Forum Files: Missing the Point

What’s most frustrating about the TwoPlusTwo forums in general, and the News, Views and Gossip subforum in particular, isn’t the trolling and abrasive posters, nor the general bitterness and anger, nor even the simple fact that almost everyone is wrong about almost everything. What’s most frustrating is that the people who post the most read the least, and vice versa. And so, every potentially interesting thread is immediately derailed, usually within the first page, by users who not only haven’t bothered to educate themselves about the subject they’re attempting to comment on, but seemingly didn’t even read the initial post, let alone any of the previous responses. To paraphrase the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, the trouble with many people on the forums isn’t just that they’re rarely right, but that they tend to miss the point so thoroughly that sometimes they’re not even wrong.

That’s not to say that every post is pointless, but the thoughtful ones tend to sit adrift on a sea of nonsense, lonely and ignored. Usually, for this column, I go looking for those more interesting and on-topic tidbits and call to them the attention they deserve, even if I disagree with the poster’s thesis. I didn’t find much in the way of good posts this week, however, so instead I’d like to look at a few threads which had potential to be interesting, but which degenerated even more quickly than usual. It’s probably too late for anyone to get any of these threads back on the rails, but if I can provide the food for thought which the threads themselves lack, then at least that’s something, right?

Did PokerStars make a marketing mis-step with its $1 million freerolls?
Thread: Another Pokerstars miscommunication?

In case you were wondering whether the forums community is still angry with PokerStars and its parent company Amaya, of course it is. The bitterness produced by the site’s recent changes isn’t going away any time soon. Some of the anger is misplaced, some is understandable but unproductive, but some is also very well deserved. In particular, the timing with which information about the changes was released showed an aversion to transparency on the part of the company, but also the way in which the changes were presented was rather tone deaf and seriously underestimated the poker community’s ability to see through attempts to spin the changes as good for everyone. The changes would have been unpopular no matter how they were presented, but attempting to convince those negatively affected that the changes were for their own good was an insult to everyone’s intelligence.

PokerStars has now gone forward with its plan, announced in December, to hold quarterly freerolls with a $1 million prize pool. It turns out, however, that the tournament itself isn’t a freeroll, but rather, free tickets are being given out to feeder satellites. Meanwhile, PokerStars has attempted to explain, with Daniel Negreanu’s assistance, that the tournament should benefit professional players most, because they’re more likely to cash. This argument ignores two obvious but inconvenient facts: firstly, that the freerolls are not new, but are simply replacing freerolls with identical prize pools, but which were formally only open to Supernova and Supernova Elite players as part of their compensation for achieving that status. Secondly, with the freerolls now open to one and all, the prize pool will be spread so thin that the value of an entry divided by the time the tournament will take to play makes it a complete waste of time for a professional player with an eye on her hourly rate.

As the thread title implies, the problem here is not so much what PokerStars has done with the freerolls as with how it has structured them and presented them to the struggling pros most impacted by the changes. Obviously, the real purpose of the freerolls is to entice recreational players with the chance to win money, most of which will then be either recouped by the site through rake or end up being won by better players in the long run. The interesting question, then, is how PokerStars could communicate its reasoning publicly, without insulting either the recreational players or the pros. Instead, the thread consists mostly of people pointing out repeatedly that the freerolls are of no direct personal benefit to themselves.

Who would you take as a wildcard for the GPL?
Thread: GPL team gm for a day. Who are you 2 wildcards?

Allen Kessler, perhaps hoping that he himself still has a shot at getting into the Global Poker League (GPL), posed the question to the forums: If you were a team manager in the GPL, who would you take as your wildcards? The rules for wildcards are simple, and laid out by Kessler in the first post: anyone willing to play in the GPL is eligible, except for players in the Global Poker Index Top 1000 who did not opt in to be draftable during the regular draft round. This is to avoid the possibility of a GPI 1000 player declining to be draftable at first, but then agree to be a wildcard in order to get him or herself onto a specific team.

