in particular, by someone named MinxKitten, which was interesting. MinxKitten pointed out how WSOP reporting often tends to emphasize the exploits of established, recognizable pros, thus, according to Minx’s reasoning, “tilt[ing] the coverage” in their favor, and, perhaps, unduly fueling them “year of the pro” arguments.

MinxKitten makes a mostly astute observation, I think. (Doesn’t have much to do with the “year of the pro” argument, really, but still brings up a good point.) I wrote about something similar earlier this year, actually, in a post titled “Playing Favorites.” Of course the famous ones get more coverage. Hell, we start each event with posts listing them, often titled something like “Some Familiar Faces.” And, yes, if yr last name is Ferguson, Hellmuth, or Brunson, we’re gonna start tracking ya right away.

But as soon as folks start accumulating chips, we start asking them who the hell they are. And start reporting on them. And by Day 2 everyone is there.

And here’s another little phenomenon of the coverage of which I doubt too many who read along are aware. Sometimes a player -- usually not a “famous” one -- will ask a reporter to include him or her in the chip counts. Last night this happened. A fellow came around and said, hey, I’ve got some buddies back home who’d like to know how I’m doing, can you stick me in there?

“Of course!” we replied. We even ended up reporting a couple of his hands as well -- something that’s much, much easier to do when we know a person’s name.

Frankly, I’d be all for WSOP entrants sporting nametags, or perhaps hanging an sign on the back of their chairs saying who they were. Stuff like that is hard to sell, though, among players and/or those who run tourneys. The fact is, we don’t always want to bother ’em for names because, well, these guys are trying to play poker. And we’re trying to give ’em some distance to do their thing.

Anyhow, I do hope people are enjoying and getting something from the coverage over on PokerNews. It ain’t perfect, I know. But it’s pretty damn good (I think), and is done with an earnestness and sincerity that makes me feel very good about being able to contribute. (And I’m not even referring here to the professionalism of all my colleagues -- also a big plus for yr humble gumshoe.)

And even though all of this is coming to you via this here character I’ve created, I hope my own earnestness and sincerity is coming through as well.

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Blogger My final out said...

I have been keeping up pretty regularly on PN and you guys are all doing a fantastic job. Keep it up Shamus.


6/19/2008 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shamus,
I "almost" wrote a comment to your recent post in which you said... "Bit of an anticlimax last night at that final table of Event No. 28, the $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha with Rebuys event.". It seemed at the time that you were disappointed that you didn't have a big-name finalist to report on, just a couple of of internet pros. Or perhaps you were just taking your cue from the fans who disappeared once the big names were knocked out.

6/19/2008 8:58 AM  
Blogger Irongirl01 said...

I happened to be fortunate enough to have my chip counts as well as my bust-out captured on PokerNews when I played the Ladies WSOP last year. Pauly kept track of how Me, Change and LJ were doing.

As you mention it is harder to be asked my someone on the rail how so and so is doing in that sea of Humanity that is the Amazon room on a Day I.

Excellent coverage Shamus for the team and here as usual!!

6/19/2008 9:23 AM  
Blogger gadzooks64 said...

I think that the fascination with the famous and/or infamous (da Chark, da scarf, etc.) is natural. There has to be some catch, gimic, or personality flaw that catches our attention AND KEEPS it for someone to truly become famous.

The same it true for the mass of unknown poker players entering the hallowed halls of the Rio. They all want their shot at fortune and fame.

You guys are doing an amazing job this year. I really think the coverage has been superb. The media coverage (writing, podcasts, the ESPN360 coverage) has been top notch.

Keep up the hard work!

6/19/2008 11:12 AM  
Blogger cheer_dad said...

When do you find the time to write these pieces up in between everything else that you're doing in Las Vegas?! Honestly... get some rest!



6/19/2008 1:00 PM  
Blogger Ignatious said...

And even though all of this is coming to you via this here character I’ve created, I hope my own earnestness and sincerity is coming through as well.

have no fear, sir. you are doing an excellent job.

6/20/2008 9:51 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, all!

6/22/2008 12:05 AM  

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