How Psychic Numbing Fills the Venetian Poker Room


The Mid States Poker Tour break their attendance record after 1,964 players enter their Venetian event prompting Lee Davy to ponder why people play in the lair of the enemy in the first place?

It’s my wedding anniversary on Friday. We will celebrate it where it all began, in Las Vegas. I welcome advice on the best eateries in town. I only have one golden rule: I will not eat in an establishment owned by Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson called online poker a ‘cancer waiting to happen.’ He promised to spend whatever it took to shut online poker down. He is currently the 18th richest man in the world, with an estimated fortune of $31.4 billion. He took that money How Psychic Numbing Fills the Venetian Poker Roomfrom the world’s gamblers. He is a hypocrite as well as a threat to our industry.

This is why I won’t set foot in a Sheldon Adelson owned property. If I do, and I spend some money, then my money will be used to create bills like the Restoration Of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). Bills designed to prevent people from gambling online. Bills designed to stop me working.

But it seems I am alone in my thinking.

When the Tournament Director’s Association (TDA) decided to hold its biennial pow-wow at The Venetian, the poker community social media switchboard exploded. The TDA recognized they had touched a raw wound and moved venues.

The Mid States Poker Tour (MSPT) decides to host one of their legs at The Venetian. The silence is deafening. The tournament attracted 1,964 entrants. It was the biggest event ever organized by the MSPT, and I assume this means they earned the most profit. I bet my bottom dollar they will be back next year. There will not be a single complaint from the people who poured scorn on the TDA.

So what’s the difference?

Why is a writer refusing to set foot into the building, and poker players, who are arguably more at threat from the octogenarian, willing to pay to play in his casino?

I think there are two points worth considering:

The first point I want to poke is the effect that a lack of online poker has had on the community. As far as I know there are no metrics to determine how many people this shafted. Instead, we believe what we read in the news, and today our news comes in the form of social media.

I don’t believe the position is as bad as we first feared. I believe the most successful grinders in the business took 100% responsibility for their own lives. They moved to places where online poker was legal, or they successfully transitioned to the live games. For some people, the loss of online poker was a blessing. The losers have more money, and they would have been forced to find better ways to earn a living.

In short, one reason why nobody cares enough to boycott Sheldon Adelson’s properties, is because banning online poker in America doesn’t cause enough pain for them to raise their moral standards high enough. The path of less resistance is an easier path to tread, and the poker community has a caravan marching down that particular road.

I have another interesting perspective. I want to draw your attention to a phenomenon known as psychic numbing, a process whereby we mentally and emotionally disconnect from our experience.

In the Pulitzer Prize winning non-fiction book: A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide the author Samantha Power writes about the world’s amazing consistency when it comes to turning a blind eye to genocide. That is classic psychic numbing.

Another case of psychic numbing, that I have personally felt in recent years, is the decision to turn a blind eye to a modern day holocaust, and that’s the holocaust of the animals. In American alone, 10 billion land animals, and 10 billion sea animals are killed for food on an annual basis. Not only is a large portion of these animals slaughtered under the most brutal of conditions, but also the slaughter is killing our planet.

We know it’s happening.

We choose not to see it.

To see it means wandering off the path of least resistance.

Why make life difficult?

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored” – Aldous Huxley.

Melanie Joy, author of Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows, suggests that psychic numbing is a very important part of being human. It prevents us from freaking the fuck out when we realize we are hurtling down a rail line at 100mph, speeding down the freeway in a little tin can, or flying over an ocean in a featherless piece of metal.

It allows us to turn empathy into apathy, and that’s what we have done in the case of Adelson. Interestingly, psyching numbing works best by making the nasty little things in life invisible. We don’t see slaughterhouses, we don’t see the poison in alcohol, and we don’t see Sheldon Adelson with an online grinders head in his hand when we walk into The Venetian. There are no dead online grinders, we only see live ones having a lot of fun.

This invisibility is compounded by the defenses we create in order to justify our actions. We make shit up: the dealers wouldn’t have a job if I stopped going, if I stopped playing someone else would take my seat, and we will never be able to beat Sheldon Adelson anyway, he has too much money.

Human beings are very empathic when it comes to dealing with the suffering of the individual. This has been scientifically proven, and it’s why we give more money to Riwani the 8-year old girl from Malawi suffering from malaria, and fail to lift a finger to help the masses that suffered during the genocide of Darfur. We all wanted to free Flipper, but we couldn’t give a fuck about the culling of dolphins in the Japanese coves.

The same is true in poker.

When I watched the Bet Raise Fold documentary my heart went out to Danielle Moon Anderson. Here was a mother, and main breadwinner, being forced to work away from her home, and her child, because of Black Friday. I felt genuine empathy and sympathy for Danielle.

But where were the other stories of individual pain?

There weren’t any.

Instead, all we heard about was damage to the masses, and hopefully you now know that we don’t really care as much about the masses as we do for the flickering eyelashes of the one.

“If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one I will.” Mother Teresa.

I’m not going to write about this again.

I don’t blame anyone. In the past I have been cynical about the grinders who have decided to play in The Venetian. I have learned a lot since then, and realize that what they are doing is inherently human.

It takes understanding to raise one’s moral standards high enough for action to take place. It means you have to tread a different path than the one of least resistance.

I now realize that the effects of Black Friday weren’t that bad after all. Most people got their money back, the losers got a money-sucking monkey off their back, and the best in the world learned to flap their wings and discover the world.

Even Danielle Moon Anderson, the women who for a brief moment had my heart, ended up moving to Las Vegas, getting sponsored and turned a pile of shit into something nice and shiny. She faces new challenges now that Ultimate Poker has closed down, but she is a fighter. She will be ok, and nothing Sheldon Adelson can do will change that fact.

Life moves on.

Poker will survive.

The path of least resistance will never be barren.


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of