Way To Screw It Up Guys

Poker Economy, Psychology, Strategy

July 28, 2007

So, Wil Wheaton’s hanging up his poker spurs. Not just getting canned from pokerstars (which was inevitable), but giving up poker. And he explains pretty clearly why:

In some ways, though, I’m relieved. Though I love playing poker, and I really like the people I’ve played with every week, for the last few months I have not been able to sit into any games online without a bunch of anonymous, unaccountable railbirds harassing, insulting, and berating me because . . . well, because they can.

First, let’s be clear on what a guy like this is worth to the poker economy. I’m not talking about the relatively trivial amount of money sharkscope says he personally lost while playing on stars. I’m talking about the amount of money that having celebs play overall brings into the poker economy. That’s right, celebrities, those people who:

  1. have huge amounts of disposable income
  2. generally are not particularly competent players.

As a serious player, these guys are the best possible customers. It’s in everyone best interest to make the game pleasant for them, and encourage them to play big and bring friends. Unfortunately, a few jackasses decided to ruin it for everyone. Now, I’ll be the first one to say that Wil was annoying as hell on ST:TNG, but mistreating him is not in anyone’s best interests. Not only is it rude, it’s costly.

Furthermore, I suspect that this stems from an underlying psychological failing that’s worth talking about. I don’t think Wil was abused just because he was annoying as Wesley. I think he was abused because people couldn’t stand to see someone with less skill than they had (or thought they had) being more “successful” than they were in poker as a member of team pokerstars. In other words, it was jealousy. It’s the same phenomena that causes players to abuse fish who win big on bad play. And it’s counterproductive, because the “success” of bad players inevitably helps the game. Wil dropped money in the stars tournaments, and that fish with four racks in front of him is likely to lose all of it back fairly quickly if given the opportunity. If you drive these people off, you cost yourself and every other serious player money.

So don’t do it.

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