POKER

The PokerNews debate and why it’s easier to sell tea

TAGs: Brian Hastings, Marty Derbyshire

PokerNews writer Marty Derbyshire offends poker players after suggesting they are lazy vagabonds who offer little value to the world and Lee Davy shares his opinion on the ensuing flak that followed.

Brian Hastings is quitting poker to sell tea.

The PokerNews debate and why it’s easier to sell teaThe man who won $4.2 million in four hours against Viktor Blom has had enough. I know because Hastings said so on his blog – an invention that allows anyone with Internet access and an opinion to divulge in the freedom of speech we hold so dear to our hearts.

Hastings commented on the consequences of being accused of cheating after the Blom match (he studied hand histories obtained from a third-party). And this sentence got my grey matter flowing like mercury.

“Poker media probably doesn’t have my best interests at heart.”

It was a sentence that was apt given that it appears PokerNews have parted ways with the writer Marty Derbyshire after an opinion piece he wrote raised the hackles on the backs of professional poker players so much, they demanded that PokerNews fire him.

The article A PokerNews Debate: Should Professional Poker Exist? has since been pulled from the site by PokerNews, and Matthew Parvis, Chief Creative Officer, iBus Media has released a statement apologising about the nature of the content.

Poker writer, Steve Ruddock, managed to find a link to the article, and I suggest you read it first before continuing here.

Freedom of Speech

On a personal note, I have liked the angle PokerNews has taken in recent months, and how they have used Derbyshire in the role of pantomime villain.

As a writer, it has been obvious that Derbyshire has been trying hard to push the boundaries of opinion writing in a bid to attract attention to the articles he writes. I assume, until his most recent post, that PokerNews were also happy with this approach.

Very often, an article that pisses off the masses generates a lot of shares on social media, and a lot of interaction and all of this is perfect for a company like PokerNews – not so for writers like Derbyshire.

When I first read the feedback, my immediate reaction as a writer, was the poker players are censoring me. By demanding that Parvis draw up the portcullis and stride outside of PokerNews castle holding Derbyshire’s severed head in his hands, they were striking fear into the hearts of writers who dared utter a word against the kings of the poker jungle.

I don’t feel that way anymore. If I a company were going to fire me for holding an opinion I would have received my marching orders a long time ago. Instead, I view the Derbyshire incident as a lesson learned for all writers as to how far to push opinion into the realms of click bait propaganda.

Kenny Hallaert was once the victim of the sharp fingertips of Derbyshire. In the build up to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event Final Table, Derbyshire wrote an op-ed suggesting that the Belgian wouldn’t be a good role model for the game should he win.

“We have freedom of speech, and this means reporters in any sport are free to give their opinions on anything.” Said Hallaert, “You cannot censor writers. There is nothing you can do about it. It’s within their rights to write what they want. But, there always needs to be respect for the people they are writing about, and if possible, back up statements with facts.”

And I think this is where Derbyshire went wrong, not only in this article but his general strategy overall. The players felt disrespected by his choice of language and tone.

 “I don’t think he respects poker players,” said Patrick Leonard. “I assume he realised who the popular people were on Twitter and he would be able to induce some angry responses and thus a lot of clicks to his articles.”

“If you are attacking poker players, what do you expect to happen?” said Joey Ingram, “These people have a lot of friends. If you keep putting people down, they will react. If I started going after people again and again, and then arguing with them on Twitter, then people will be upset with me too.”

 “It seems clear at this point that he has a distaste for poker players.” Said Matt Stout. “If the things he said remotely reflect his true feelings about pro poker players, perhaps he should dedicate his energy and time to endeavours that will enable him to make his own impact on society well beyond what he can do by talking about our community.”

Poker Community And The Future of Opinion

Click on the Parvis tweet, and read how many people want Derbyshire fired. I can’t remember so much vitriol levelled at a writer.

I was expecting a full blown crucifixion with poker players nailed on a bloody editorial. There was no blood, just a few nails and some wood. It’s since become apparent through my conversations with people that they are taking this opportunity to fire off a haymaker because of his contrarian view in his PokerNews scribblings over a longer period. They have had enough, and they wanted him gone.

