Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Has Anti-Absolute / UB Sentiment Gone Too Far?

Forum posts, websites even e-mails sent to me via my sites often have a theme in common these days.... anti-Absolute Poker (and more recently Ultimate Bet) sentiment. The latest rash of this started yesterday with the announcement of JohnnyBax as a UB pro.

Going to share my thoughts in today's post. Not so much to defend AP and UB, but to stimulate thought - and maybe debate - on the level of 'Militancy' which the twin scandals seem to have generated.

First my perspectives on the 'scandals'

Sure, the Potripper scandal was ugly. The AP reaction was awful at all levels with senior management being guity of complacency on a massive scale. BUT (an important BUT here (!)), think back to how obvious the cheating was, think about Potripper for a second - the way in which the 'scam' was carried out was completely transparrent to anyone even remotely experienced in MTT play... sure, it was an inside job, sure it was ugly - but it was also carried out by amatures. People seem to forget this - had this been a better organised team they could have got away with a lot more!

Agree, the UB stats of NoiNoi look unreal (though I am not personally convinced by any of the HHs yet... circumstancial rather than conclusive evidence). It is being investigated which is cool, the thing about this one is - a couple of experienced 2+2ers excepted - the majority of the 'screamers' here appear to be micro / low stakes players... come on guys, never in your wildest dreams are you going to be posting a HH from your 25c / 50c game as 'damning evidence' against a cheat.

Anyway - it was not the scandals themselves which I wanted to talk about. It is the militancy of those who believe that this group of poker sites is 'evil' and anyone associated with them has 'lost all credibility'.

So Militants, let me ask you a couple of questions.

1) Is it safe (from superusers) to play at AP or UB at the moment? Without a doubt these sites are being watched closely for anything unusual... so yes.

2) Since when did freedom to choose, by adults, what to do with their own money warrant savage attacks from teenage 'internet hardmen'... what I am saying here is if an adult, aware of the allegations against these sites, wishes to play there, then they are exercising their personal choice - what is it about a bunch of micro-grinders that they feel this excercising of basic freedom 'deserves' insults, flames and threats? (yes, I have seen all 3!)

3) Perspective - A final thought, lets get this in perspective right. Poker is a niche as far as the 'real world' is concerned (actually the real world thinks it is something similar to casino gambling on a computer (another story!!)). The amount of people affected by these 'scams' was low and the financial effect comparitively small (yes, I do call $50k small when we are talking about people who play $25 / $50 NL for a living!). Lets compare this with some of the scams and scandals out there in the real world, Enron, the selling of mortgages that could never be paid back, the destruction of the western worlds manufacturing base, the Equitable life pension scandal, the daily destruction of our shared environment, the war in Iraq, the forced enslavement of African nations by their debtors, global warming... every teenager loves a cause right? come on you 'keyboard hardmen' who get so excited about AP and UB... why not put your energy into something real??

Looking forward to receiving some well thought through replies... (love a debate!)... if you are considering dropping a comment containing nothing but a flame / insult then please save yourself the bother... I do not plan on publishing them.

GL at the tables, Mark


Lifesagrind said...

I don't frequent forums and I don't remember ever having commented on this issue but your assumptions are a bit off here.

By your own admission you state that had the AB players been smarter they could have gotten away with it. A true statement and one that speaks to the core problem. A lack of regulation and internal controls at all poker rooms.

A comment area just isn't going to allow enough depth to cover this properly but I'll address each of your points in a sentence or two.

1) You cannot be sure that all Superuser accounts are being stopped. Just the "dumb" ones.

2)Yes freedom of choice should exist, but without checks and balances the only way to promote safe play is to punish those that allow for defrauding. The only power the players have is to take their business elsewhere. If only a small (miniscule) subset of players leave a site, then the site learns that it can get away with it.

3)Micro stakes players are often the "fanboys" of poker. This means that as a subset they have a collectively larger voice. Just because you don't play the level doesn't mean you shouldn't be concerned about the issue.

