Op-Ed: Here's Why Victoria Coren Mitchell Should Be Applauded
These days, we don't really expect people to do the right thing. Especially not those in the media, and especially not those in the media with money.
But let me take you back.
Five years ago, a boy had just left university. Stuck in a dire, recession-ravaged job market, he began freelancing as a poker writer and part-time online player. In order to gain more backstory on the game, he began devouring poker books. One of these books was penned by a woman whose name registered, vaguely, as a darling of the British media. Through the pages of her expertly-written autobiography, he gained an insight into the mind, not only of a talented poker player, but of a brilliantly witty woman. The lingering impression was that, behind the vivacity and poker face, lay a very human spirit.
He began to read her columns, along with those of her late father. Studying their work opened new creative avenues for his own writing.
That boy was me. The woman, of course, was Victoria Coren Mitchell.
Her skills as a poker player, journalist, and panel-show comedienne are undisputed, but it is for her recent decision to leave Team PokerStars Pro for which, I believe, she has earned even greater respect.
In an age of Kardashian selfies, shallow celebrity and stunted ethics, Coren Mitchell's choice to listen to her own inner morality deserves a standing ovation from the poker community.
While her contract with PokerStars must certainly have been lucrative ("I will miss the money," she admits), and while her own devotion to her chosen online poker room and teammates has always been plain, she has opted to leave both behind.
In her own words:
Continuing in my current role could risk helping send people to a place where they would encounter something I think is dangerous. That's not the way I want to make a living."
The honest attitude comes, I think, as a breath of fresh air. Especially in an industry that is all too often perceived to be comprised of money-hungry tycoons, with the actions of people like Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson being a case in point.
A glance through the comments elicited by this story show divided opinions on whether it was the correct course of action. Yet most commentators seem unanimously united in tipping their proverbial hats to Ms. Coren Mitchell for simply sticking to her guns and doing what she believed to be right — an all-in move, if there ever was one.
And when it comes to poker, Coren Mitchell's decision shows support simply for the game and community itself.
PokerStars will now be catering to the casino audience who, as she states, rely solely on luck. Unfavourable odds are tipped massively in the house's favor, making it far too easy to target the vulnerable online.
From my own days of working for an online casino, I know this to be factually true (they stated so in our training). Although often lumped together, those who play know perfectly well that poker is a different animal entirely.
These decisions were made, she emphasizes, with "heart" and "gut"; two things which, like "brain," are not engaged enough these days in the vapid world of the media. But in poker, as in the media, to see someone pass over the money in order to take the moral high ground is refreshing, inspiring, and to be applauded.
I had always admired Coren Mitchell for her talents, but columns and European Poker Tour wins aside, I don't think I've seen her do anything more impressive than leave, albeit sadly, her place as a Team PokerStars Pro.
This is not a dig against PokerStars, which I think are a fantastic online brand, but the simple acknowledgement of one woman's brave decision in a game and industry which is so famously emotionless.
In poker, playing from the heart is a sure fire way to a spectacular loss, but in this writer's opinion, I think our Coren Mitchell holds the winning hand here.
Please note that the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author and not of PokerNews.