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Poker Blog established in 2003 as the first stop for poker news, poker stories, and bad poker advice.

December 1, 2008

60 Minutes does its job, not ours

by Otis

Only a few people asked my opinion of the 60 Minutes poker cheating piece. None of them really cared what I thought. Here it is anyway.

The Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker poker cheating scandals and the hard work of the people who revealed them are great stories. That's what 60 Minutes does. They uncover the interesting stories and tell them. They can't be faulted for focusing on the scandal. That it was old news to the poker community means nothing. The rest of America didn't know about it and I bet they found it interesting. I certainly would have if I didn't already know it from top to bottom.

There was nothing patently unfair about the telling of the story. Would poker insiders have preferred if were told in a different way? Absolutely. Though 60 Minutes never implicated the legit sites with any wrongdoing, it never made an effort to clear them either. Was that irresponsible? Maybe, maybe not. Look at it this way. When the Wal-Mart employee got trampled by a sick stampede of sale-blind consumers, we didn't require every news station to say, "Target is still a good store, so go shop there."

If I had my way, I would've edited the story to better clarify the legal debate about online poker. The gaping hole in the 60 Minutes piece was a discussion of the UIGEA and its implications on poker. Simply declaring online poker illegal because the Department of Justice says its illegal is a little lazy. I would guess the producers made the decision to avoid the discussion in an effort to not further cloud the already confusing story. That said, a couple of minutes on the legal landscape could've been warranted--maybe those two minutes we had to watch Anderson Cooper with his shirt off and pretending he was on Pros vs. Joes. (Note: I actually like Cooper and admire his reporting ability--he just blew it on that story).

I have no idea whether anyone from Full Tilt or PokerStars offered themselves up as experts for the story. If they didn't, they missed a very good opportunity. The little I do know about online poker security makes me think the 60 Minutes piece could've benefited from an online poker security expert to say how things should be done and how Absolute and UB failed. Whether 60 Minutes wanted such an interview is unknown, but it would've fit perfectly into the story and the legit sites could've used a voice. I know Greg Raymer was interviewed for the piece. What he had to say ended up as silly internet extras, despite him being a very good voice and advocate for online poker and need for regulation.

I cringed when I heard DanDruff's closing SOTs. Tough indictment of an entire industry there, Todd. I've read that he has apologized. Fair enough. It was a good closing SOT for the piece, despite hurting in the hurtful spots.

The long and the short of it is this: 60 Minutes' job is to find interesting stories and inform the public at large about them in a fair way. CBS, the Washington Post, and 60 Minutes did that. Whose job is it to make sure the public understands the cloudy legal landscape, the benefit the industry could have to the tax base, and the skill-based nature of poker?

Well, folks, that is our job. It's our job to beat down the doors in Washington. It's our job to convince newspapers, magazines, and television programs to air stories about it. Poker is full of very smart people. The people who have built successful and legitimate online poker companies are brilliant beyond our ability to understand. What they are not, however, is in any way adept at public relations. Their sense for marketing is fantastic, but their sense for marketing to people who matter is lacking in a fairly fantastic way. It's one thing to build a customer base, but it will be all for nothing if you don't have the ear of the people who make the rules.

That's all I'm going to say for now, because if I start babbling more, I'm going to get myself in trouble. Some day (and maybe sooner than I'd imagine) I'm going to write up a lot of what I know. Almost did it just now, and decided against it.

Because I'm sometimes smart.

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