Short-Stacked Shamus said...

An interesting and thoughtful post, Mark. Thanks.

I agree that "militancy" or unrestrained vitriol is not only unpleasant, but usually not very constructive, either. That is definitely a good point you are making.

The questions you raise for the "militants" to consider are all good ones. Of course, you aren't really addressing what for me is the primary problem with both situations -- the lack of upfront, genuine communication with customers about the sites' security having been compromised.

It doesn't matter if you play micro limits or the nosebleed stakes, or if you happened to have been involved in games where cheating occurred or not. You have chosen to play online poker on a particular site. That site has a security breach. The site's "credibility" most certainly depends on how they handle such a situation, particularly with regard to how they communicate with you, their customer, information about how they view the matter and what steps the site is taking to respond.

While I'm sure it is probably safe to play on both sites, I'm also sure that neither AP or UB has taken the breaches as seriously as they should have. I see no point in calling them "evil." And while they perhaps haven't "lost all credibility," they have nevertheless lost a hell of a lot.

Drarr said...

I'm pretty much in agreement with Shamus here, IMO the way the company handled the Absolute scandal was more damaging than what actually occured. Also remember this was after a long period of increasing frustration that players suffered with UBs customer support. So these incidents happened after a lot of people were already pissed off with UB/Absolute.

While the company seem to be moving in the right direction again, they have to remember they are providing a service and therefore need to keep their customers happy. This hasn't been happening before to the degree that was needed, or to the standards of their competitors, and the responses Potripper scandal was the final 2 fingers as far as many players were concerned.

As with anything a reputation takes longer to build than it does to destroy, and then it takes a far longer time to rebuild. It won't really matter who the sites sign or what they promise, they will just need to perform and prove themselves over the longterm

Mark said...

Great to see some thoughtful replies.

Just as a side-note I saw a post this morning on P5's that the people involved should be 'tried to the full extent of the law' or something similar... thing is you could just TELL from the way it was written that this kid meant US-law, somebody I'm sure will point out the obvious fact that the operators do not run their business in the US... and US law is about as usful as a chocolate wristwatch here - just highlights the 'militants' intelligence level to me, the poster here probably able to get decent grades in school through parrot-learning, but obviously lacks the ability to actually *think* for himself!

ok - to the comments.

Firstly, re-reading my post it seemed I was hard on the lower level players... this is not actually the case, I'm a recreational player myself and respect anyones choice of limits.

The points about trust are dead on, the sites involved damaged peoples trust... what I can not square with is how this leads to anyone who either;

a) thinks it is all in the past, or
b) Simply does not care

... 'losing their credibility' or generally being evil / uncool whatever the word is.

My thoughts on trust... hmmm, I actually believe the majority (yes, majority) think that online poker is rigged / fixed in some way... just look at any forum or chat while playing for the evidence (everyone thinks they are 'better than average' right - just unlucky thats all!!). With this amount of doubt about the integrity of the game we really did not need evidence that could back up these peoples claims!!

The point about Management being responsible was excellent. I have been in management roles myself in the past (both 1st and 2nd line for a blue chip), it is the senior managements responsibility to ensure that the lines of communication are available *and used*. Once the issues were highlighted someone needed to take responsibility... could have limited the damage considerably this way.

Finally the point about re-building reputation taking a long time is a good one...

Yet (always a 'yet' with me!) these sites did not lose players / business because of these scandals (if I recall AP were *up* in player volumes in the months after Potripper)... the damage is in a small sub-set of players who were members of the big communities, of the millions who play poker online a very small number (who probably played at Stars / Tilt only anyway). Not saying all publicity is good publicity by any means... however AP in particular were not a huge brand - many 100's of 1000's of people who had not heard of them will have done so through this scandal - it only takes a fraction of a percent to sign-up and play to make the net effect a positive one.

Anyway, longer than anticipated.

My point was more about the 'militants' than the scandals themselves... I stand by the observation that much of the current flaming is out of all proportion.

Cheers (and thanks for the great comments!)