Saturday, August 23, 2014

“Politics” in the “Sport” of Poker - Two Debates, One Solution?

“If poker is a sport, where are the uniforms?”

Candy Mint or Breath Mint?
That retort came at me during a recent discussion on whether poker is a “sport” (worthy of ESPN coverage, sponsorships, etc.) versus a “game.”  It was made in (partial) jest, but like the Certs debate of years ago, the sport vs. game debate is doomed to go on indefinitely.

A more recent and important debate has surfaced regarding politics in poker.  It began when the two finalists at the European Poker Tour Barcelona Super High Roller event, Olivier Busquet and Daniel Colman, wore pro-Palestinian t-shirts.  CardPlayerLifestyle’s Robbie Strazynski penned a thoughtful column as to why he felt there was no room in poker for politics.  PokerStars, the co-sponsor of the event, eventually made an after-the-fact ruling and declared that allowing the two to wear the shirts was “a mistake,” citing that it would not be allowed in the future.  A few hours later Nolan Dalla penned an equally thoughtful response, castigate PokerStars actions, saying that there was no room for political censorship in poker.  And of course, the debate rages on in forums across the Internet.

Having agreed with both Nolan and Robbie about specific points in the debate, I felt conflicted.  I thought Robbie’s call for a dress code was a good idea, and I noted Nolan’s concerns, even though as a business owner I recognize the need to “have rules.”  So how do I really feel about all this?  I wasn’t sure, and then I went to work.

While at work (ice cream parlor in a tourist town) watching customers, it struck me that LOTS of the people I saw had some sort of “statement” in their clothing.  Sport logos, commercial logos, pithy sayings, funny sayings…hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts…damn near everyone had something that wasn’t BLANK, but said “something.”  Political messages?  Very few.  Messages that some folks might find “objectionable?”

Different answer there - some folks may be a bit cheesed.

A vegetarian might be upset to see a guy wearing a Cabela’s hat.  A liberal might shun a passerby wearing an anti-Obama t-shirt.  Someone wearing a Nike sweatshirt gear could offend someone who knows of their sweatshop past.  A “Go Ducks” shirt will certainly piss off a Beaver fan (substitute USC/UCLA, Michigan/Ohio State, Auburn/Alabama for your area). 

You get my point.  ANY message could conceivably be seen by SOMEONE as offensive, or objectionable, or insulting/hateful/pick your euphemism.  So what’s the answer?  Ban them all?  Give everyone tolerance training?  Set up a committee to determine which messages are offensive and which ones aren’t (good luck with that)?

Then I remembered the quote that started this post, and Robbie’s call for a dress code.

The first time I belonged to something called PPA was back in the seventies, and it was the Professional Putters Association (yes, it exists, and yes, I was pretty good - see #53).  For tournament play, we professionals were expected to wear our Putt-Putt polo shirts, with our name, the Putt-Putt logo, and our home course (in my case, beautiful Ypsilanti, Michigan).  I thought I played better in my Putt-Putt shirt, and had a closet full of them.  Actually wore them to non-Putt-Putt events, too, because they were such high quality (much to chagrin of my fiancée now wife).
Not this

Like this
So why not official shirts - UNIFORMS - for poker players?

The tour could give out logo’d shirts to the final table, or to those who will be on TV.  Heck, give one to everyone and make it part of the buy-in (we had to buy our own shirts for Putt-Putt).  Running events make an official t-shirt part of the package deal, so why not a similar structure for poker tournaments?  Of course, you only get one shirt, despite the number of add-ons or re-buys (or you could make that an offer, too, so some pros could build up their wardrobes a bit).


Uniforms for poker players.  Dealing with both the “sport vs. game” and “politics in poker” debates at once.  It’s two…two…two solutions in one!

3 comments:

  1. Well said, Mike. Thanks for contributing to the debate.

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  2. Ditto to what Nolan said. I've shared this. Thank you Mike.

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  3. I knew I forgot someone in my political post, oops!
    AS for the tour shorts, I'll be one of the last holdouts until I HAVE to wear it :)

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