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Damn Whippersnappers!

I am in the process of reading Bigger Deal by Anthony Holden, and some of the writing really got me thinking. There was a time when angst-ridden, Nirvana-loving, grunge-haired Jordan thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket. I saw what I envisioned as the decline of decency. Increased coverage of tragedies, local stories of molestations, and the general feeling that everyone was out only for themselves put me in a state of despair. Somewhere in there, I was discussing these things with my mother, or maybe even just reading about history. It could have also been the great works of Kurt Vonnegut that got me to reconsider my position. Whatever the case, I came to, what to me is an inevitable conclusion: We are not in a state of decline. The world and people generally were fucked up 1000 years ago, 100 years ago, 50 years ago, and remain fucked up to this day. There were still horrible things going on in the world 50 or 100 years ago, but the instantaneous or national (now international) news was not available OR the news was available, but somewhere in between then and the Wonder Years, everyone began to look at the past with rose-colored glasses. In other world, the world wasn't getting any more fucked up. Maybe some of the fucked uppedness changed due to new technologies (read: To Catch a Predator), but we probably have the same amount of crazies, assholes, selfish pricks and douschebags in the world.

What does this have to do with poker?

I cannot recall how many times I've seen or heard people lament the change in poker culture. The easiest complaint is that table etiquette has gone the way of the dodo, thanks to online and televised poker. Of course, in the annals of online poker rooms, you can get some real assholes who can hide behind the relative anonymity of a screen name or the safety of their mother's computer room in an undisclosed location. The argument goes, these players watched poker on TV, learned bad habits from players like Hellmuth and other showboaters, honed their obnoxious table antics online and then show up at a real world casino with no idea of proper poker etiquette.

Surely, there is some truth to misconduct from online players when they first play in a B&M (brick and mortar) poker room. But I would suggest that this is more attributable to inexperience and lack of knowledge. For instance, a player who string bets might not know any better before the rule is explained (when betting, you must make one motion with your chips or announce your raise first; otherwise, whatever you put out first is your bet). That is to be expected, though, with any new player coming into a B&M poker room for the first time.

But this idea that TV and online poker is to blame for the decline in table etiquette is probably misplaced. Granted, I wasn't there before the televised poker and online games, but from all the stories I hear, it sure as hell didn't seem to be a regular congenial roundtable discussion when poker was played. In fact, it was just the opposite, with players regularly bringing guns and other weapons to poker rooms. They had to bring guns, because everyone else was packing and the games were often subject to robberies or worse. Players would leave poker games and have to worry about being hijacked before they got to their car. Others were pulled over and tied up by their robbers. Players cheated in games that were less-regulated than the legitimate poker rooms today. Sure, players didn't gloat after a hand or act like a jackass after they lost to a "suckout" but they couldn't, because if they did, they'd be staring at the business end of a fist or worse.

So sorry, old guard. I'm not one of those obnoxious players (usually), but I say let them be obnoxious. It isn't as though there are more assholes in poker today than there were pre-televised poker and the Internet, proportionally. Its just that now the asshole is more likely to be a kid who doesn't know not to whoop and holler or talk shit, instead of a guy with a pocket full of barking iron and the twinkle of a vendetta in his eye.

And lets not forget the fact that these punk kids learned their ways from watching professionals on TV, the same professionals who were playing before televised poker was commonplace. I'm sure that the TV cameras bring it out a bit more, but it was probably already there to begin with.

My conclusion: Poker has not become inundated with people who are bad for the game because of their attitudes. Rather, poker has always had people who were bad for the game. Now, however, they are more likely to be harmless wannabes than criminals and bruisers. I'll take the wannabes anyday. I can take their money, shame them with their own failure and shortcomings, AND not worry about being rolled on my walk through the parking lot.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 11:33 AM,


At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do an excellent job explaining the idea that many will sensationalize almost everything.

The smarter of the populous realizes what's actually happening, although not first without careful consideration: something you've obviously done in analyzing the effects of the poker boom, and the supposed decline in table etiquette.

At 5:04 AM, Blogger CarmenSinCity said...

I'm reading Bigger Deal too. THey sent it to me in the mail. I bet they sent it to you too right??? Ahhhhh - the perks of being famous bloggers. ha ha


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