But where do the poker media fit into the ‘community?’ The furore of this incident and the apparent firing of Derbyshire (he alluded to this in an apology sent via Twitter) makes me wonder if the players view the media as part of that community? Even Stout uses the words ‘our community’ when referring to Derbyshire.

Is this the death knell of the opinion piece. Will poker writer’s search for the safe haven of “PokerStars Wins EGR Operator of The Year Award” or “Niall Farrell Wins WPT Caribbean” and offer the general public 20 articles that all say the same boring thing?

“People must be allowed to write opinion pieces like in any other sport,” said Hallaert. “It goes back to freedom of speech. You should be allowed an opinion on anything, and to be able to air that opinion.”

 “Opinion pieces are one of the most important parts of poker media,” said Patrick Leonard. “A lot of poker media is boring and retiring. To see a unique look on things is refreshing.”

 “Opinion pieces should be allowed and favoured. It’s the way all of the media is going. Opinions are important, however retarded. They are also more interesting.” Said Kat Arnsby.

 “You need to be able to push boundaries and have a hot take on things,” said Joey Ingram. “They should be able to write about anything they want to write about in theory. Although, I am not sure why a poker writer would want to push boundaries anymore – in fact, I don’t know a lot of writers that do.”

 How Bad Was The Article?

 As I alluded to earlier, I was shocked at the number of people coming forward to ask for Derbyshire’s head after he wrote the post. I have read it, and if he was directing that view on poker writer’s, I can’t imagine it having that much of an effect on me.

I also don’t share the opinion that the vitriol is deserved because he has been pecking away over a long period of articles. Here’s the thing – I read all of his articles because I like the way he rubs people up the wrong way. Poker media is a combination of facts and entertainment. That entertainment comes in the form of emotional connection. He creates that with his contrarian view. I will miss him. And his vanishing act means it’s less likely that anyone else will step up to the plate.

“It’s not easy to write about poker,” said Hallert. “There is the luck element involved, and you don’t get that in most other sports. When a footballer makes a bad pass, you can clearly see it. How can you justifiably say a poker player has made a bad call?”

 “I’m horrified that PokerNews took the article down,” said Arnsby, “Marty Derbyshire is obviously a bit of a tool, not a great wordsmith and sprouts a lot of shite – but that is modern media. How can poker be special?

 “Remember the ‘Gunships for Migrants’ article by Katie Hopkins in the Daily Mail? They never retracted that, and it flew very close to breaking laws about inciting hate!”

 “I don’t think the article is that bad.” Said Joey Ingram. “My interactions with him have been positive. I didn’t realise he was disliked so much. If I wrote about that debate nobody would be saying anything, because of who I am, I guess. Had a pro poker player wrote that it gets a different reception.”

 Derbyshire or PokerNews?

 The first time I wrote this article, it was halted at the floodgates. I knew that my opinion was going to turn the pitchforks in my direction and so I checked with my Editor. I think the words he used were ‘it sounds butt hurt.’

 It’s unusual for a poker writer to be able to plough a lonely furrow and write what the hell they want. If the people I spoke to are correct, and this sense of disrespect built up over time, then wouldn’t the powers to be at PokerNews have been aware of the nature of Derbyshire’s content.

I go to PokerNews to obtain tournament results. I have never used it as a news or entertainment site. For many years, it was apparent to me that there was a bias running through the material heavily skewed towards the PokerStars brand and the players who represent that brand.

In recent months, that changed. Opinion pieces started to become more popular, with Derbyshire leading the way. I began to become an avid reader again.

And all this begs the question: Who orchestrated this change in approach – PokerNews or Derbyshire? Who benefited from this approach – PokerNews of Derbyshire?

“So much poker media is dis-ingenious,” said Arnsby, “Pay-per-word marketing copy, and as long as it paints the pros/operators in pink light, they call it ‘good journalism.’ If it slags anyone off, even as an opinion, it’s ‘bad journalism.’ I call bullshit!”

 “I would have had no problem with his article if the writer was half as critical of the dominant companies controlling the industry. It seems to me that poker media are paid to endorse the bigger brands. Players need to wake up and boycott because a journalist is a paid shill, not because he/she writes a controversial opinion piece.”

You’re Fired!

