Forum Files: Popularity Contest

Alex Weldon : May 3rd, 2016


As much as poker forums people like to bicker amongst themselves, when it comes to the amount of respect afforded to public figures from outside the immediate community, there’s a surprising amount of consensus. If you ask a question like “Are training sites good or bad for poker?” or “Is it worth taking risks to build a big stack early in a tournament?” you will likely get 20 pages of posts that nonetheless fail to produce a solid answer to the question. But ask “Is so-and-so a good guy or a scumbag?” and the thread is going to go quite differently.

That’s not to say that you’ll end up with a particularly accurate idea of the person’s character. Humans are complex creatures, after all, and a worldview based on classifying people as either “good guys” or “scumbags” isn’t useful for much beyond deciding whether or not to lend someone money. Nonetheless, if you’re wondering into which of those two categories the TwoPlusTwo hivemind places a given person, that’s one question for which it’s easy to get an answer.

Haseeb Quereshi: Negotiation prodigy, scammer or both?
Thread: Haseeb Quereshi is a software engineer and is on Yahoo front page for negotiation skills

Haseeb Quereshi, who used to play online under the screenname “dogishead,” is someone who was definitely in the forums’ bad book at one time, but he’s been out of poker for long enough that some of the younger users don’t know who he is or why they’re supposed to dislike him.

The stain on Quereshi’s reputation comes largely from his association with admitted cheater José “Girah” Macedo, though exactly how deeply he was involved in Macedo’s misdeeds is a matter of debate. Quereshi is up-front on his website about having lied to the community to try to cover for Macedo, but that’s the extent of his admission, while some still suspect he played a more active role in things.

According to Quereshi, he has now left poker entirely behind him and is pursuing a high-paying career as a Silicon Valley coder with the intention of giving a large part of his earnings to effective altruism charities. He recently made the news for having landed such a job with Airbnb, having apparently used some hardball negotiation tactics to get himself a $250,000 salary despite lacking a computer science degree, and having only recently completed a 12-week crash course with App Academy.

The forums are skeptical about all aspects of this story: that he’s really turned over a new leaf; that clever negotiation is all it takes to land a $250,000 job with 12 weeks of training; or that Airbnb would be okay with him disclosing his salary and their negotiations in this way. Whatever the truth of the matter, it’s clear that Quereshi has a long way to go to earn the approval of the forums… but if he has really quit poker for good, and is actually making that kind of money as a software engineer, I doubt he cares very much.

The most interesting aspect of the thread is not so much the discussion of Quereshi himself, but the debate the story has sparked about App Academy and similar “coding boot camp” programs. Opinions are pretty well split on whether they constitute a good deal for the people who enroll in them, whether they’re good for the software industry in general, or whether they’re just another scam.

You might be a Master Chef now, but you’ll always be a toe-sucker to us
Thread: David Williams is a contestant on Master Chef

David Williams exploded onto the poker scene in 2004, when he came runner up to Greg Raymer in the World Series of Poker Main Event. He’s since won a WSOP bracelet, WSOPC ring, WPT title and has over $8.5 million in lifetime live cashes. More recently, he’s turned his talents to cooking, and has landed himself a spot on an upcoming season of Master Chef. But all of these accomplishments pale in significance next to the fact that he once sucked on a woman’s toes on camera.

That’s how it is in the eyes of the forums trolls, at any rate. Screen shots of the porn video in question, which predates Williams’s Main Event run, were posted as the very first response to the Master Chef thread, and became the focus of much of the ensuing discussion.

I find this remarkable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, that it’s an extraordinarily rare example of a man suffering sexual harassment at the hands of the internet, while women – especially women in poker – receive such casual abuse on a regular basis; it’s kind of the exception that proves the rule in that regard. Secondly, I was surprised to discover that so many people seem to think that kissing someone’s (clean, recently-washed by all appearances) feet is some kind of extreme perversion.

It makes me wonder how many of these people have actually had sex with another human being. I mean, do they realize what other body parts come into contact with people’s mouths on a regular basis during sexual encounters? Drawing the line at feet seems pretty vanilla to me. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though, that a group of people whose favorite hobby is talking publicly about which women they would or wouldn’t “do” turns out to be super nitty when it comes to actual sex.

We hate Maurice Hawkins but we’re not quite sure why
Thread: Maurice Hawkins beasting it on the WSOP circuit

Although the individual posts in this thread are almost entirely devoid of interest, taken as a whole, the thread is an interesting case study in how TwoPlusTwo’s character judgments come about.

Maurice Hawkins recently made history by winning three WSOP Circuit rings (plus a runner-up finish) in the same month. So of course, the first thing the forums members had to do was remind themselves whether they’re supposed to be cheering for or booing him. The answer is booing, but those who remember why are in the minority; everyone else just has a vague idea that there was a thread about him doing something bad at one time.

Sorry Fedor, but we like our heroes perfect
Thread: Fedor Holz smashing chips all over table before binking the river:)

It might seem that the forums hate a lot more people than they like, and that’s certainly the case. The question, then, is why. I think this thread goes a long way to answering that. Fedor Holz is both one of poker’s most successful and most likeable figures; a shy, nerdy guy who is usually fairly humble and occasionally quite funny, and yet also happens to be a complete beast at the table. It’s therefore kind of comical how transparent the collective jealousy of the forums’ is, as everyone tries to find some reason to dislike him.

A partial list of Holz’s sins includes: he thinks too long; he does chip tricks; he plays mostly high roller tournaments with tiny fields; he went on tilt this one time and splashed some chips; and he was pissed off enough about flopping two pair vs. a flush that he forgot he had outs and stormed off too soon.

It’s quite the implicit code of behavior these News, Views & Gossip regulars hold poker celebrities to, if that’s sufficient cause to demote someone from “good guy” to “borderline.” That’s okay, though, as I’m sure these posters hold themselves to equally stringent standards in their own games.

So who do we like? KEVMATH!!!
Thread: Kevmath hired by wsop to handle social media

It would be unfair to say that the forums don’t like anyone, however, and the last week has produced the perfect example. Twitter’s most long-suffering poker journalist, Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers, has landed himself the official role of WSOP social media representative for this summer’s series, a job he has been doing unofficially and unpaid for many years now.

Here, for once, we see unanimous praise for Mathers and celebration of his success – and deservedly so. However, I think that says more about Mathers’s generosity of spirit, and less about that of those on the forums.

It’s also probably significant that Mathers is a media figure, rather than a poker player. That’s not to say that the forums have any great love for poker journalists in general, but it does eliminate the jealousy aspect. It’s easy to have sour grapes when it comes to someone whose success comes in the form of winning a huge poker tournament… someone who spends his summers shackled to Twitter and answering the same questions over and over for 18 hours each day, not so much.

In conclusion, then, if you want to be liked by the forums, all you have to do is: be humble and measured at all times; perform a useful but tedious task that no one else wants to do, for no pay and in addition to your regular job; lose that job anyway; and above all, avoid winning lots of money or otherwise becoming wealthy. It’s a hard grind, but one that will pay off in the end, when one day you too can enjoy a glowing NVG thread like Kevin’s.

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