Table Talk: Rules According to Twitter

talk bubble with hashtag

Last week’s column got quite a few comments on Twitter and Facebook. Reading through them was a lovely way to spend a week with the flu, but seeing as I’m mostly back to health, I’m ready to address this again. Someone, please fetch a glass of cognac for me, stat!

My previous column was not as much about Rule 29 of the Tournament Directors Association as it was about the TDA itself and the involvement (or lack thereof) of poker players in it. That point seemed to get lost in the drama that played out on Twitter since Daniel Negreanu’s incident at EPT Barcelona, though, as major poker players all seem to have opinions about the “first card off the deck” rule. It even has its own hashtag now: #FCOTD.

Personally, I’m not much of a poker player and have no opinion one way or the other about Rule 29. This is the main reason that I don’t attend the TDA meetings.

Most recreational poker players care little about the rule. There would be little purpose in attending the TDA meeting, either.

Professional poker players, however, should attend the meeting. For months before this summer’s meeting, Matt Savage, Linda Johnson and others tweeted and emailed regarding the meeting dates and extended a welcome to all interested parties to join. Those invitations were ignored by the vast majority of the professional poker players who could be affected by any potential rule changes.

The new rules were then posted by the volunteers who run the TDA. Most professional poker players neglected to read them or assess their potential impact.

It was when poker players sat at the table – or got up from the table – and missed a hand or found themselves on the receiving end of a warning that they became aware. And then many of them got angry. On Twitter.

This week, a few of them wrote blog posts. Matthew Waxman wrote that the change was made “without sufficiently consulting any of the people” that the TDA is trying to help. He then contends that the customers – the players – are always right.

Dan O’Brien wrote that “no player, professional or amateur, should be forced to attend a meeting in Las Vegas to make a case for or against a rule.” His argument is that he was busy earning a living while the meeting was taking place, and he should still be able to comment on the rules without having to attend the meeting.

These points are not without merit. The meeting time/place may not have been convenient for everyone. However, there were many players who could have taken the day off to attend the meeting and scheduled their tournaments or cash games around it. The point was that no one thought it important enough at the time. In retrospect, they look at their schedules and see how busy they were. But the rules of the game are part of their career, and if the rules are so important, there should be time set aside to attend the meeting. Or send a proxy or representative. Or send a petition or statement. Or at least ask, prior to the meeting that was announced months in advance, what the agenda will be for the meeting.

Again, this is all in retrospect. It is unlikely that players will ignore the next TDA meeting. It is not scheduled until 2015, though. This is a problem in light of the recent uproar.

Granted, the TDA is a volunteer-based and volunteer-run organization. In this instance, however, it might be a good idea to schedule a 2014 meeting. Hopefully, the TDA will see the need for it and the now-apparent desire for poker players to be involved.

The summer in Las Vegas is the most likely way to get the most poker players in one city at one time for attendance purposes. There is no other event that draws this number of players and industry representatives like the WSOP. With the exception of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas in January, which is a tad expensive for most people to attend, the WSOP is the largest poker tournament in the world.

The fact is that the rule might be intact and in practice until next summer. Reversing a rule or making any major change that affects an entire industry takes time. Politics is a similar beast. It may not take long to pass a law, but it can be a lengthy process to repeal it or overturn it in court. Those who feel the law or rule is unjust must take the appropriate steps to change it.

Let’s remember all of the good that the TDA has done and continues to do to organize an industry that spans the world. The TDA has brought a part of this industry together for clarity and consistency, and with a set of rules that tend to work very well in the vast majority of cases. This one incident shouldn’t cloud the overall picture but simply create an opportunity for greater involvement and more voices in the choir.