Monday, August 25, 2014

At the Poker Table, Political Controversy or Freedom of Speech?

     The Stage:  EPT 11 Super High Roller Final Table Livestream (Watch Here for replay, jump to 5:00 in video for player introductions) on PokerStars.TV
     The Villains: Olivier Busquet and Daniel Colman with shirts that say "SAVE GAZA" and "FREE PALESTINE"

     The Image (borrowed from PokerListings.com screenshot crop):


     This is going to interesting.  I'll blog as I'm reading:
 Robbie Strazynski HERE,
 Nolan Dalla HERE,
 Victoria Coren HERE,
and
 Daniel Negreanu HERE.

     First up, Robbie.  He seems very against any political agenda at the tables, and indeed sounds personally affronted.  This was the impression I got from his twitter conversation in realtime, as I was watching the livestream on pokerstars.tv and following along on twitter.  He opines that at the final table politics are a no-no, but during their interview can do what they like.  Are they supposed to change shirts JUST for their interview?  I contend that their shirts should be acceptable part of the dress code.  I don't want to live, or participate in, an event, where they take away your right to an opinion, or say "you can only have an opinion here, not over here".  Luckily for Robbie, Twitter does not censor your opinion in any way.  I'm glad for that.
     Robbie seems so sure that his opinion is correct, that their needs to be a RULE for it, a DRESS CODE.  Why stop there? why not ban ALL advertising, all potentially politically incorrect humor, all potentially offensive clothing of any kind?  Once you open this can of worms, it can only get worse.  Why not apply common sense, and only take a stance when the need occurs?  The world needs more of this common sense approach.  The suggested approach seems to be emotionally reactive to me.  I think it goes too far.  Until there is some issue that actually arises at the table that disrupts the game, I think trying to prevent "potential" trouble is treading a dangerous path.
     I reserve the right to change my stance, should the poker table become a political soapbox to the detraction of the game, but as things are right NOW, I don't see any need for any rules.  The majority of the commotion and ruffled feathers were on Twitter, and they were a minority of the total viewers.

     Next up, Nolan. Quotes:
"So, unlike pro athletes which would clearly be forbidden to express themselves politically on their uniforms because they are paid and under contract, poker players are individuals who should be able to enjoy reasonable rights of free expression."

"But I certainly don’t want a giant corporation or some low-level tournament official making a decision as to what’s either political or offensive, particularly in a game with so many different kinds of people from so many nations around the world.  Let people wear what they want — we don’t need censorship."

      There are some good comments on his blog.  I AGREE with Nolan's point of view.  I realize and acknowledge that it is only one of many possible views.  This is the nature of the world we live, and of humankind in general.

     Next up, Victoria.  What a lovely written piece that make out points for both sides.  I highly recommend you read it, particularly if you have the aforementioned posts by Robbie and Nolan.  I agree with her view as well, up to a point.  I do not agree about not talking about "no politics and no religion".  I was raised to believe this was a lose-lose situation, but have learned through life experiences, that is just not the case.  Many good changes in the world WILL NOT happen, unless people discuss these very topics.  It is through such talks that we have hope that positive change will happen in appropriate places.  And who's to say that talk should NOT begin at a poker table?  I certainly have enjoyed some of the most interesting talks ever at the poker table, conversing with people I probably would never have met, if not for being at the same poker table.  This is one of the things I truly enjoy and treasure about poker.
     Some comments from her blog:
Ben Armitage:   "I would rather ban dirty clothes than controversial ones…."
 Tony Turtle:  "All the EPT needed to do is to add a rider to the televised final that “Any political statements or logos do not necessarily represent the feelings of the EPT”.  Job done."
Willie Elliot makes a very good points about the difference between a tournament and player freedoms, and the needs of broadcast to not offend their televised market.

     And now for Daniel.  He says he believes there should be 2 sets of rules, one for televised and one for non-televised events (or parts of the same event).  And I agree with this, too!  This is how I remember things working in years past, and something I've accepted whether I agree with it, or not.
     He then goes on to talk about actual politics more than any of the other blogs, and I agree with his view on Hamas, so far.  I am still learning by asking questions and reviewing what information is out there, but I'd have to say everything I've learned so far is aligned with Daniel's viewpoint.

    Now we return to Robbie, who had a reply to Nolan's post, located HERE.
He points out that you should hear about both sides.  I think this is good advice for ANY and ALL issues.  Hear ALL of the sides which are available to, and keep an open mind for information gained later.

     I respect everyone's opinions and well written blogs on this subject, and commend everyone for having a nice civil conversation about a potentially politically charged subject.  My personal opinion has not changed much, if at all, from my original thoughts, but I have certainly listened to, and linked for you, everyone's viewpoint of which I'm aware.  I am more on the side of "freedom" unless absolute action is needed for special cases, but I also respect the side of not detracting from the game, and understand the broadcast concerns for later televising.  Feel free to leave comments if you wish.

     You can decide for yourself.

Edit: nice follow up post HERE by Robert Cancellaro reminding us that politics is a part of everyday life.