Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sexton’s Scolding

Sexton's ScoldingThe rightly-revered Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton posted an op-ed of sorts today over on his PartyPoker blog, titled “Poker Pros -- Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.” The post kind of echoes calls by others to encourage players to act professionally, most obviously a post by Matt Glantz from about three-and-a-half months ago titled “Responsibility in Poker.”

Like Glantz, Sexton is primarily speaking to “poker pros” whose success garners them more attention than most, including securing television spots and other chances to speak out and thus represent poker to large groups.

In Glantz’ post, after carving out a balanced position from which to speak (“I am not here to bash or scold you guys”), he explains to his readers that “how you act or speak out in any public forum or media outlet” has significance, since “the things you say and do reflect on all of us.”

Glantz then speaks broadly about poker’s negative image in mainstream culture and how that fact alone should encourage those given the chance to represent the game to accept the “responsibility” he’s recommending -- that is, “to make a consistent and conscious effort to always do our best to publicly present poker in a positive light.”

I think Sexton essentially shares Glantz’ view and wanted to say something similar in his post. And given Sexton’s influential position in the industry, it doesn’t hurt for him to repeat what another has already said, if only for the fact that the message will undoubtedly reach a wider audience.

That said, Sexton’s post adopts a much different, less balanced tone than Glantz’. Nor does it share Glantz’ broad perspective on the game and its place in the culture, instead focusing much more narrowly on the need for pros to embrace television shows like the World Poker Tour and recognize the financial reward for doing so.

A WPT final table“I’ve been disappointed and, frankly, disgusted by a lack of professionalism by some poker pros,” Sexton begins. He notes that these bad-behaving pros “don’t see the big picture” and “just live in their own little worlds.” Sexton then presents two quick examples of such bad behavior, one being a pro failing to appear for a scheduled WPT interview and the other being players dressing too casually for a televised WPT final table.

As Sexton explains, the player who missed the interview apparently overslept -- he’s “a nice guy who just spaced out” -- and apologized. The slovenly-dressed final tablists consisted of four T-shirt wearers and another in a sweatshirt, the sight of which leads Sexton into a digression about a dress code for poker.

As I say, it is clear enough that Sexton essentially agrees with Glantz, but unfortunately the Ambassador of Poker is himself probably being a little too narrow in his thinking when it comes to finding examples to support the larger point. As a result, the argument is less convincing, since it could sound a bit like the WPT host complaining about players failing to support his show rather than a larger argument about representing poker in a positive light.

The fact that Sexton keeps coming back to sponsorships as a reward for good, conscientious behavior isn’t really that effective either, since for the great majority of players -- even among the top performers -- sponsorships aren’t really a meaningful consideration. Sexton is really talking about sponsors of the WPT show (and other poker shows), and the indirect -- and real -- benefit that has for those who participate in WPT events, but even that is a somewhat narrow point to be making in this context.

All of which is to say, I’m fine with the position and argument, but feel like Sexton would have been more persuasive had he left off complaining about a few instances of players missing appointments or wearing T-shirts and adopted a broader perspective on improving poker’s place in the culture, generally speaking (as Glantz did). And really, when it comes to bad behavior reflecting poorly on the poker community as a whole, there are a lot more egregious examples to cite.

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