Millions of Americans are hoping that those words – made famous by a 70-year old tycoon who will soon be the next President of the United States – are not going to be prophetic.

Americans are scared.

Is he going to build a wall?

Will he make my wife leave the country because she wasn’t born here?

Will the Fifth Amendment privileges be taken away from me?

Will he grab my pussy?

Trump is a narcissist who rules through fear and intimidation. It is his world, and everyone needs to abide by his rules or face the consequences. He censors any opinion except his.

I feel intimidated right now.

I feel censored right now.

Am I going to be fired because I wrote this? Do I need to tow the party line and regurgitate the same story as every other media outlet? Should I just stick to the facts? Should I relegate my opinion to discussions with my wife over dinner?

An unwritten rule in football is never too intimate to the referee that an opponent should be shown a yellow or red card. Violation of this rule is unethical. People may feel that Derbyshire deserves to be sent off, but they shouldn’t be waving an imaginary card in the face of his lords and masters.

Poker players are telling the media what is and isn’t acceptable, and that’s not acceptable. They are using intimidation tactics to cut out the tongue of the press.

Don’t we want to raise our children to feel comfortable spitting their authenticity into the world?

“I have never heard of a footballer asking for a reporter to be sacked because of something they wrote,” said Hallert, “Poker players are quite active on social media and can apply pressure because it’s a small world. You shouldn’t say that the guy should be sacked. I would never put pressure on a guy like that.”

 “I think Martin is getting the backlash from players who are being taken advantage of and mistreated by the online giants. It’s ridiculous that this guy should lose his job.” Said Fintan Gavin.

 “I understand where people are coming from,” said Joey Ingram, “I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. You don’t want to be PokerNews and not having top players wanting to work with your site.”

 ‘People who tweet things like this and write articles like he did should not be employed as poker writers.” Said Matt Stout.

 What is Expected of the Poker Media?

 All of this boils down to expectations and boundaries.

So what are they?

“I loved all the pros calling him out for “not being a journalist”. Said Kat Arnsby, “What does that word even mean anymore? Seriously. Who is a journalist in the age of selling opinion? I think the function of poker media should be as any other, create debate, draw attention to pertinent issues, and be INTERESTING! Accuracy is important when reporting an exact situation, but an interesting writer will always take a slant, hopefully, a unique one. I want to see poker media be more honest, and work harder to actually reach out to people OUTSIDE poker, not just waffle for people already inside.”

 “I don’t pay much attention,” said Joey Ingram, “Maybe that’s because I have been around a long time. It might be different if I was new to the industry. Remko isn’t writing too much, OPR is an excellent site, and I like the work that Robbie Strazynski outs out there, but regarding poker media – I wouldn’t even know who poker media are.”

 “I believe the poker media does a decent job of filling their role and that they should have plenty of journalistic leeway to keep the material interesting and fresh, but that there are still lines you don’t cross just like in anything.” Said Matt Stout,

 “We’re lucky to have poker media,” said Kenny Hallaert. “They make sure the game gets promoted, and it draws attention to the outside world. There would be no poker without exposure, so we have to be thankful to the media for writing about our sport.”

The entire incident has left a very unsavoury taste in my mouth. I know that I have to take 100% responsibility for my actions, but I do feel less comfortable airing an opinion than I did yesterday.

Marty Derbyshire made a series of mistakes, and he has since apologised for them on Twitter. Reading through the lines, it seems rather than have his back, PokerNews have released him from their service. I have reached out to Derbyshire for clarification but at the time of publication had not received a reply.

I once wrote for a well known online poker company under a pseudonym because they didn’t want my name associated with their brand because of my ‘controversial’ opinions. So I guess I feel for Derbyshire. Poker is all about taking risks. Derbyshire took one and got fired for it. Is that justice?

I will continue to share my opinion and search for unique angles in stories. I don’t just do this for my customers. It’s important for my sanity. I have to make this job enjoyable, and that’s how I do it.

I take criticism for my articles and viewpoints. I upset a lot of people. And for the most part, I will take the punches, until one day I see a train of people walking down the street holding pitchforks and burning torches and when I ask them where they are going they say:

“We are off to Marty Derbyshire’s house.”

And I think, “fuck this. I’m going to quit writing and sell tea.”

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