Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What May Said

Poker FarmThis week Jesse May shared another thoughtful commentary over on the Poker Farm site, this time addressing last week’s news regarding Full Tilt Poker in a piece he titled “Feel the Shame.”

In the piece, May kind of steps back and gives us a “big picture”-type observation regarding the significance of the DOJ’s amendment to the civil complaint -- to the poker world, generally speaking, but really mostly to himself.

He starts out noting very shrewdly how we all -- more or less -- enter this game with a kind of “romantic view of the poker world and a desire to be accepted by the rambling gambling men who ruled” it.

Then some time passes. We become less romantic and more realistic. “You get wiser because you have to,” says May. You realize it’s not all good -- and in fact some of it kind of stinks -- but unless you’re completely disillusioned you figure out a way to deal with all that and thus find yourself a comfortable spot from which to operate.

May had gone through that whole process, he explains, arriving at a place where it sounds like he thought he was fully prepared to withstand yet another story of cheating or scandal or something else to disprove that earlier romantic view. Another story to knock poker down a notch. Again.

Then came Full Tilt. “Something happened to me when Full Tilt Poker collapsed,” says May, noting how the company’s failures on all fronts have filled him with a sense of shame. Overwhelmingly so, it seems.

What it has all been aboutThe shame is directed at Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and the others at the top at FTP. It is directed at the “red pros” and “every one of you that owns Full Tilt Poker stock and has sat in silence.” It is directed at anyone who’s ever been patched up -- not just by FTP, but by any site -- and who thus also sat idly by, taking whatever they could get, while the poker world crumbled into a utterly corrupt mess of self-interest and moral bankruptcy.

May also directs some criticism at himself, suggesting that he, too, “sat by in silence while you all cheated, stole, and lied.... I’m ashamed that I’ve sat here for twenty years and let you rule the poker world as long as I was still getting paid.”

I’ve reread May’s piece a few times. I’m still trying to digest what exactly he’s saying.

I tweeted it without comment when I first saw it a couple of days ago, because I thought it worth others’ reading and thinking about. Then saw others do the same, some with “go get ’em, Jesse”-type endorsements attached.

I wonder how carefully people are reading his piece, though. I mean, it isn’t really the sort of thing that should inspire a lot of cheerleading. I might be reading it incorrectly, but I don’t really see May making a Howard Beale-like call to arms here. Sure, we’re all mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore. And if that’s what he was saying, well then I guess I could understand everyone getting excited and everything turning all pep-rallyish. Or lynch-mobby.

But to me May is making a much more personal statement. And along with it implicitly inviting us to perform our own self-examinations. That is to say, he’s inviting us all to do something very difficult.

I see May inviting us to ask ourselves some questions.

What does the game of poker mean to you? Is it a means to an end, and thus only of value insofar as it gets you somewhere else? Or is the game more important than that?

For May, it is clearly the latter. And I think this latest damage-causing implosion in the poker world has made him realize that maybe he’d been persuaded to think in ways that suggested otherwise. Or at least forget for a while what poker really meant to him. That is to say, his involvement in poker perhaps caused him occasionally to believe as though it were just a means to an end and not something more. Which it clearly was for him before, and probably for most of us, too. Remember?

And so he watched and did nothing as others tore the game down. Like so many did. Like we did.

That’s what I’m hearing, anyway. More a confession than a call. And an invitation, articulated in the title as a directive though not repeated once in the entire piece. No, the only thing May tells us to do is not to throw stones in glass houses. And to “know thyself.”

Which May himself knows is easier said than done.

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Blogger NBShuffler71 said...

I also didn't feel inspired or galvanised by the blog. Sounded almost like a resignation from poker, quite desperate like the last straw.

Like or Loathe him May has always covered the game with passion and a boyish enthusiasm, which seemed genuine to me. Although his article was a riveting read, i felt his sadness and shared it too. He was partly responsible for sparking my interest in the game through Late Night poker, but now i'm starting to wonder what i got involved in and also ask questions of myself.

I agree it is hard to stomach the silence of former FT pros and the sight of others still on the take, when it feels like the whole thing has gone rotten. It was hard to get exited about Lindgren or Cunningham making runs in the WSOP ME whatever the scale of their involvement in FTP. Don't forget PStars still faces serious charges too.

Lets hope there are better (more honest) times ahead for the game but at the moment maybe a low profile and some humility is best all round, rather than some eagerly talking about the prospect of online poker being legalised in the US. That's the last thing anyone should be thinking about at the moment.

9/28/2011 8:16 PM  

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