Unfortunately, many people responding to the thread failed to check either the draft list or the teams as they stand, because a number of the suggestions include either players who were already drafted, like Jonathan Duhamel and Jason Mercier, or players who are ineligible due to not having opted in for the draft, such as Joe McKeehen. Fortunately, the thread has produced some redemption for itself in the form of joke suggestions, my favorites being “Ray Bitar and Russ Hamilton” (a selection which would render the entire poker world apoplectic) and “Brian Hastings and Brian Hastings” (Hastings having been outed for multi-accounting last summer).

Don’t bother, Kitty – chauvinists don’t get irony
Thread: American WPT Players are FAT & EPT Players are Handsome

In an interview with Matt Savage at a recent World Poker Tour stop, Kitty Kuo commented that she prefers the European Poker Tour, because the men there are handsome, while the players at WPT events (which are mostly in the US, despite the tour’s name) tend to be fat. As exactly one person in the thread understands, this is an ironic statement (“80% sure she’s leveling“). Women poker pros like Kuo are subjected to near-continual judgment on their appearance, and her comment is pretty clearly intended to point this out by turning it around and subjecting the men around her to the same scrutiny. That sort of humor is lost on a lot of people, but if it’s not obvious enough that she’s joking, she goes on to complain about how men don’t like to dress up nicely for tournaments, while she is herself standing there in a baggy sweatshirt. Her attire was of course pointed out by one poster, who nonetheless completely failed to get the joke.

An additional layer of irony was provided by forums moderators, who quickly locked the thread before it could devolve into irrational man-rage. These are the same forums, you’ll note, that routinely allow multi-page threads about whether or not a given female pro is “hot” or not, and dismiss those who call this sexist as being overly sensitive. Hmmm.

Easy come, but I forget what comes next
Thread: If Everyone Is Broke, Where Does All Poker $$$ Go?

This thread begins with a valid question: We rarely hear about poker professionals living a comfortable life. Rather, we hear about their big wins, and the next thing you know, we hear about them being broke, deeply in debt to other players, or even cheating and running scams. Does that mean, then, that everyone is losing out in the long run, and if so, where is the money going?

Although it’s a valid question, it’s also a bit naive, and several posters were snide in pointing this out: “money can be used to buy goods and services (read: hookers and blow)” is the first reply in the thread, from user “vinivici9586.” Others gave more complete answers to the question, citing poor bankroll management, overspending, and tournament fees and rake. Apparently, if there’s one thing forums posters are experts on, it’s why it’s hard to become and stay rich as a professional gambler.

For a while, it was actually shaping up to be a reasonable thread about the difficulties of the professional poker lifestyle, but then someone inevitably mentioned “women” as an expense, and the posters collectively decided to demonstrate another tendency of the forums: the remarkable ability to work misogyny into even those topics least related to gender. By the end of page 2, the subject of conversation had shifted to whether paying for prostitutes is more or less expensive than having a girlfriend or wife. Because, you know, sex is the only advantage to being in a relationship, and women don’t have jobs or bank accounts.

Did training sites ruin it for the rest of us?
Thread: Training sites: why did people give away valuable strategy for so little reward?

The most interesting and productive thread for this week’s Forum Files is by the same token the least connected to the theme. so I’ve saved it for the end. The original poster “SpinMeRightRound” wonders why it is that so many winning (or supposedly winning) players are so willing to divulge their approach to the game in return for far less money than they could presumably have won by keeping the secrets to themselves.The answers suggested run the gamut from altruistic to utterly cynical, while passing through varying degrees of pragmatism and personal development along the way. Like many of the better forums threads, this one is as interesting for the insight offered into the psychology of the people posting in it as it is for the topic of conversation itself.

Some of the reasons given include: the ego boost from having an audience of admiring fans and students; the desire to contribute something positive to the world rather than merely taking money from others; that someone else would do it regardless, so one might as well collect the money oneself; and that coaching others is a good way to focus on and refine one’s own skills.

In any case, chances are that the rationale given by any given coach would be some combination of the above reasons, plus perhaps some other, more personal considerations. My only gripe about the thread is that it never really addresses the fundamental assumption underlying the question itself, which is whether training sites are actually good for poker, bad for poker or neutral. I think that’s a much more interesting question, but also much harder to answer. What do you think?

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