Thursday, December 09, 2010

Why I'm Not There

Ten days ago I woke up with some pretty bad lower back pain. I'm no stranger to a little back pain, especially while covering the WSOP or coming off a long-haul flight. Usually it goes away. Well this didn't. It got worse and worse and I put off and put off seeing a doctor because I don't have insurance. By Tuesday afternoon I was laid out on my mother's couch in tears and yesterday morning I bit the bullet and went to Cedars-Sinai. Gotta say the doc there was pretty awesome and when I told him I was a freelancer and paying cash, he went out of his way to help me get out of there on the cheap, knocking his office visit fee down to $165 from the typical $380. The x-ray ($115) revealed that I hadn't pinched my sciatic nerve as I'd feared, but just had a pretty severe lower back sprain. I was sent home with anti-inflammatories and generic vicodin and told that it would not be advisable for me to travel this weekend.

Hence, my absence from the WPBT winter gathering for the first time in six Decembers. I was looking forward to seeing so many of you and I'm truly disappointed. Rest assured, I'm well taken care of; the TV show Mandy shoots for is on hiatus and she is around to help me out, as is my mom, who (despite not always agreeing with everything I write on here) has offered to do my grocery shopping and bring me anything I need.

* * * * *

Since it's the first day in a while that I've been able to sit up at my desk without writhing in pain, I've been catching up on the poker world. I'm waiting on definitive news about the #reidbill just like the rest of you, occasionally bursting out in giggles as it is declared dead/alive/dead/alive on Twitter. Stars and Tilt are shitting their pants, Harrah's and MGM are licking their lips, and many in the poker media are wondering if they'll have jobs if the bill makes it through and a 15-month blackout period begins. Me? As soon as I can sit up for more than two hours I'm playing as many Mini FTOPS events, PCA hyper-turbo sats, and 135-man Rush SNGs as I can before the lights come on and the barstools are stacked up. And when it's cashout time? The way things are now, it'll take a couple of transaction failures and bounced checks before I can hold my bankroll in my hands. If things weren't so sketchy right now with payment processors it's easy to see why so many would be in favor of sticking with the status quo.

(For more on the bill see my lawyer friend F-Train, my writer/professor friend Shamus and the gang at Pokerati. For a pair of cartoon bears discussing JP Morgan's manipulation of the silver market, visit the Tao of Pauly. To learn about insane nosebleed cash games in Macau read The Land of the Unicorns.)

I was also pointed toward a post on Infinite Edge about the future of poker media. Not necessarily in the context of the Reid bill, but about how media outlets are beholden to the major online sites since they are far and away the primary source of advertising and affiliate revenue in the industry. Since online poker sites essentially pay the media's salaries as they are the only companies (a) buying advertising and (b) handing out money for referring them new customers there is, of course, an inherent conflict.

As the economy worsens and the affiliate market crumbles, at some outlets, any attitude outside of "online poker is AWESOME, come play!" is no longer acceptable. Diverting from it in the least can get you replaced with someone who will play ball, and at a lower salary. I know I've paid for it professionally.

Put it this way. If, suddenly, say NBC/Universal was the only corporation willing to buy ads in the Los Angeles Times, don't you think the Times would go a long way toward promoting The Office, the new Black Eyed Peas album, and the upcoming holiday release Little Fockers? Should they dare to write a negative review of any of these products, they'd most likely be immediately punched in the wallet and every one of their employees would feel it. "Journalism" goes out the window pretty quickly and writers become nothing more than thinly disguised PR flacks.

The piece also went on to compliment two-thirds of the Tao of Pokerati (sorry Dan):

"People like Pauly and Benjo have proven how much journalistic integrity can be injected into the most degenerate aspects of the industry. It can be done with style and flair without becoming repetitive."

Some people are still out there doing real investigative journalism in the poker industry. Haley Hintze has been tirelessly peeling many of the layers of the onion that is the UB superuser scandal. And I always think back to Tim Lavalli and Amy Calistri's multi-part piece for PokerNews on the two million extra chips that found their way onto the final table of the 2006 WSOP Main Event. Would something like that fly today or be carefully buried?

Me? Although it's been hard to think of anything other than the searing pain in my back for a while, I'm trying to remain zen about it all. I'm more concerned with writing a screenplay or two and a book before I'm too old or the world goes completely to hell. I've learned a lot about living in the moment rather than living for the future over the last five years. I'm going to keep doing it for as long as I can.


JK said...

Nice post and sorry you won't be here.

DrChako said...

You know there'll be a couple doctors there, right?

You'll be missed.


Kim said...

Thanks for taking the time to reflect on what I wrote on IEG Change100.

However, my fears that people would end up discussing the wrong aspect are coming true. I'm confident it has nothing to do with my (in)ability to write opinion pieces properly... :-/

So, I just wanted to clear something up. My main grudge is NOT that the poker media is generally very... attentive to the needs of certain important partners.

It's an industry brim full with people shooting angles from all corners. It's unavoidable in a way.

Instead, what I hoped to shine some light on is what I consider to be the limit, range wise, of the content produced by the B2C poker media.

There's so much focus on the pro players playing and the tournaments they play that all the other stuff that make up the content foundation of, for example, the video game media, is left behind. And that's not good for a bunch of reasons of which I tried to present a few.

One reason I didn't mention which is also very relevant is that I believe that the Poker Media has so far failed to comprehend what it truly means to cover poker from a casual player's perspective.

Hope you recover soon.
And manage to finish that script.



change100 said...

@Kim- Hey, you. I enjoyed your piece.

I think poker bloggers have, over the last several years been the authors of history on poker from an amateur's perspective. I think I'm unclear, however on what you want to see from the larger media outlets when it comes to covering poker "from a casual player's perspective." I do agree with you, though, that tournament coverage is a fading interest for many poker fans and for a lot of outlets it is no longer a financially viable venture without outside sponsorship dollars. It has and always will be a "loss leader."

If it seems as if everyone is "shooting angles" in the poker industry-- it's that way only because it's that much harder to make a living in it anymore.

Kim said...

Please don't take my use of the term "shooting angles" as the derogatory (clumsy) statement it is.

I think people in all businesses shoot angles. We, in this one, just know it and take a bit of pride in knowing it. :-)

What do I mean by casual content?

Let me try this way then. Imagine there was no way of making money in poker, what you write about then?

That's the reality for most players ho will never win a cent and either stop playing becuase they realize they can not win on skill alone, or they keep playing beecause the game is actually kind of fun and you never know.

They should be told the many differences that already exist between various outlets.

Which software is the best, which current promo ongoing and how it works. If there are any new features to explore or new tournament formats to try out. Keep an eye out for fraud and cheating scandals. Talk about online poker from a technology perspective. Ask the industry about the future of online poker as they see it. Discuss pricing, recall its history, its legacy etcetera. Obviously this is covered to some extent but not the extent I think it should be.

To say that none of this interests people is to reduce poker to "nothing more" than a gambling game. I prefer to consider it an entertainment game with a gambling element. The industry certainly has a bit to go in making sure that it actually is as entertaining as it could be, but my belief is that a more broadly focused poker media could help that it take he necessary steps which will be good for everyone.

For a certain category of poker players, the game is and always will be reduced to a rather basic game of skill where money can be made. They don't need bells and whistles to keep them playing.

They do not represent the majority.

Did that make any sense?