Today's poker world seems to have some players that have little respect for the game that has made them wealthy. Outside of their individual achievements, they could care less about how their actions impact the game and if there wasn't a paycheck at the end of the road, they wouldn't have anything to do with helping the game gain legitimacy.
Some may say this is a poker player's right, but I disagree. If you step into the spotlight and you have a chance to help the game, you need to do everything in your power to make sure your voice is heard. It does the game no good if you act like a jerk or don't even attempt to engage the fans and media, because it only adds fodder for the zealots who already hate on the game that we all know and love. In a day and age where poker is under constant attack from our government, there has never been more of a need for players to step up and become positive representatives for the game.
If a player acts in a way the makes the game look bad (Scotty Ngyuen's and Layne Flack's drunken antics during the 2008 WSOP H.O.R.S.E. tournament) that's bad enough, but if a player wins an event like the WSOP Main Event and then disappears (Jerry Yang) it may actually cause the game more harm, as casual and serious fans alike want to hear what these players have to say, and they are being given the world as their stage. By saying nothing, and staying out of the limelight, it gives off a negative connotation. Whether a player likes it or not, when you win that Main Event bracelet there are a set of responsibilities that go with it.
Despite having a chance to present poker in a positive light, 2009 November Nine member and Cardplayer Magazine publisher Jeff Shulman has already indicated he has no intention of promoting the event or the industry given some of his recent comments regarding the WSOP. Having worked for Jeff several years ago, I know he is a smart, intelligent guy that has the capability of being a great ambassador for the game. Unfortunately it doesn't look like that is going to happen, much to the dismay of those that hoped he would become a positive voice, pushing for the game to be recognized by the mainstream.
The lack of personal responsibility shown by these players once again adds to the negative stereotypes that surround the game and demonstrates missed opportunities for diplomacy with the audiences watching at home. Regardless of what these player's opinions are on the game, the members of the November Nine are going to be millionaires because of it, so they should at least do the game the homage of giving respect where it is due. The game is making them wealthier than the majority of most people on this planet, so they should at least give a little something back. In other words, if the universe gives you a gift; the chance to help others while helping yourself, it's best not to waste it. If you do, you become a leech feeding off of your host until they die, and the only one seeing a benefit there is the leech.
Fortunately, there are a number of players who have done the opposite by using their television face time to help promote charitable endeavors and the game itself including Annie Duke with her Ante Up for Africa and Celebrity Apprentice efforts and Jamie Gold, who recently started a foundation to help a number of the worthy charities he has worked with since winning the WSOP Main Event. There are also a number of players that have stepped up to the plate to help poker find a foothold in today's legal landscape including Greg Raymer, Howard Lederer, and Andy Bloch among others. These players have given selflessly of themselves for the betterment of the game and we need as many of them as possible if we want the game to continue to grow and evolve.
In the end, we can only hope that whoever wins this year's Main Event will become an ambassador for the game as the rest of the poker world looks to find the freedom to play poker wherever and whenever they want. We have enough leeches in the game, what we need are more leaders.
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