Monday, February 12, 2007

Self Indictment

Trust me when I say this. I’m one of you guys. I’m just as guilty.

With the online poker world in a tizzy over the Neteller funds seizure, there are more than a few posts and articles out there wondering why nobody stepped up to do anything to prevent the passage of the UIGEA. Why did not one of the big money-making entities do anything in Washington to make sure their business remained viable for decades? Online poker sites, casinos and television giants, have made millions but none of those monies were spent greasing the palms of those with the capability to vote down the absurdity that is the UIGEA.

Rewind your time machines a half-decade for a minute. I’ve mentioned it before, but the similarity of online poker to the Napster music download service is not to be overlooked. In effect, Napster was shut down by the RIAA and nobody could ever download music again. OK, that’s a lie. What really happened is that other services sprang up, and while some were short lived, others survived (cough, bitTorrent, cough) and took Napster’s place among the savvy.

There is a bunch of really smart people out there. And these smart people, working TOGETHER, managed to develop and distribute new technology that makes downloading music, movies and software easier than it ever was, if you were so inclined.

With companies like Neteller, FirePay and many other financial intermediaries shutting down to US-based players, where are those same smart people working to produce viable alternatives? Where are those same smart people when it comes down to working TOGETHER to find a solution?

The crux of the matter, in my opinion, is that poker players are simply not interested in working together to solve a common problem. It’s the way they’re wired. The game of poker, especially tournament poker, is a “Me Against the World” endeavor. For those of us drawn to the game, there’s something inherent in our very natures that prevents us from ever thinking about much more than ourselves when it comes to the game.

I’m not trying to slam anyone, especially considering the nature of our blogging community, which would seem to invalidate what I just claimed. There are exceptions, and there have been some amazing things done by various communities in the poker world to make a difference in other people’s lives. Whether it’s charities, gatherings, or simply helping a friend in need, there are times when we can pool our collective resources and make a difference.

But when it comes to the survival of the game itself, we’re all a bit lacking. The community of poker is filled with a variety of personalities and player types. Very few of those players, however, recognize the inherent beauty of the game and instead simply see it as gambling. If that form of gambling goes away, they’ll find another. For fear of coming off too much like James McManus here, my point is that the percentage of players who would work to better the game is too small. To be fair, it is hard work to provide poker players a place to play. That’s why there’s a rake. But for the players, their only real concern is finding a seat, either virtual or real, where they can compete and win against their loathsome opponents.

Ask yourself this question the next time you sit down at a random poker table. Would you work with these people, would you trust these people, could you care about these people enough to join them in trying to keep the game alive? I doubt it. If you’re like me, you’ll look at them with contempt and wonder how quickly and decisively you can take their money before the game breaks down. Because that’s what poker is, a competition wherein it’s you against everyone else.

And like I said, I’m just as guilty.

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