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

April 22, 2006

Aaron Brown Responds

by Luckbox

A few days ago, I asked, "Who the f#$% is Aaron Brown?" Well, Mr. Brown has responded. As i expected, his quote may have been taken somewhat out of context. Or, more to the point, it's impossible for him to explain what he means in just the sentence the writer of the article allowed.

So, since I bet more people will read me than that New York Times rag, I'm going to reprint Mr. Brown's comment from my previous post below. I still don't entirely agree with the premise (and I may respond at some point), but at least it's explained more fully. Enjoy!

Sorry, I've been out of the country with limited Internet access or I would have replied before this.

The quote is not from my book, I spoke with the author, Tim O'Brien, for about an hour. Newspaper quotes are virtually always out of context, after all the article was about poker, not about me. That doesn't mean it's misleading, one of the skills of a good journalist is to take things out of context without being misleading. By the way, Tim O'Brien wrote a great book, Bad Bet, a few years ago.

I am not anti-tournament poker, nor do I think tournament winners are bad players. I do think that an essential part of poker is the goal of making money. Played without meaningful stakes, poker isn't poker. I think most people will stay with me that far.

A tournament is an in-between case. The stakes can be meaningful, but the goal is to be the last survivor, that is to bankrupt everyone else; rather than to make money hand-by-hand. True, you get paid to bankrupt everyone else, so you could say it's about the money, but in my opinion it's a fundamental change to the game to get paid for other people going broke as opposed to earning your money pot by pot. This is not a minor thing, I consider bet accounting to be a defining part of poker (and historically it's one of the key innovations that distinguishes poker).

Anything can be forced into a competitive sport. I used the singing/American Idol example with Tim, but you could substitute hunting versus target shooting or writing novels versus spelling bees or lots of other things. It takes similar skills to do the real activity and to win the simulated competition, but one is real and one is organized for entertainment of spectators. Some people are good at both, some at one, some at neither.

I don't disguise the fact that I think the real activity, at least with poker and music and other things I love, is better than the simulated one; but I don't argue the point. If you like tournaments better, enjoy them. Tournaments give a clear winner, we can know who is the best tournament poker player (at least for one game and limit structure on one day). I like that transparency, anyone can claim to be a great cash game player, tournament players have to prove it. But what I consider to be real poker requires additional skills: finding good games, collecting winnings, managing your play and your life.

A tournament winner can sneer that a successful cash game player is just good at finding rich bad players and keeping them happy, a successful cash game player can sneer at tournaments. I don't support either one. Both activities take similar skills, with some differences. There are enough people who do both well to make it clear that there's more overlap than divergence. Anyone who claims to be a good poker player should demonstrate that talent with top cash game players and with top tournament pros. Doing only one and sneering at the other is not attractive.

There's a separate question about whether tournaments reward good poker. At high enough blinds and antes in the late stages, it's more about the luck of the cards than poker ability. In the early going, it's more about maximizing winnings with weak other players than holding your own with good players, personally I think winners should be chosen by testing them against other good players. In between, it's about careful attention to tournament considerations, stack sizes and remaining players, as much as poker. I think it's possible to design a good poker tournament, but most tournaments are not well-designed in the sense of having a good chance of ranking the players according to poker ability.

Therefore I would not have chosen to be quoted exactly the way I was, it makes me seem anti-tournament. Also, the juxtoposition of the Steve Lipscomb quote makes it seems as if I am mad about my low World Poker Tour ranking. For the record, I have no beef with the World Poker Tour.

--Aaron Brown

[Afterhought: I appreciate the fact that Aaron's response wasn't something like, "Well, I'm the guy who published a book on poker. Who the f$#% is the Luckbox!?!?"]

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