Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blab and spam

Anyone who reads this blog will know I've been a little disillusioned lately with live poker. It's always been my view that if I'm not enjoying something any more I should stop doing it. Faced with these two options I would prefer to start enjoying it again rather than stop playing. With this in mind I decided to enter the IPO for the first time in 3 years as it has a reputation for being a fun tournament. Although I bricked across the board on the poker front, it's the most I've enjoyed a weekend of poker in a long time. I'd almost forgotten how much fun and how friendly most Irish recreational players are. I guess a combination of playing more abroad and the recession at home meaning players here playing less, but it was great to see so many old faces and new friendly ones. Professional poker is a pretty self absorbed pursuit at the best of times so it's always appreciated when people take the time to tell me they enjoy following my progress or reading the blog as so many did this weekend. Hats off to Stephen McLean and the rest of the crew involved.

On Sunday night, I attended the Irish Poker awards. I'd been nominated in 4 categories and took home two awards for Best Blog and Best (use of) Social Media. It's always nice to win something and since the awards were voted for by the public, I'd like to thank everyone who voted for me. A big well done to the winners in all the other categories, including my friends Jason Tompkins (Best Tourney player), Niall Smyth (Breakout Year), Phil Baker (Personality), JP McCann (TD) and Padraig Parkinson (Hall of Fame). Padraig's emotional acceptance speech was the highlight of the night, and in a world as self absorbed as poker where it's supposedly cool to pretend not to care what other people think about you, Padraig is an inspiration in his emotional honesty.

My wife came to collect me afterwards and as I got into the car she asked me what I'd won. When I told her "Best Blogger and Best Social Media User" she joked "So....blab and spam". While I know many would feel that an award for actually playing poker rather than writing or tweeting about it has more merit or is at least marginally less silly, I'm not one of them. I'd argue that an award proclaiming someone as "Best player" in a particular category is sillier if anything, since the real scoreboard in poker is money, and ergo whoever made the most money is the best. Or as I jokingly put it, the only awards that matter in poker are the Benjamins. However, awards for blog or personality or whatever clearly are not related to monetary success, and as such democracy is a much better way to hand out these accolades.

I started this blog five years ago purely as a sort of Dear Diary aimed at nobody other than myself. My idea was to have something to look back on after I was finished with poker. I didn't publicise the blog or even tell anyone I had one (how times have changed) but after a while I started to realise that other people were reading it. Mainly because people were coming up to me at tournaments and saying they enjoyed the blog. Knowing others read it changed the focus slightly, and for the most part I've tried to cut down on the whinges about bad beats and variance, and talk about stuff that at least has some chance of being interesting to other people. It's not easy to keep thinking of new stuff to say or at least new ways to say it over 300 blog entries and 5 years on, but as long as people keep reading it and pretending they enjoy it, I'll keep trying.

As I said in my brief acceptance speech, I think this award category was a strong one, as the other nominees are all top notch bloggers and collectively cover the spectrum of what a poker blog can be, from Padraig Parkinson's hilarious anecdotes and slices of life (Padraig told me he voted for my blog which is nice as I voted for his) through John O'Shea's candid rollercoaster account of the life of a professional degen to Nicky Power's local colour. When you add in David Lappin's excellent analytical blog which wasn't even nominated but many would argue deserves the award more than mine (David himself certainly does and has on many occasions to me), then I think we punch above our weight here. I know for a fact than even more people outside Ireland read this blog than people in Ireland and I suspect the same is true of the other blogs I mentioned.

The other award (Social Media) is something of an oddity and in many people's view is basically a reward for spamming :) I've attracted a lot of criticism down the years since I became the first Irish poker player to start tweeting extensively about poker and my use of Facebook solely for poker. At this stage I think everyone should have worked out my position on this and if they think it's over the top or overly one dimensional, there is the option to unfollow or unfriend me with no hard feelings. My primary use for the social media is to keep people who want to know informed of how things are going for me on the poker front, so if you don't want to hear about every 5k gtd final table I make online, then please do unfollow me as I'm not going to stop tweeting them to alert the handful of people who are interested and want to rail me.

In Vegas last year, I sat at a table where a bunch of online ballers were discussing appropriate use of Twitter and Facebook. The consensus among them was that Twitter was for chip counts and other minutia  and Facebook was for socialising with friends. I let the conversation play out before I chimed in with my 2 cents. I pointed out that my non-poker friends, most of whom were my age or older, did not spend hours every day online on Facebook, and regarded people who did and who regarded it as socialising as sad specimens. When they want to talk to me, they pick up a phone, or they call round my house, or arrange to meet me for dinner. They do not wish to be informed every time I place a sports bet or go to the gym, the cinema or the bathroom. As such, there is little real point in me using the social media other than the way I do (to talk poker). This is one of those situations where you have two different groups of people with diametrically opposed views, neither of which are universally right or wrong. It's up to everyone to decide if and how they want to use Twitter and/or Facebook. 95% of the people I know on Facebook are poker players so I feel it appropriate to mainly restrict my tweets and statuses to poker rather than a platform for my views on politics, religion or anything else.

So, now that you've rewarded me for blabbing and spamming, it shall continue. My next blog which I hope to post later this week will be a little unusual in that it won't be written by me but was written by one of my readers from the viewpoint of a recreational player. Over the course of this blog, I've moved from being a recreational player to a pro. As my view of poker has become a bit more calculating and perhaps cynical, it's harder for me to remember what it was like when I played the game purely for love of the game, so I'm very grateful to Barry Foley for going to the trouble of writing down his thoughts. It's his counterpoint response to this blog where I tried to explain the viewpoint of the professional player in terms recreational players might understand, and gave my observations on our perspective on recreational players. This was one of the most hotly discussed topics this weekend: it's clear that there is a growing cultural divide between a lot of recreational players and the self proclaimed "elite" players. My next blog (after the one written by Barry) will give my views on this culture clash and how I feel so called "elite" players should behave in relation to recreational or "fun" players.



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