After several people criticise PokerNews for allowing Phil Galfond to use their platform to out Samuel Touil as a cheat, Lee Davy airs his view on whether those allegations are justified?
PokerNews writers are learning that you can’t please everyone. Often criticised for a product that needs to tow the affiliate party line, they are now getting pelters for trying to be more subjective.
The site recently gave Phil Galfond a platform to out Samuel Touil as a thief. The synopsized version: Galfond loaned Touil $250,000 to keep him in a cash game; Touil lost the lot. So far he has only returned $50,000 and insists that’s the only transaction that will happen.
A few things came to mind when I read it. The first was the surprise. It read like a tabloid piece – not PokerNews’ style. The second was a recognition of a job well done. I go to PokerNews for fact based news. Reading an article on a taboo subject was refreshing. The final thought was why did Galfond use PokerNews as a platform when he has his own?
When Galfond writes something, the poker world reads it. He has a personal blog, untouched since writing a brilliant piece entitled Viktor Blom: The Man, The Myth, The Legend. A viral piece shared liberally throughout the poker world at the time. The scam article could have sprouted from those arid lands, and spread throughout his social media accounts. I don’t think he needed to use PokerNews to out Touil.
The noise emanating from the article would have us believe that the piece is doing universal good in the poker world. I don’t believe that. There are plenty of turgid stories making the rounds in the poker community. PokerNews could have chosen any of them. I think this is about hits, traffic and Galfond increasing the likelihood his pocket is reunited with $200,000.
A few people are angry that PokerNews allowed Galfond the platform. Jason Mo is one of them.
Sure pokernews is comprised of idiots getting paid minimum wage yo spew nonsense about poker
— Jason Mo (@cuntycakes123) February 17, 2016
Clayton Newman also disagreed but ‘in a less cunty fashion.’
Listen to Your Gut
A player once gave me an opportunity to publish a news story that would have been exclusive, had viral potential, and at the same time would have severely damaged someone’s career.
My initial thought was to run with it. I contacted the person who would have been at the other end of the storm to provide counter comments; they declined. I thought my business was the poker news business. I was ready to go with it.
But something didn’t feel right.
I kept seeing the anguish the article would have caused the other person. I felt like the piggy in the middle of two warring factions. After talking it through with my editor, we decided to drop it. I assumed it would go out via another news source. It never did.
Last week, I was approached by another poker player with an exclusive. Once again it seemed a little too personal to be published as poker news content. I ran it passed my Editor. We decided to drop it.
That’s only two cases of martyrdom. There are plenty of others that have slipped through my fingers because I made the wrong call. If your gut tingles when you believe your article is going to kick up a fuss, then speak to someone for a second, third or fourth opinion before hitting the ‘publish’ button.
Reading through the Twitter feed on this one it seems obvious to me that the PokerNews team thought long and hard about this before publishing. I can see their intent behind it. They are trying to expose a significant problem within the community. There are always casualties when this happens. On this occasion, the person cut to ribbons is Touil.
What About Personal Views Aired During Interview?
I am interviewing Jason Mo in the next few days. I doubt he will dodge any questions hurled in his direction. During my preparation, I will go through old interviews to ensure I don’t raise the same issues, and to search for leads. I will also read his social media accounts for points of interest.
Here’s one that works.
And if you want to hear some stories of the scum of the earth in poker, I have some
— Jason Mo (@cuntycakes123) February 17, 2016
It’s like offering the Xbox controller to a teenager.
I have to grab it.
Let’s say I ask him to elaborate.
Let’s say he does.
At what point in the interview do I stop him because I am worried he is using my platform for slander?
During a recent interview with Daniel Negreanu, he told me how he had been the victim of blackmail and still sees the perpetrator at poker tournaments. The only reason I never asked him for a name is because of my experience of talking to Negreanu. If he wanted to name names, he would. I didn’t want to put him in an awkward spot. It’s bad for business.
But what if Negreanu had given me the name of the blackmailer? How do I react to that position? Cut him off, or let the tape roll? I wouldn’t dream of cutting him off. I would let it roll.
Have PokerNews Set a Dangerous Precedent?
One of the problems I see with allowing Galfond to write an op-ed on PokerNews is the precedent it now sets.
“We take Galfond’s word to be very trustworthy, so you think it worth publishing.”
How do we define ‘trustworthy’?
I have been in this business only five years. During that time I have listened to changes of character that have boggled my mind. There are people I would have gladly trusted to a high degree later accused of carrying out the most despicable acts.
So where do we set the bar?
Who takes the view on the types of people we allow to share their opinion on our news sites or does everyone have the same rights to air their stories?
How many people have had similar opinion pieces, or claims, turned down by PokerNews in the past based on their reputation within the community, of the reputation of the victim?
The Right to a Defense
The last point I want to touch upon is Touil has the right to defend himself if the allegations are false. He too can contact PokerNews to write a counter op-ed to share his side of the story. And I believe the team reached out to him and were greeted by a wall of silence.
The one sided story is very dicey territory. Rolling Stone magazine recently retracted a 9,000 feature article that carried the title “A Rape on Campus”. Essentially, an 18-year old female approached the magazine and told them she was gang raped while at UVA. The piece went up. God knows how many copies were sold. The alleged victim then admitted she made the whole thing up.
The defamation suits are lining up.
I believe Phil Galfond’s reputation within the poker community is the key factor here. We have to remember that PokerNews will be interested in hits and traffic, while protecting their brand. Had someone less reputable approached them I don’t think the piece gets airtime. Had Touil approached PokerNews to out Galfond as a thief, I don’t think this piece gets airtime. I think this angers some people.
I think it’s important that the points Galfond raises are independently verified. I also think it’s important that Touil is given the opportunity to react to the allegations.
While I understand Newman’s views on what PokerNews should or should not write about it’s a decision that’s made by PokerNews. If they wish to veer into tabloid territory then it’s their prerogative.