Forum Files: Opinions about Opinions

Alex Weldon : September 21st, 2015

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Most of our stories in the Forum Files come from TwoPlusTwo’s “News, Views and Gossip” subforum, as that’s where the most non-strategy-related chatter happens. The emphasis this week has been on “Views,” and in particular, on views that have been expressed publicly by various professionals recently. We have commentary on Daniel Negreanu’s opinion about poker books, Phil Hellmuth’s opinions about the Ultimate Bet scandal, and Ian Simpson’s opinion about assistive software. Does the forums community agree or disagree with these people? Read on and find out!

Who’s qualified to write poker books?
Thread: DNegs: Only elite players can write the best books

On his blog at Full Contact Poker, Daniel Negreanu recently had some words of warning for those with a tendency to consume poker books and training videos indiscriminately. His post is a bit more of a rant than a structured argument, but the gist of it is that Negreanu feels that there is too much outdated or just plain bad information out there, and that in order to make sure they’re getting only information which will actually improve their game, players should only buy books that have been recently published by big-name players with sterling track records.

Although it’s hard to argue with the fact that a book written by someone who is terrible at poker is likely to contain terrible advice, it doesn’t automatically follow that the best books will be written by the best players. As several people have pointed out in the forum thread, there are a lot of people out there who have a solid theoretical understanding of the game, but are hampered in their own play by other factors, such as emotional or concentration issues, poor bankroll management, or an inability to think as clearly in real-time as in analysis. Others agree with Negreanu, however, so the thread has produced several pages of decent debate, including, among other things, many people’s opinions about Negreanu’s own books.

Phil Hellmuth – the real hero of the Ultimate Bet saga?
Thread: Highlights of the Phil Hellmuth Reddit AMA

Phil Hellmuth did an Ask-Me-Anything on Reddit last week. The question and answer which drew the most attention and criticism regarded Hellmuth’s role at Ultimate Bet and whether there was more he could have done to help players who were cheated out of money during the super-user scandal. Hellmuth responded by asserting that he had played “a big role” in forcing the investigation and in getting some players reimbursed, to the tune of a total of $25 million.

The way his response is phrased, it suggests that everyone was eventually made whole, but this is far from the case. Several forums posters lost thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars to the Ultimate Bet super-users, but were never reimbursed; as a result, Hellmuth’s boasting caused an understandable amount of outrage from these players and others who feel that he shouldn’t be talking about the scandal as if his own reputation has improved as a result of it, even if, as he was sure to point out, the evidence eventually cleared him of any personal wrongdoing in the matter.

Those posting to the thread vary in the degree to which they’re anti-Phil, however. Some feel that he’s blatantly distorting the truth and that his statement is completely unacceptable, while others see it as simply a case of Phil deluding himself as much as anyone else. A few posters are even pro-Phil, although they’re vastly in the minority.

Yet another third-party software rant
Thread: Ian Simpsons view on software

British professional player Ian Simpson recently wrote an opinion piece for Card Player, in which he argues that the sorts of software tools used by modern online professionals provide an unfair advantage, and are bad for the game in the long run. This is, of course, an opinion that’s shared by many people, but which many others disagree with strongly. In fact, it’s a hotly-contested issue which comes up all the time, and on which few people are neutral.

In his piece, Simpson makes many of the common arguments against assistive tools: that the cost to purchase them becomes a barrier to entry, that it’s hard to prevent players from sharing hand histories illegally, and that seat scripting software creates a hostile environment, and is likely to cause recreational players to quit once they get the sense of being stalked. None of these are new ideas, but Simpson’s status as a modestly successful professional lends them extra weight.

Predictably, the thread has attracted all the usual people from both the “third party software is killing online poker” and “anyone who doesn’t like third party software is a losing player and a crybaby” camps. If you’ve read previous threads on the same subject, you’ve basically read this one as well, but it remains an interesting and important debate, and not one that’s going away any time soon.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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