01/08/2007

All you need is a chip, a chair and a restraining order

Barry Carter

April was a landmark month for me, I went to the Irish Open and met one of my poker heroes, Dan Harrington, I did a phone interview with Phil Hellmuth, I had my first glimpse of what life is like to be a sponsored professional when I proudly donned a (very purple) Littlewoods shirt and I finally moved in with my long suffering girlfriend.

But none of those things are what made April the landmark month. No, April was a landmark month for me because I finally got a huge monkey off my back and got cash on the Hendon Mob Poker Database.

As a cash game player I shouldn’t really care that I don’t have the most impressive tournament resume. I barely play seven ranking tournaments a year despite playing regularly across the UK. The cash itself wasn’t a huge amount, £2000, an amount which I have won and lost in much shorter periods of time than the 4 day GUKPT Manchester event. So why am I so bothered about getting my name on a database?

Because everybody looks up everybody on the Hendon Mob database.

No offence to those that know me, I have no intention of ever knowing the intricate details of your private life or rustling through your bins for your bank statements. But if you are a poker player and we have met I know exactly how well you’ve done in live tournaments. And the chances are you did the exact same thing whenever you met me.

So whenever I’m introduced to someone and they are bragging about how good they are or start the inevitable bad beat story, the first thing I do when I get home is stick their name in the mob database and see if their story checks out. Sometimes I am shocked at how successful they are (once I was amazed when I discovered I had knocked a WSOP bracelet winner out of a local circuit event) and more often I will discover that their final table at the Luton Christmas Cracker was complete bullshit.

There was a time when the life of a poker player was shrouded in mystery. Even Amarillo Slim, the greatest gambler of all time, was able to hustle Minnesota Fats, another one of the greatest gamblers of all time, by passing himself off as a rich businessman and challenging him to a game of snooker. Fats was completely oblivious to the fact that the greatest of his peers was chalking up right next to him.

Nowadays not only is it impossible for some of the biggest names in the game to go incognito, it is now exceptionally easy to see a potted history of every poker player you ever encounter, whether they be Patrick Antonius or the guy with the Spurs avatar in your $6 sit and go.

Online you have websites like thepokerdb and sharkscope which have complete histories of online tournament and SNG activity. If you have ever put a bad beat on somebody for them to bite back at you by telling you “no wonder you are down $536” they have just put your name into sharkscope. Being from the vantage point of showing a profit in these things I sometimes find it very hard to bite my tongue when the fish who is stuck $150000 gets out of line, when I do let rip here are some of the stock responses:

“You should see my (insert name of pokeroom not on sharkscope here) account, its $$$$’

“I let my girlfriend use this account”

“I just play these for fun; I’m a cash game player” (That’s the excuse I use)

So where does one go when you can’t find your man on the Mob database or an online data mining website? Google. This is a trend that stretches well beyond poker, have you ever stuck your own name into google? It’s fascinating to see not only where you appear online but what people who share your name are up to.(There is a Barry Carter who wrote a very popular book on Bridges ). When I approached the Hendon Mob about possibly writing a column for them I was not very surprised they had in fact googled me to see my body of work before agreeing. (Warning, by googling your own name you may well discover that you copped for a huge amount of pisstake somewhere sometime by someone)

It seems that the last refuge of the player that wants to stay under the radar is indeed the cash game, after all nobody keeps a list of results of how I have done in the private nod nod wink wink poker club I frequent and I have so many accounts online that only the FBI could piece it all together.

Or is it? Slowly but surely even us cash game players and our results are being exposed. I’m not talking about the inevitable “Negreanu is broke” rumour or the latest story about Roland De Wolfe’s Chinese poker swings that do the rounds at pretty much every tournament on the circuit. Now cash games are the railbirds rail of choice, High Stakes Poker is the best show on TV and there are even websites that show how up or down some of the big game players on Full Tilt and the like are doing.

Even right now as I write I can see that Joe Beevers is about $239 up on an Omaha table and about 17 people want Gus Hansen to switch to the smiley version of his avatar as he donks off another $17,000 with queen high.

The poker boom has meant that keeping your results private is no longer a privilege. Should we ever have to get taxed on our winnings the Hendon Mob Database and Sharkscope will suddenly get a lot of traffic from accountants and the Inland Revenue. We now live in a world where our results are available to anyone, so no telling everyone you cashed in the World Series or won a big pot against Patrick Antonius because we have already seen you at the play money tables.