I know most of you at the top of the poker food chain will look at the title of this article and immediately skip it thinking, “Responsibility in poker, that doesn’t pertain to me.” You feel like the biggest responsibility you have as a professional poker player is showing up to a tournament on time every so often. And let’s be real, most of you don’t even do a good job of that. Or, maybe the biggest responsibility you feel is to successfully wire money to the next tournament venue so that you have enough money to play for the entire trip. Well, you always have trouble with that one. So, rather than wire the money, you will just travel around with poker chips and hope to trade those chips for cash at your next destination with someone a little more responsible. You knowingly make yourself a bigger target and take unnecessary risk in your travels. You do this because it is easier and, most importantly, just less work. And, if bringing the chips seems too much of an annoyance, then you will just borrow from other players when you get there. No big deal. The constant borrowing from one another is so singular to the poker profession that people outside poker could not even comprehend what is going on.
I am not here to bash or scold you guys. You know I am your biggest fan. The young guns of poker, all one hundred or so of you, are the future of our poker industry. What I described above are just some of the things that happen quite frequently within your lifestyle. In the future, it will be your choice whether or not to be more responsible for yourself. These are all examples of personal responsibilities that, when you screw up, you usually only wind up costing yourself.
When I say “Responsibility in Poker”, I’m referring to how you act or speak out in any public forum or media outlet. The things you say and do reflect on all of us. Regardless of your intentions, your actions shine a light not just on you, but on all professional poker players. That light will shine dark or bright for all of us. When any one of us acts poorly in the spotlight, the ripple effect is typically immeasurable. The perception of poker has consistently grown more favorable over time. However, any one bad action in the poker world seems to spontaneously nullify all of the recent good. Poker has been fighting a negative connotation in the media since its beginnings.
It is a fact that if you are successful enough to be a member of the Epic Poker League with its rigorous qualification requisites, then you are also admired by many amateur and professional poker players throughout the world. Your actions: good or bad, will be respected, followed, and mimicked by the young poker world. You are an incredibly talented group and you are the future of poker. That being said, you must realize that you have a responsibility to poker.
Your actions at a poker tournament reflect on the entire industry. When you bust from a poker tournament through a bad beat, and decide to kick your chair, people notice. When they see you acting out like this, it makes it seem acceptable. When you tweet about the tournament director being an idiot without first confronting him with a specific issue, it benefits nobody. All it does is create resentment, and further distances the players from the staff. When you berate a dealer or a floor person for making mistakes, in the eyes of those watching, it makes it the thing to do. Then, the next day when you are not around, you perhaps have influenced three young kids from your previous day’s table who are just waiting for dealers or a floor person to slip up, so they can berate them because they think it’s cool.
You guys are looked up to by the entire poker world. Whether you are in a major televised poker tournament or just in your local card room, you are always on stage. Your actions have many ripple effects. As a young person, this is a hard fact that you must come to understand.
Poker needs you to come to this realization. You have to present yourself in a positive light at ALL times for the game. If poker is your career, you need to do your best to help grow poker for the long term. We can all do our part. The success and growth of poker is determined by its profitability. The only way poker stays profitable is by attracting new people and new money.
The game cannot currently sustain itself, but that can change in the future. We can’t give advertisers any more reasons to stay away from poker. In this respect, we are working from the ground up, and need to work hard to continuously improve the public perception of the game. Making poker a respectable profession can only help grow the sport.
I highly recommend that all of you take the time to read a certain book that, if understood, will help you realize the truth as to how and why so many of us are in such a great position within the poker world. The book is called “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I can’t stress enough how much this book will enlighten you about poker and your life.
In 2012, I am going to make a concerted effort to change the way my fellow poker players think about their individual responsibilities towards the game. I hope you will join me in this effort to convert our fellow professionals towards this beneficial way of thinking, that we all have a responsibility to poker. We are all very fortunate to be able to play poker for a living and, thus, should treat the game with the respect that it deserves. We have to make a consistent and conscious effort to always do our best to publicly present poker in a positive light.
Things like internet poker legalization and sponsorship dollars are out of our control for now. However, the way we present ourselves as individuals to the public is within our means and that is what we should be focusing on – to make things better for everyone. We have a very small community in which we are all familiar faces. We need to be vigilant in this endeavor with our fellow poker players, and I am hoping that together we can promote a sea of change in the sense of responsibility to our fellow professional poker players and to the game itself. This is the first major hurdle we need to overcome towards building a brighter future for poker. The growth of poker from this point forward will only be born from a significant core of respectable professionals bound by the highest ethical standards. This core will not only be the players who produce the best results in poker, but also the ones who succeed in the art of media savvy.