So often in poker, we are led to believe in the illusion of impossible dreams. From aspirational poker players in their bedrooms taking their first tentative steps in online poker to the man on the street passing a promotional poster and wondering if his ‘resting work face’ might translate to a profitable poker career to replace that office-based position, dreaming of poker stardom has always been the golden ticket for marketing in the industry.
Whether that should be the case or not is open to debate. Poker brands will always spend money attracting the recreational player above all, and the way the poker industry works, each level essentially feeding from the one below, the eco-system is naturally self-sufficient in that way.
All well and good, you might say, but when we read about success, are we being told the full story.
Often, the answer is no.
When that tournament recap you just enjoyed told you about the winner being crowned champion and winning six figures, did it announce how many buy-ins that player contributed to the prize-pool? What about their make-up and action sold to other players? Often the wins we see with our own eyes don’t represent the whole truth, the words we read never the whole story, no matter how deep we as reporters dig.
The poker industry is reliant on the players for many things, in a way no other industry is propped up and held aloft to outside observers. One such way is the sheer money contributed. Without players, there is no coverage, from the RFID in the poker tables, to the on-camera coverage, the on-screen sponsorship or the very words you’re reading.
Another way we rely on players, however, is in what they tell us about how well – or not- they are doing.
In recent years, players have truly embraced the honour system of digging into their own hand histories and opening up about exactly how much profit they’ve made in one situation. Players such as Dara O’Kearney and Daniel Negreanu are fantastic to follow because of the open nature of their blogs and social media posts. They tell us what the experience is really like, and, as fans, honesty goes a lot further than a promo poster which will fade and be replaced for a natural yogurt advert in the New Year anyway.
This week saw two players share their detailed statistics, and one of them write an accompanying blog about them too.
Tony Dunst, well known as a World Poker Tour anchor and WSOP bracelet winner, described his 2019 on Twitter and referenced his best ever year on the circuit.
Niall Farrell took a moment for some self-reflection and like what he saw in the mirror, listing some of his wins over the years and almost using up the trophy emoji in the process.
We also really enjoyed reading the always interesting Ryan LaPlante’s blog where he broke down his numbers for the last 12 months and his realistic ambitions for 2020.
It would be amazing if more players did this and made the game of poker ever more accessible for the fans and aspirational players, because the type of player who wants to play poker for a living has changed so much in the last generation that there are new players to appeal to, those who go into the finest details about their highs and lows.
We all love a Phil Hellmuth blow-up or that story about Stu Ungar counting cards while they were turned over for a prop bet, but the nuts and bolts of the modern game are, for many like us, not just mere statistics, they’re a window into the world we all love getting to know in a bit more detail.
Show us your medals, for sure, but show us the numbers and we’re really sold on you.