Once Again, The Mainstream Media Tackles Poker

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006, 7:06 pm

Surfing the Net today I saw an article on Slate titled “The Art of Trash-Talking in Online Poker”. So I read it. Sigh.

About online players, the writer, Jacob Lewis, says, “…half of them spend as much time calculating the pot odds as they do telling you that your mother’s so ugly she makes blind kids cry.”

I dunno, do the insults fly that much online? Beyond the usual passive-aggressive “nice call” sneers and the donkeydonkey-fishfish slurs? And would anyone really write something as banal as “your mother’s so ugly she makes blind kids cry”? Certainly you don’t find many rapier wits playing online, but that insult doesn’t pass muster.

Nor do the examples Lewis uses to describe what live players say to each other pass the smell test:

The comments can be pointed and direct (“You can’t play with me”), jocular and teasing (“Show this man some love. I’m killing him.”), or take the form of a running commentary, as if a jockey were calling the race he’s in (“I’m taking this table down. You can’t beat me. Look at these cards! I’ll show you my hand and still win. King-10? Good hand, but nothing compared to my ace-King. I’m going to have to just go all in with these cards.”).

Uh. Huh. Even Tilt didn’t have dialog this stilted.

Lewis then says, “When playing online, you can try to keep tabs on the other players to learn their habits, but with thousands of people moving in and out of various tables, all with names such as Acebuster44, TizShowtime, and TopTitty19, it is almost impossible to fix on a weakling.” Well, unless you use a program called PokerTracker.

Explaining how players determine where that fishy smell is coming from, Lewis writes, “They use the few fleeting seconds between cards and bets to be as nasty and as immature as possible to try to draw you out.” Huh? I don’t think I’ve ever sat down at a table and had someone immediately tear into me. And does skill in chat-room repartee really correlated to poker skill?

Lewis writes, “If you play your hand poorly, you may get called a donkey or a fish, as in you went fishing for cards.” I always thought the term “fish” came from the fact that fish get eaten by the sharks.

“Check-raise someone and get ‘bitch-slapped.'”. Again, huh? Since when is check-raising worthy of smack-talk? Without check-raising, there’s no poker.

“While it’s common enough to be handed the conciliatory ‘nh’ (nice hand), which requires a polite ‘ty’ (thank you), if you slow-play the table out of all their money, the abbreviations may turn to curse words.” Once again, I say “huh”? Why would slow-playing be worthy of insults? Slow-rolling, yes, but slow-playing?

Lewis does recognize–correctly–that nearly every online player believes the site they’re playing on is fixed. But that’s the high point of the article. The penultimate paragraph you simply have to read in its entirety:

Because everyone who trash-talks online comes across as a whiny adolescent, a good response to being teased and prodded is to ask, “Does your father know you’re using his account?” or “I remember my first beer, too.” Poker players may hate to admit it, but online poker’s popularity is reminiscent of the hordes of nerdy boys playing Dungeons & Dragons in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Snappy remarks—”You will submit to my poker greatness”—have the ring of a 20-sided die. And when it’s followed by six or seven other people writing “lmao” (laughing my ass off), there’s more than a faint resemblance to Revenge of the Nerds.

A good response is “I remember my first beer, too”? Jesus wept. As He would to a “snappy” line like “You will submit to my poker greatness”. I don’t see the comparisons to D&D. Online poker is a solitary pursuit, it doesn’t involve fanciful creatures, and it’s often played for substantial amounts of cash. I don’t recall too many professional D&D players, nor do I remember too many companies related to D&D having multi-billion-dollar valuations.

In the closing paragraph Lewis pretty much invalidates his thesis by pointing out that you can block someone’s chat with a simple right-click. He closes by writing, “…wading into the virtual world of Internet poker is like stepping into a tub of stingless jellyfish”, the leading candidate for Worst Poker Simile of 2006.

At the end of the piece I received a real shock. Who is this Jacob Lewis? He is the goddam managing editor of the goddam New Yorker. An editor at the best magazine in the world, and he writes stuff like that? “A tub of stingless jellyfish”? I really need to stop being such a perfectionist about my freelance writing.

UPDATE: I’m in a cranky mood to begin with (I’ll spare you my tales of woe) but as I watch the USA play hoops against Puerto Rico I surf over to CNN and see that a race car driver was seriously injured when his car slammed into a deer that wondered onto the track. Cristino Da Matta was unconscious when he was airlifted to a hospital for urgent surgery on a subdural hematoma.

And what did CNN use as a headline for this horrible story about freak accident that resulted in serious, potentially life-threatening injury?

“Oh Deer”.

Perhaps someone can explain to me why the person responsible for writing that headline shouldn’t be immediately fired. I can’t think of a reason off the top of my head.

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5 Responses to “Once Again, The Mainstream Media Tackles Poker”

  1. ToddCommish Says:

    This merely proves two things.
    1. The New Yorker (or at least anything this editor screens) isn’t a bastion of literary excellence.
    2. Jacob Lewis doesn’t know a damn thing about poker, live or online, and is just trying to capitalize on the flavor of the month.

  2. Mr. Parx Says:

    Maybe he was watching Yahoo! poker rooms.

    Mr. P.

  3. scrawnybob Says:


    really like your blog it was one of my first links I put on mine – dont want to spam your comments box – so if your interested in exchanging a couple of links – give me a shout

    keep up the great work – Rob

  4. Drizztdj Says:

    He’s reading for the masses, not the select few who actually understand poker inside and out.

  5. Daddy Says:

    Your mom is a call station.

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