Poker Tournament Winners Do Not Owe Industry Anything

wsopDaniel Colman beat Daniel Negreanu heads up in the $1 million WSOP One Drop event. Each entry includes $111,111 that goes to Guy Laliberte’s One Drop charity. It will be televised by ESPN and is one of the most popular events among the poker community due to the big names that participate.

This year’s event ended in a controversy that started after the final hand was played.

Daniel Colman snubbed ESPN and poker media by refusing to give any interviews after his $15 million score. This drew the ire of some members of the poker media that felt giving an interview would be a positive for the game of poker in general, and of course, add to their coverage of the event. Maybe it would, but someone that is not enthusiastic about talking to the media is likely to come off that way.

Several members of the media published their opinion about how they felt this reflected negatively on Colman.  PokerNews and the Las Vegas Sun were among them.

Colman Speaks

Colman later made a post at Two Plus Two explaining his actions. He stated that he did not want to be seen as someone that advocates or promotes poker due to his belief that it is a game that can have negative consequences for participants.

This was met with a mixed reaction. He could have used interviews to discuss these views, although a poker tournament stage after a big win is hardly the proper platform to voice this opinion.

It is hard to imagine that speaking about the negative consequences of poker would have ever made it over the air on ESPN, but it certainly could have created a discussion in other forms of media. His post at Two Plus Two is doing just that.

The people that play WSOP events are customers of Rio and the WSOP. They are guests, just as the people playing slots or table games a thousand feet away on the main casino floor are.

Most gamblers expect privacy. They do not want the spotlight shined on them. When a casino posts big wins from slots and video poker the player’s last name is usually omitted. Players often refuse any attention by the casino’s social media department.

Poker players have more pride than this. Most dream of that winning moment. Poker is not seen as a form of gambling to them, even though the outside world often feels otherwise.

While they are in the minority, some players simply want privacy. They want to enjoy their game while taking their big shot during summer vacation without the spotlight.

Poker champions should not be forced into becoming an ambassador for the game. That should be their choice. A player that wins big at the WSOP has many options. Some may move on to sign sponsorship deals with large poker sites, while others may choose to disappear with their life changing money. Most players fall somewhere in the middle. The poker community certainly has no place in telling them how to live their lives, nor should poker media try to shame anyone for not giving an interview minutes after an event ended.

Making a big deal out of this situation only increases the chances it will happen again. Most people would not even have noticed the lack of an interview with the winner. Now it has become a standalone story.

Some have compared this situation to a Super Bowl MVP refusing to give an interview. That is an absurd comparison. NFL players are employees of a league franchise. Part of their job is to set aside media time. It is in their contracts. This is understood by all that agree to play in the NFL or any other professional sports league.

WSOP players are customers that pay to participate. There is no more of an obligation to give an interview to the media at a poker tournament than there would be at any other place of business.

Daniel Negreanu Nice Consolation Prize for Media

Second place finisher Daniel Negreanu was happy to give interviews to the media after the event. He is well liked among the poker community and is one of its best ambassadors. While getting an interview from the bracelet winner would have been ideal for media outlets, it is hard to imagine that anybody is upset about who the second place finisher was.

Having such a well known player heads up for the bracelet made for higher live reporting ratings and will create some great TV entertainment. There are far worse scenarios that could have come out of this event.

Colman’s Poker Point

Poker can be a problem for people, just like any game where money can be won or lost. It is a game of skill but it is still a negative expectation game due to rake, tournament admin fees, and travel expenses. Experienced players can overcome this and make a living at the tables. That money comes from somewhere, which seems to be something nobody ever wants to think about while racking up a mountain of chips.

Colman decided that he does not want to be a party to promoting poker due to how he feels about it targeting people’s weaknesses. He went so far as to compare it to cigarette and alcohol advertising.

In Colman’s words, “I don’t owe poker a single thing”.  He is right. He doesn’t owe poker anything.  Trying to shame him for his actions will not change that.

Even if you disagree with his view, you need to respect it.


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