Taxing Mark Kreidler’s Tiny Brain

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007, 9:32 pm

Funny, I always thought that ESPN would be against the government trying to restrict online poker. After all, how many programming hours has ESPN filled with the World Series of Poker? A zillion?

But after reading Mark Kreidler’s hackjob, it looks like ESPN has it in for poker too. Kreidler’s column is such a sneering putdown of the game I wonder if the Worldwide Leader will assist the Feds in a sting operation come the World Series.

Here’s what Kreidler had to say about former Senator Al D’Amato joining the Poker Players Alliance:

Take the announcement this week that D’Amato is taking a “leadership position” with the Poker Players Alliance, a group you’ve never heard of that nevertheless is committed to doing God’s work by protecting the rights of card players everywhere to lose money online.

No one’s ever heard of the PPA? Odd, as ESPN’s Poker Club ran an interview with Michael Bolcerek and Phil Gordon spoke at length with Bolcerek on The Poker Edge podcast. And, of course, it’d be nice if ESPN did more to promote the PPA (and other issues surrounding online poker as well), but it took ESPN about 10 days to acknowledge the arrest of the 2 Neteller founders–and that only merited a paragraph. And of course ESPN assisted in the whitewash concerning the extra $2 million in chips that was introduced in last year’s WSOP Main Event. I know, expecting courageous leadership from ESPN on a controversial issue is the height of naivety.

But let’s return to Kreidler. He writes that D’Amato “railed against the law passed last year that makes it extremely difficult to play poker on the Internet, saying Congress ought to be more concerned with terrorism and drug trafficking (assuming it isn’t)”. In fact, here’s what D’Amato actually said in the New York Times:

The money being spent to outlaw poker and enforce the ban, Mr. D’Amato said, could be better spent “in the battle against money laundering, trafficking in drugs, or trafficking in terrorism.”

In no way did D’Amato say that Congress was more concerned with poker than terrorism. Rather a difference, yes?

Kreidler also has some difficulty understanding big numbers. He quotes D’Amato (accurately, for a change) “You don’t have 70 million people participating in baseball.” Kreidler then writes:

In fact, the PPA’s news release estimates that only about 23 million people played Internet poker last year, meaning Al has a bunch of Friday night garages to fill if he’s going to get his sport up to 70 million nationally. But why let all that cigar smoke get in the way of a good story?

Or, in Kreidler’s case, why let the facts get in the way. For while the PPA states that 23 million people played ONLINE poker last year, their website says that 70 million Americans play poker…PERIOD. Online, in home games, with Grandma at Christmas. Again, rather a difference between online players and ALL players. A difference Kreidler is unable (or unwilling) to discern. I don’t know that I believe either number, mind you–but I do understand the difference between them.

Then Kreidler, sitting in a glass house, decides to throw some stones:

“D’Amato is one of the more famous poker players in congressional history, assuming such a list might exist, and that takes in a whole lot of territory normally reserved for calculated liars, convicted cheats and general obfuscators — and we still haven’t gotten to the poker table yet.”

There’s probably only one group of people more reviled in this country than politicans…and that’s journalists. And Kreidler doesn’t do his profession much credit with this piece.

Nor with this graf:

Of course, D’Amato is working for money. The PPA, which puts its membership at 160,000 (again, take it or leave it as an estimate) is taking aim at a bill passed last year that banned using credit cards or online payment systems as part of online poker and other gaming activities on the Internet. D’Amato is a longtime player, mostly with a regular group of friends and colleagues rather than online. Still, put such theological synergy together with the ability to pay up, and you’ve got yourself a lobbyist.

Huh. Did Kreidler call D’Amato to ask how much he’s getting paid by the PPA? Or if he ever plays online? Nor did Kreidler do any research to find out if the home games D’Amato plays in (or similar games around the country) are in danger of being raided by SWAT teams–which of course has happened in certain places. Nah, why bother doing any research, thinking, work. Not when there’s easy snark to be had.

