May 04, 2010

Poker's Daddy Issues

WARNING:  This post is going to be a rant that came to me as I finished up writing the last of three vaguely related posts (see HERE, HERE, and HERE).  Frankly, this post is really just a condensed, super-snarky summary of those other three posts.  Because this is a rant, I'm not going to do a lot of linking, so if you want to know more about what's making me froth at the mouth (other than the usual rabies), you'll have to go to the original posts and read them and maybe even click through the links on those posts.  So, if you're in a lazy mood, or a happy place, it's probably best just to move along.  Otherwise, enjoy. Or not. It's my rant, dammit.

While researching a few of my recent posts related to the "poker is a game of skill" meme, I read myriad articles and blog posts, sifted through numerous discussion forums, and listened to a number of podcasts. I was struck by the excessive amount of whining and foot-stomping righteous indignation from the poker community, bellyaching about how judges, Congress, and the general public are just too stupid to understand poker and appreciate the brilliance of poker players like, well, themselves.  Then, during my run yesterday, I had an Archimedean moment when this monstrous mishmash of mewling suddenly jelled:

Poker has serious Daddy issues.

Poker likes to project a certain independent swagger, almost an outlaw attitude.  Poker is rebellious alright, rebellious like a bratty teen:

"You don't respect me! I don't care what those mean old judges say, I do got skillz!  Really, I do!  You just don't pay any attention to anything I say!  And it's totally unfair that those mean old Senators grounded me and took away my allowance.  I shouldn't have to follow their stupid rules!  And Danny Tzvetkoff is my best friend, it's no fair that you won't let me hang with him! I hate you!"

[slams door]

[updates Facebook status]:  "Missed curfew.  Grounded again.  'Rents just don't understand me.  FML."

Poker resents governments enacting laws and regulations controlling where and how Poker can be played, then routinely flouts those laws, pretending they don't apply, or even arrogantly defying them altogether.  Poker wants to be viewed as a game of skill based on logical manipulation of mathematical odds and cold application of game theory, yet Poker delights in glamorizing the "balla" lifestyle, while Poker's big-name heros throw money away gambling on dice, sports, and outrageous prop bets.  Poker wants to be considered as a serious big business, yet Poker seems to make the news mostly either for cheating its online customers, or associating with a shady crowd of criminals and other unsavory folks.

What Poker wants—no, craves—is respectability.  Who among us hasn't felt a twinge of embarassment when telling friends or family that we're involved with that bad boy Poker, always with a reflexive defensive disclaimer that our affair with Poker is not really gambling?  Poker seems obsessed with getting an official pat on the head from someone in some place of authority, effectively saying, "Hey, you're all grown up now.  I'm proud of you."  Poker has tried (unsuccessfully) to sue for Daddy's approval.  Poker recently manufactured an ersatz graduation ceremony—complete with honorary doctorate in "mind sports"—which, although a little touching, will ultimately leave Poker's jones for Daddy's affirmation unsatisfied.  Even Poker's ongoing efforts to buy Daddy's love seem destined for heartache.

Guess what?  No teen ever gets Daddy's approval by being a wild child.  If Poker wants to become an accepted part of society, Poker needs to clean up its act, follow the rules, and mind its Ps and Qs. Poker can't get respectability until Poker demonstrates responsibility. 

To be blunt, Poker needs to grow up.

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