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Daniel - Poker Journal

Being Real

14 Oct 2011

I read a blog recently written by Jesse May that I felt nailed it on various issues. Mainly, how most of the people in our industry are a bunch of wusses who don't speak their mind and prefer to allow unsavory things to go on in the poker world that ultimately make us all look bad.

I've never really been one to mince words. One of the things I'm most proud of is the fact that people who are my true friends know it, because if I didn't like you, you'd definitely know it. I don't do the phony. I actually despise it. If I talk to you, or even say hi to you, I probably think you are an OK dude, or woman.

When it comes to rules, structures, or a wide range of poker related topics, I'm going to offer my opinion, regardless of how some people will take it. For example, I recently took to twitter to express my displeasure with several of the newer EPT rules that are not player friendly. On top of that, because I was so opposed to the way they handled late registration, I chose to not participate in the high roller event. I would have shown up on time anyway, but I just don't think it was fair to penalize late players, who for example, had just busted out of the main event and may want to late register.

I'm not stupid. I realize that the EPT is sponsored by PokerStars, and I represent PokerStars. Obviously this isn't something they are going to love hearing, me speaking out against an event they sponsor, but how credible of a human being could you be if you only found fault in organizations that didn't write you a paycheck?

As an organization, I genuinely believe that PokerStars is the premiere poker site in the world, and frankly, always has been. They do a remarkable job across the board. Customer support is the nuts, and never has had a rival worth mentioning in that department.

The company is also extremely well organized as evidenced by how well they handled the events of Black Friday. I'm very happy, and proud of my association with the company, but how much of a phony would I be if I pretended that I agreed with every single thing? How credible is that? I'd feel like I needed a shower.

So yeah, I strongly disagree with several things that the decision makers at the EPT implement into their tournaments, and I've told them that on several occasions. Sure, it frustrates me. I've been around poker a long time and have offered feedback to many organizations, TV shows, etc. who've trusted in the fact that I'm always concerned with what the majority want, as well as what's best for the event/best for poker.

I really, really, really, really... really, care about poker and am an absolute geek when it comes to structures, rules, and tournament formats. I spend way too much time thinking about these kinds of things, because, well, I just enjoy it. It's fun for me, and there just isn't many people out there with more live poker tournament experience than me.

Matt Savage gets it too. He's very good at what he does and we agree on virtually everything but that infamous debate on the whole talking issue. Once again, I like Matt, but if I think he's wrong, I'm not one to go with the flow and I'll fight for what I believe in.

I'm also extremely impressed with how the WSOP has evolved over the last five years, and I think part of the reason Ty Stewart, Jack Effel, and the crew have been so successful at improving the player experience each year, is because they elicit feedback from the players. That's so important. Frankly, the players usually do know best, so why not use that source of knowledge to improve your events? The system works.


Sometimes what I say publicly creates controversy. To that I say, "Oh well." If someone asks me a question, I'm going to answer it honestly. Recently as I was running up the stairs I was interviewed about the Poker Hall of Fame. I mentioned that my vote would go to Bruno Fitoussi who isn't even nominated, and went on to explain that I think the process doesn't weigh heavily enough the influence of European players like Bruno, who've helped grow the game globally.

I mean, they are now giving away World Series of Poker Bracelets in France! I have to think that part of that was due to Bruno's early efforts to convince Americans to come to the Aviation Club in Paris, and also holding a WPT event there. Bruno, with pamphlets in hand would play high stakes poker at the Bellagio, and let people know about what was going on overseas and was very effective in helping poker grow in France. None of that made the interview, but this did:

Later I was asked about Annie Duke's nomination. So I said something like, “For what? Robbing people at UB? Owing Russ Hamilton money and never paying him back? For stealing money from people at the poker table? For representing poker in the worst light imaginable when she was on Celebrity Apprentice? For all those things then yes."

I added, “If you took out the “F” and added an “Sh” in the word fame then yes, I think she should be inducted. Along with her brother, the Lederer family would be the king and queen of the poker Hall of Shame.”

I have no problem with what I said. I was asked a question and answered it honestly. That family has done enough damage to poker's reputation in the public eye, and I don't think it's OK to just let these things happen without some kind of response.

That brother and sister duo were intimately involved in the two biggest scandals in our industry. Howard Lederer with FTP, and when the cheating scandal broke at UB, who was it that was doing interview, after interview, praising the "new" ownership at UB? Lying through her teeth, contradicting herself at every opportunity. There is a mile long thread, complete with audio clips of her lying and contradicting herself in the same interview.

Sure there are lots of people to blame for the UB scandal. I've been asked, why doesn't Hellmuth deserve the same vitriol? Truth is, he didn't have a clue what was going on. Annie was heavily involved with the company, and finally left when the checks stopped coming in. Not too long after, those players that she told were safe to play on UB, are left wondering if they'll ever see the money they had in their UB accounts again.

Shouldn't the EPL standards and ethics committee look at their own commissioner and question whether it's appropriate for her to be a part of the organization? I mean, they suspended Chino for some shady borrowing he did, but the amount he owes pales in comparison to the money she received from a company that cheated, and defrauded players for years.

This is exactly the kind of stuff that's wrong with our industry. No one says anything, and before you know it, these crooks and criminals are back to work pushing a new product.


Being real isn't the best way to make a lot of friends, but man, do you sleep so much better. My promise to the poker world is to always "Keep it Real" and continue to speak my mind. It would be much easier for me to be a yes man, and go with the flow, not rock the boat, put on a smile when I shake the hand of someone I despise, but I wasn't brought up like that. My parents would look down on me and be embarrassed if their son didn't speak his mind.

So yeah: I don't like Annie Duke, I think some of the new EPT rules suck, and I think Howard Lederer and Ray Bitar are arrogant, incompetent, idiots. That about sums it up.... man that felt good!


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