Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From the Annals of Bad Timing

Today marks the two-month anniversary of Black Friday. Seem like it’s been longer than that to you, too?

Of all the many consequences of the unsealing of the Department of Justice’s indictment and civil complaint on April 15, there was one kind of personal one that I’ve been wanting to share. I’m going to have to be a little bit vague with some of the details, I’m afraid, but you’ll still get the gist of the story, I think. And then we can laugh at my pain together.

As I’ve mentioned here now and again, I’ve been doing a lot of freelance writing about poker for various publications and sites. One publication in particular asked me some time ago about possibly writing a feature for them at some point, and after several months of talking about it an assignment was finally delivered. I had several weeks on which to work on the story, which gave me a chance to research the piece thoroughly as well as to try to contact various individuals in the poker world for comments, too.

The story concerned what had been a very prominent issue in poker for quite some time. I’d commented on the issue at least a couple of times here on Hard-Boiled Poker, I know, and it was one that many others had noticed and formed opinions about. Had to do with the many poker TV shows and how on several of them -- including the most popular ones like “High Stakes Poker” and “Poker After Dark” -- the PokerStars pros and those from Full Tilt Poker were for various reasons unable to compete against one another.

Bad timing for Erik Seidel at 1988 WSOPI ended up digging fairly deeply into the background of the situation, noting a number of different explanations for why the PS guys and FTP guys were not getting to play on the same shows. Most of it was related to the sites’ sponsoring of the shows, but in many cases the situation wasn’t as cut-and-dry as it might have seemed from the outside. That is to say, just because one site sponsored a given show, that didn’t necessarily mean players from the other site were prohibited from playing on it. Like most everything to do with online poker, it was a highly complicated situation.

For the piece I spoke with a number of individuals, including several pros from both sites who regularly appeared on the shows. There were a number of different opinions and views, with some on both sides articulating a desire to resolve the impasse and even coming up with some ideas about how to do so. I also was able to get quotes from the shows’ producers, too, who clarified that while they certainly were involved with the casting of the shows, they weren’t preventing anyone from playing due to a particular site affiliation.

That was one aspect of the article I was especially desirous to have reported, since I think many believed erroneously that the shows’ producers were somehow making decisions about who could and couldn’t play. To refer to just one example, while PokerStars was sponsoring “High Stakes Poker” this season, neither Stars nor the “HSP” folks were saying Full Tilt guys couldn’t play on the show; rather, that was a decision made by FTP.

Bad Timing for GreensteinIn addition to talking to PokerStars and Full Tilt pros who appeared on the shows, I also was able to contact some other very prominent players who weren’t affiliated with either site and who also often played on the shows. Interestingly (I thought), some of those non-affiliated players declined to comment on the story, not wanting to get in the middle of the battle between PS and FTP.

Anyhow, like I say a lot of time and effort went into the piece. I had about six weeks to pull it all together, and I’ll admit it was a satisfying feeling finally to submit it just a couple of days prior to the deadline I’d been given. Maybe even felt a little bit proud about the whole thing.

When was that deadline, you ask? Ah, yes. Friday, April 15.

By dinner time that day I already knew my feature couldn’t possibly run. The entire story was written within a context that had suddenly become utterly obsolete. It was like I had carefully crafted a long, detailed account of a petty little civil war in a country that had suddenly been successfully crushed by another much larger and more powerful one.

Perhaps another, related story could be told, one concerning how the warring factions might have been better off focusing their attentions on other, more pressing matters than their bickering with one another. But the one I’d written was no longer relevant at all.

Of course, looking back on it, I wonder how much it really mattered before. I mean, it seemed important at the time. But in the end, no matter how the whole battle between the sites ultimately went, all of the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk ’cos they got all the money.

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