Easy snark, but not intelligent snark, as we see here:

What D’Amato and the PPA seem to hate the most is the fact that Congress casually lumped in poker with other online games of chance. As they see it, poker is a game of skill and chance, which therefore entitles Al to call it a sport, which blah blah blah — you can see where this is going.

This is just fucking stupid. What bothers online poker players isn’t that it’s being called a game of chance–it’s that it’s being called a FEDERAL CRIME. Call poker a sport, a game, a pastime, a goddam blue kangaroo–just let me play it when I want, for the stakes I want, without government interference. THAT’S the issue, for Chrissakes.

Of course, this isn’t the stupidest thing Kreider wrote, oh no!

D’Amato rallies to the defense of those brave and heroic online gamers, who evidently need protecting in the form of Congressional legal re-interpretation. (Translation: Exempt poker from the no-credit-card law, and we’re good to go.)

Let me say this so slowly that even a 20-watt bulb like Mark Kreidler can follow along: online poker players aren’t calling themselves brave and heroic. We’re not asking for protection. What we want is for the Federal Government to stop telling us how we can spend our time and our money. Get off our fucking backs, that’s the message we’re trying to send. I mean, does Kreidler live in a cave? He doesn’t see how the Federal Government has been stripping away our civil rights? Habeas corpus, Jose Padilla, Guantanamo Bay…these are all foreign to him? And while online poker hardly counts in the big scheme of things, it’s part of an overall pattern of the government taking away the rights of citizens to live as they please. The extremists our government panders to want to keep Americans from engaging in behavior THEY think is icky. Online poker, trans-fats, smoking in bars…how much longer before booze, porn and cunnilingus all face legislative oblivion?

Why not let Kreidler prove one last time how frigging stupid he is with his own words?

D’Amato also raises a point with which American history is likely to agree, even if it’s comically misguided here. “Prohibitions don’t work,” he said in the PPA’s news release. “They only create unintended consequences.”

Just like liquor, in other words. Well, drinking, gambling you get the idea. Try to ban card games online, and they’ll only start playing poker in somebody’s living room late at night, buying their own chips or using makeshift materials like pretzels and M&Ms as token “money.” Where will the madness end?

Like you, I don’t see what’s “comically” misguided about this comparison, but perhaps Kreidler’s sense of humor is warped as well. D’Amato actually answered Kreidler’s point about how this ban will affect online poker:

“Online poker will only go further underground, (D’Amato) continued, providing an opening for unscrupulous foreign operators seeking to take advantage of the hunger of Americans to play poker. ‘When you have regulation, where you have openness, you can ensure you have a game that won’t be unfairly cut or disadvantaged or manipulated,’ Mr. D’Amato said.”

Seems pretty obvious to me–ban online poker, players will turn to shady operators who are far more likely to rip them off or take advantage of them. A good parallel to the Prohibition of alcohol in the Twenties, I’d say.

When I took my first journalism class at Penn State we had an assignment to write a simple news story. I turned it in, and the next day I got it back with a big red F that covered the entire page. “You misspelled a person’s name,” my prof said, in front of the entire class. “That’s inexcusable. You had the information right there. You didn’t check. You were lazy. You get an F.” I never forgot that lesson. Of course, maybe that’s why I didn’t go into journalism–these days you can make stuff up, invent facts out of whole cloth, misquote people, proudly display your ignorance of a subject–and all that means is that you’ll get a gig with a big media company like ESPN.

UPDATE: In the comments Gary Carson left a link to a post he wrote that listed his concerns about the PPA. Just because ESPN ripped the PPA, and I ripped ESPN, doesn’t mean that the PPA should get automatic support from poker players. No way. If they propose to speak for all of us, then we need to pay special attention to WHAT they’re saying and HOW they’re saying it.

Daniel Negreanu also wrote something about Kreidler’s column, though he didn’t use the word “fuck” as much as I did. I should’ve given that word up for Lent–it’s lazy, base, and beneath my dignity. But I was ticked off.

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