Rich Muny has been appointed vice president of player relations for the Poker Players Alliance in a move that indicates the advocacy group is looking to make a stronger effort to communicate with its player members, some of whom have questioned the PPA's allegiance and effectiveness in the aftermath of Black Friday.
Muny, known on poker message boards such as TwoPlusTwo.com and PocketFives.com by the handle "TheEngineer," has long communicated with forum posters as a PPA representative. Muny has been on the PPA board of directors since 2007, but all the work he's done previously has been as an unpaid volunteer. The newly created position will allow him to dedicate himself full time to improving the PPA's alliance with its members.
"I think it's absolutely necessary to have a community that is united," Muny said. "We know we can't get every single poker player on board. The NRA hasn't gotten every single gun owner on board with their mission either. It's important to have support of the large majority, and I think it's absolutely possible. I think a lot of it is discussing where we are, and I do that every day. I'm proactive in sending out emails and videos, actively speaking to individual members through Skype mail and Skype conference calls."
Muny will be available to meet face-to-face with poker players Friday through Sunday at the PPA booth at the World Series of Poker. The booth is located at the Rio and open from noon until 5 p.m. local time.
"We want to keep the player right at the forefront of PPA decisions and relay our decisions and the reasons for them back to the players so that everyone feels they are well represented," Muny said. "I will be taking player concerns to the PPA in a senior role."
One of the most difficult tasks Muny faces is to temper expectations and build trust that the PPA is making a difference, even though the concrete results might not be there and the industry is worse off than it has ever been. The PPA began in 2006 fighting an uphill battle to respond to an Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that had been nearly 10 years in the making.
"A lot of people think this is a lot easier than it is," Muny said. "We've always been underdogs, so the true measure of success has been are we getting legislation introduced in Congress, are we getting letters to congressmen and are we changing people's minds on Capitol Hill? I think the answer is yes to all of those questions. I think an important outreach function is to communicate what we're fighting, how we're fighting and why we're fighting."
Muny, who used to work as a mechanical engineer designing jet engines for General Electric in Cincinnati, began playing online poker early in 2005. He signed up for the TwoPlusTwo message boards in April 2005, becoming active in the political discussion during the UIGEA's final push late in 2006. When John Pappas took over as executive director of the PPA in 2007, he saw the positive results Muny was getting in organizing the online community and invited him to join the PPA efforts.
Although the PPA's main offices are based in Washington, D.C., Muny will remain in his home state of Kentucky and make frequent trips to D.C.
"The strength of the PPA greatly depends on the voice of its membership and Rich has proven to be an outstanding representative of poker players, not only in his home state of Kentucky, but from across the country," Pappas said. "As an avid poker player himself, Rich is truly ingrained in the issues and understands the frustration players feel around the current legislative challenges to online poker in the U.S. I can't imagine anyone more suited to directly communicate with our membership."
Muny knows how to communicate with the typical online poker players because he is one. He's not a political lobbyist or a big-name, famous pro. He's a regular Joe, small-stakes grinder who, as an engineer, understood the mathematics of poker, appreciated the skill aspect of playing and found that he could have fun and make money playing a thought-provoking game.
At the beginning of 2010, he quit his job as an engineer to focus on playing online poker full time. Black Friday drastically changed those plans. He personally has money locked up on Full Tilt Poker. He understands and shares the frustrations of online poker players.
"I didn't come from the PPA to ask players to support the PPA," Muny said. "I came from the player base to ask players to oppose those who stop us from playing. I came from the player community, joined the PPA in that role and continued to move up. It's an honor now to be in a senior role in this organization and to relay the player concerns that are always at the forefront of our mission."
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