30/07/2008

The Ugly Side of Modern Poker, Part 1

Barry Carter

One of the things I love about poker, besides the minor issue of wanting to destroy every player at my table until I have taken every penny they have and make them cry like little girls, is that most of the time it is a friendly, social game where everyone behaves respectfully. Even though I am trying to dash the hopes on dreams of my opponents, I really enjoy the banter between hands and genuinely wish them well in rest of their lives, other than when in a hand with me.

It’s a kind of honour amongst thieves that I really respect in poker players and in a very lonely game; it’s the camaraderie between poker players that maybe keeps a few of us sane. Watching the Irish players cheer on Marty Smyth at the Rio for the PLO bracelet is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about, Barry Greenstein giving a signed copy of his book to anyone that felts him, that proud feeling of handing a profit over to someone who had a percentage of you or just cheering a friend on who made a final table. These are all the things that make the poker community fantastic.

But poker is starting to reveal a new ugly side in a number of different ways of late. Of course this isn’t to say poker is a completely reputable game, it never has been. We all know players who beg for money with no intention of paying it back, I think most of us know of one particularly dodgy live game with creative dealers and there are plenty of poker players you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Add to that the legendary road stories from when poker was played in back houses with guns and god knows what else and it’s fair to say, poker had a lot of work to do to repair its reputation.

So what does the ugly side of modern poker look like?

Chatbox Abuse

The great thing about the Internet is it can open up a whole new world at your fingertips. The bad thing about the Internet is that it allows a bunch of socially inadequate virgins to say exactly whatever they want without consequence. Poker is no stranger to this and one drawback of online poker is that it allows people to say whatever they want to others in the chatbox, the friendly game becomes a childish name calling contest.

Sometimes the chatbox abuse is comical, like someone randomly saying the word ‘gay’ as a form of chatbox tourettes, but it can often get downright awful, racist, sexist and every other form of bigotry imaginable. I think we have probably all witnessed someone say something like “I hope you get cancer” at some point in the chatbox and that really is horrific, especially as it’s surprisingly common. Anything like that would be an instant chatban for life in my book, in fact an instant account closure and most card rooms take it as seriously.

Poker forums serve a similar purpose to these degenerates and these days I like to be very selective which forums I frequent. I found this out first hand after making my first and only post on PocketFives a few years ago, the topic was the ZeeJustin multi-accounting scandal and I posted something generic along the lines of “Let’s not give him any more publicity” and within about two hours I received half a dozen PMs along the lines of “You f**king faggot!” and a more hurtful “Barry.... what sort of name is that?”

I check 2+2 every day to see what people are talking about in the community but never contribute. Simply because I would find myself posting a hand history only to have some $0.01/$0.02 player call me a donkey. We’ve all seen how far chat abuse can be taken on poker forums like 2+2 and Neverwin, how tragic and invasive they can get and 2+2 is in danger of becoming the Jerry Springer show of poker forums at the moment.

Then of course is observer chat which gets even more ridiculous. Observer chat gives low stakes players the opportunity to call Gus Hansen a donk but is getting increasingly used as a forum for players to beg for money. It is remarkable how many players beg for $5 on Full Tilt and even more remarkable that they get away with doing it. I’d love to see exactly what returns players like this get for an 8 tabling begging session; maybe Cardrunners will have an instructional video on it soon?

The single worst thing I ever saw in a chatbox, or at least the creepiest because it occurred at my table, was during a heads up cash game. The typical beggar came into the chatbox asking for money from my opponent and they got chatting. Quite how it happened I don’t know, but what escalated can only be described as ‘cyber sex’ between the observer and my opponent, talking about what they wanted to do to each other and mentioning things that sheltered northerners like me have never heard of like lubricants and some sort of beads?

Needless to say I think the beggar earned his or her $5. I decided that staying at the table was probably +EV as it must have been difficult for him to play poker when he had a boner.

Now that’s a sentence I never thought I would write.