Respect in the Game

Dec. 2, 2011, Posted by rick.dacey

Respect in the Game

MacPhee, Boatman and respect in the game

Poker is a cold callous game. The desire to win overrides all manners, dignity and social norms. Money is the be all and end all.

That seems to be a fair if not somewhat harsh assessment of the game. Now insert football or tennis into that statement rather than poker. It’s an accusation that is often levelled at games where top players are earning a whole lot of money and one which is somewhat hollow. While a handful of sportsmen play purely for the money they’re a rare beast. The need to win by dominating opponents remains the overwhelmingly drive for most sportsmen but – and this is where poker and sport unfortunately diverge - rarely does this come at the expense of disrespecting opponents.

This was a lesson that Kevin MacPhee could well have done with learning before October and here’s to hoping that many more in the poker community learn from his mistake.

You say what?

If you missed the Twitter storm that followed MacPhee’s eighth place exit (€63,694) from EPT San Remo the first question should be, ‘How did you not hear about it?’ MacPhee had entered the final table as the short stack and had looked increasingly frustrated by his lack of cards and spots in which to make moves. Down to the felt, the EPT Berlin winner jammed 56o from the small blind into Barny Boatman who looked him up and down before calling off a third of his stack with Q7s. MacPhee failed to catch and left the final table visibly upset to miss the chance to become the first double EPT winner which would have won him a boatload of money at the very venue which the object of his affection Liv Boeree had won hers. Unfortunately, rather than purging in private, MacPhee made a bad gut reaction tweet:

‘I fold 30 hands straight down to 530k then shove 9 bbs in the sb and calls off with Q7s?!? Is this guy fucking retarded?’

To say that this went down badly would be an understatement and MacPhee’s Twitter thread was rocked by abuse in defence of Boatman, a much loved member of the Hendon Mob who was en route to making a career record tournament score. Forums erupted, EPT Live commentator James Hartigan unwittingly broke the news to Boeree leaving the sponsored pro to spin multiple plates while MacPhee dug himself a larger hole with further ill-judged tweets. Golden boy MacPhee, still devastated to be out, was quickly tarnishing himself.


What are the real issues?

The merits of the call can – and have – been discussed with many saying it was a standard call, others saying they prefer a pass (Boatman discusses his thoughts here: What wasn’t open for debate was the lack of respect shown for a fellow professional in such an open forum. Unfortunately for MacPhee, who likely would have been unaware of this, is that the situation was sorely exacerbated by the use of the word ‘retarded’. It may be part of everyday vernacular in the United States but it really isn’t in Britain, where it’s still regarded as a grossly offensive term and has only snuck in through a backdoor marked poker. Try saying it in the UK in a non-poker environment and you’re likely to get looked at in a similar way to those staring at the Croydon tram woman.

A little respect

While MacPhee may understandably not appreciate having this dragged back into the spotlight a month later – and after he apologised to Boatman who likely understood MacPhee’s so-close-yet-so-far frustrations far better than even the American himself - the overreaching situation does bear looking at.

Everyone buys into a tournament for the same amount (satellites and staking aside) and - perhaps unless they’re behaving like a classless ass themselves - deserves as much respect as anyone else. Singling out players for contempt because you think that your talents dwarf their own is both unnecessarily arrogant and quite simply stupid (not that I’m saying this was the case between MacPhee and Boatman but as an overriding trend). Why would you want to do anything to stop players that you feel are largely adding dead money to the pot from playing further events? Surely any professional poker player wants to play a field packed with as many players less skilled than themselves as possible. Young intelligent players fresh from the trolling practices of the online world haven’t seem to have grasped this. It’s one of the many on-going paradoxes within the poker world.

Cool heads

From what I’ve seen on tour and what’s been relayed anecdotally MacPhee really does seem to be one of the good guys, which in hindsight was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the incident. Everyone deserves to be allowed to make a mistake or two - at and away from the poker table – and as long as they learn from them all can be forgiven.

Here’s hoping MacPhee has so that something good can come from the incident as we look to push forward the good sporting practices of the game: that winners claim their spoils with humility and the losers take their beats with as good grace as they can muster.

If you’re to follow MacPhee’s story on Twitter, which seems appropriate to do so, then it appears he’s back on track. One of MacPhee’s most recent re-tweets reads: ‘I am continually amazed by how much more you learn from your mistakes than you do from your successes.’ -

Wise words from Mr Caby and ones that you and I can take to heart just as much as MacPhee. And while we’re at it can we stop using the word ‘retarded’?

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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20th of December 2011

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