Igor Kurganov; PokerStars and the 48-Laws of Power

TAGs: Igor Kurganov, PokerStars

After Igor Kurganov joins PokerStars, a section of the poker community criticises the Russian for sleeping with the enemy prompting Lee Davy to take a closer look beneath the sheets.

Igor Kurganov; PokerStars and the 48-Laws of PowerI was never intended to read The Bible. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is another that makes me feel dyslexic. And The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene has just been tossed into the corner of my bedroom along with my recently deceased bush and a big purple exercise ball.

I understood Greene’s masterpiece, but the content made me feel seasick. And yet, had I read it a few years ago, when I was trying to become a professional poker player, I would have loved it. Poker is all about power. Poker is all about deceit. Poker is all about buying your opponent a Gin and Tonic, lacing it with Rohypnol and stealing his Stetson and snakeskin boots.


I used to think I wanted it.

Robert Greene made me feel repulsed by the thought of it.

But now I think that Power can be used as a weapon for good if wielded by the right type of man – like Igor Kurganov, for example.

Law #2: Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends, Learn How to Use Enemies

Reading through the mindless tripe that people have written on 2+2 about Igor Kurganov signing for PokerStars, there seems to be one complaint that carries some weight.

Kurganov once expressed a view that he would like to take Freddy Kruger’s right hand and drag it down a blackboard within earshot of anyone at PokerStars, and now he is working for them.

What a fucking sellout.

I’m not so sure.

“All working situations require a kind of distance between people. You are trying to work, not make friends: friendliness (real or false) only obscures that fact. The key to power, then, is the ability to judge who is the best able to further your interests in all situations. Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent.” – Robert Greene.

Kurganov isn’t a sellout. He doesn’t make decisions on a whim. There is a greater meaning and purpose to this man. You only have to spend a few minutes with him to recognise his depth.

Abraham Lincoln once said that you destroy an enemy when you make a friend of them. PokerStars have become the comedy villain in a lot of professional poker player’s lives. But what have they done about it? Complained, moaned, and continued to pay the rake.

Kurganov knows that the best way to effect change is from within the heart of PokerStars Towers. In a way, he is playing the part of Galen Erso, the engineer in Star Wars: Rogue One, ordered to create The Death Star.

The Rebellion hated Erso, but he took it on the chin because his purpose was greater than his own life. Erso knew someone would build the Death Star if not him. So, he decided to sacrifice his life ensuring the Death Star contained a weakness.

Now I’m not saying Kurganov is going to destroy PokerStars from within. But if the Russian wants to change the way PokerStars does business, and I assume he does after his declarations post the SNE changes, then he is in a much better position to do it today, than he was yesterday.

A Higher Purpose

A few years ago, I interviewed Kurganov at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). I asked him who his inspiration was and he said it was Elon Musk. After that meeting, I read Elon Musk’s autobiography written by Ashlee Vance.

Two things surprised me about that book.

Ashlee Vance is a man.

Elon Musk is a cock.

I couldn’t believe that this icon of the modern era could treat people so deplorably. He disgusted me throughout most of the book, only for me to change my mind at the last minute when I read this:

I am more convinced than ever that Musk is a deeply emotional person who suffers and rejoices in an epic fashion. This side of him is likely obscured by the fact that he feels most deeply about his own humanity-altering quest and so has trouble recognising the strong emotions of those around him. This tends to make Musk come off as aloof and hard. I would argue, however, that his brand of empathy is unique. He seems to feel for the human species as a whole without always wanting to consider the wants and needs of individuals. And it may well be the case that this is exactly the type of person it takes to make a freaking space Internet real.” – Ashlee Vance.

I don’t think Musk is unique when it comes to wanting to reduce suffering on a human species scale. Igor Kurganov and his buddies at Raising for Effective Giving (REG) are in the same space shuttle on that one.

Kurganov, will, for the rest of his life, do whatever it takes to create value for those who need it most in the world. Whether that’s in the form of money, time, or action – Kurganov has a bigger vision than most.

If you want to get to Mars, then learn how to make Elon Musk your new best friend.

If you want to donate a fuck ton of poker money to effective charities, then make friends with PokerStars.

Is Kurganov sleeping with the enemy?

Too right he is, but we should be hat tipping him, not castigating him.

With Kurganov and Liv Boeree both working for PokerStars it enables them the opportunity to sit down with the right earlobes and poke a tongue in. Think about how much money PokerStars rakes in through its online and live business?

They have the best software.

They have the biggest prizes.

They have the greatest liquidity.

The one thing that PokerStars lacks is a story.

We can’t relate to them because they come across as a power hungry machine that has eaten Robert Greene’s 48 Laws for a snack. But Kurganov and Boeree possess the power to change that. And it makes sense for PokerStars to listen. There is a reason every single start-up that comes out of Silicon Valley has some form of charitable giving sewn into their DNA. PokerStars does their bit. But the effective altruist movement is a surgeon. The rest are just standing around holding scalpels wondering what to do with them.

Am I right?

Perhaps, we will never know, particularly if Kurganov has read the 48 Laws of Power and paid attention to Law #3: Conceal Your Attentions.

“Many believe that by being honest and open they are winning people’s hearts and showing their good nature. They are greatly deluded. Honesty is actually a blunt instrument, which bloodies more than it cuts. Your honesty is likely to offend people; it is much more prudent to tailor your words, telling people what they want to hear rather than the coarse and ugly truth of what you feel or think.” Robert Greene.


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