No News is Good News?

Oct. 20, 2011, Posted by rick.dacey

No News is Good News?

Invisible ink! Shady hinted at Mafioso characters! Cheating and collusion! These are the things that get the mainstream press interested when it comes to poker, so it came as little surprise to see a link to Fox News regarding cash game cheating in Cannes. Okay, the newswires may also get noticed if there’s a female million-plus winner who looks good on TV or there’s a major flotation, but beyond that it’s a barren turf for poker in the regular press.

In this case poker had stuck its head above the parapet thanks to a small group of players and casino inside men who had connived to insert an invisible ink marked deck of cards into play. ‘Hi-tech’ glasses had allowed the punters to read the cards perfectly allowing them to cheat their opponents. Or rather it would have done if they were actually playing poker, not just the house. It was stud poker against a dealer, not poker as we know it.

From the inside looking out

Poker doesn’t often find itself in the mainstream press often but each time it does it acts as reminder of how niche our job/leisure pursuit/deniable leak [delete as appropriate for you] actually is. We can point out that hundreds of thousands if not millions of people play the game, many of whom rely on the game directly or residually as their main source of income - beyond grinders think of tournament staff, reporters and the hordes of staff that work for both online and bricks and mortar card rooms.

It’s a lot of people, but in the grand scheme of things that’s still a relatively narrow wedge of the population with a poker knowledge base. Drill that number down to players with anything beyond a rudimentary understanding of how the game is played and you’re not left with an increasingly shallow slice of the demographic, i.e. it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that such stories as the ‘poker’ cheats in Cannes gets misunderstood.

To you and I the difference between a poker table game in a casino and actual poker is obvious, it’s huge. How could someone not know? For the same reason someone would look confused if you mentioned sets and flush draws. It’s simply something they don’t know and that shouldn’t come as huge surprise.

On in five…

The day the story broke I had a call from a former colleague, PokerPlayer magazine editor Alun Bowden, asking if I’d be able to do an interview with Radio 5 Live. Bowden, a Welshman for his sins, was unable to contribute due to be a schedule involving a train taking him back to the valleys to see Wales get cheated out of a place in the World Cup final. The buck was passed, the die was cast.

I received a call from a 5 Live researcher shortly after who fired a few questions at me. I told her that I didn’t know much about the story itself having just seen a small snippet but spoke with her generally about poker keen to point out that largely the integrity of the game is maintained and that in any walk of life there’s always a level unscrupulousness, one just has to look at financial and political goings on to see that. In case you’ve arrived at the Poker Farm from further afield than the UK, Radio 5 Live is a BBC radio station that specialises in live news, sports commentary and phone-ins.

I was due to receive a call back in forty minutes at which point, as I understood it, I would be patched through live as a pundit on the subject. Exciting stuff. Keen to present poker in a good light I gave myself a briefing to cover the key areas it had been insinuated might be covered: does cheating go on often, what ways are there to cheat and how can it be caught? I scribbled some notes about casino integrity and player self-regulation before something dawned on me. Was it actually poker-poker or was it casino-poker? I trawled online, the distinction in the reports about the Cannes incident were not clear. The more I thought about it the more it seemed like it might be the latter, colluding in a casino table game, which would obviously change everything. The interview was due in ten minutes.


So did I manage to sustain a robust defence of the game’s overall integrity and make a clear distinction of the difference between casino games and poker? No, but neither did I fail, trip up or bring the game into further disrepute. I was bumped with approximately nine minutes to go thanks to Liam Fox’s resignation as UK defence minister.

The fact is that as big business as poker is we’re looking from the inside out. It has experienced a huge boom and there is big money involved, but ultimately it’s still a niche interest. ‘Real’ news will always bump it. News is about where impact meets interest and in the eyes of news editors poker understandably isn’t up to scratch, but that’s not to say that will always be the case.

Years in our game move a lot faster, the online revolution which led to the majority of players picking up the game is barely ten years old. Will general poker news – beyond the World Series Main Event winner - shift into the mainstream? Possibly, but it will take time and understanding. It’s early days for poker’s attempt to enter the mainstream in Europe and as far as it’s come it will take some more time before poker starts shifting up the news list.

Rick Dacey has been writing, reporting, living and breathing poker since leaving conventional journalism in August 2005 to join the launch team of PokerPlayer magazine, an anarchic mag that became Britain’s best selling poker title. Since going freelance in 2008 Dacey has split his time between playing and writing about the game, becoming a regular feature on the European poker circuit in the process. He can often be spotted stalking between tournament tables carrying a notepad, pen and sour expression or, after play has ended, with a beer, expletives and stolen sandwich. He tweets under the  handle and can also be found spouting vitriol at

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