Phil Galfond: consider “Ideal Poker”

This is more of a “mock”  (“mock” meaning not real, rather than meaning insult) type article, in the sense that Phil G. truly might not have said these exact quotes. Perhaps he did and it’s a perfect copy and paste, yet sometimes quotes like these are not always accurate from the person they represent. Nonetheless I am shocked by this response, and by the general response of the RIO community. Here is why:

I have a lot of thoughts on the recent Stars changes, but rather than write an essay (before having all the facts, especially), I’ll chime in with just a couple of them.
My questions for you are mostly about why you and the pros on your site have not previously been actively involved in discussing and teaching about the overall economy of the game. I understand to some degree you and other DO teach and talk about it, yet I am talking about truly teaching players that part of being a “professional” player means taking care of the overall economy of the game. I still think you and others might argue I’m being too blunt, yet we have key professional’s in the industry spreading propaganda that has ultimately lead to the destruction of the morality and integrity of the game.  One must ask where is our defense and why hasn’t this been a prominent subject in the general culture of the poker “pro”.

It’s important to understand that PokerStars is a business, and that they can charge whatever they please for their service. I don’t like the changes thus far and more than that, I fear for what’s yet to come if this is an indication of Amaya’s business strategy. They have a monopoly and if they want to press it, they don’t have any obvious incentive not to at the moment. The lack of a legitimate competitor is the major issue here.
This is the stance that I can’t understand. I cannot see this as any other way than “treasonous” towards the players community. It IS true, the monopoly CAN in fact charge whatever it wants. However such a statement in the conversation is not on topic and therefore it is dismissive. What you should be pointing out is that it is fully within the players, the customers, the pros, and/or the recreational players’ “rights” to collectively decide to “bargain” a more ideal win-rate. And what’s more not only do we have a right but we also collectively seem to want it. And yes I am well aware that sites do not owe the players anything, but ignoring this point (which we all should) we need to start talking about what the players do not owe to sites.

Because of this I must argue with your quotes and your point, and suggest: it is actually the logical strategic line to take!

As a business owner, I can tell you from experience that customers — and potential customers — contact you perpetually asking you to lower prices and to raise benefits (expenses) with no rhyme or reason other than ‘I want this. I demand this!’
This is the issue then isn’t it. Because it must be clear to you (as it is to me) that “game theoretically” what you “imply” here isn’t exactly true or accurate. What would be a more truthful foundation for any strategic argument would be to look at a certain “ideal“: if all of the customers organized a strategically perfect boycott then the price for the product would likely immediately drop. There cannot be an argument that since it hasn’t worked in the past, or ever even been reasonably attempted, that there is grounds to suggest that it can never be so.

Now this might not be feasible, and/or there might be some counter strategy but we do not want to give the impression that the players cannot mount a collective strategy. That would be truly an asinine argument I would think (or in line with Negreanu)…

I would love for PokerStars to charge 90-percent less rake, but demanding that serves no purpose. We need to make sure we make waves only when necessary, and with a well-thought-out effort. It’s important that we aren’t a thousand individual complaints every time a change is made (we complained often before any of this even happened). They raised prices — they already knew we wouldn’t like it. We have nowhere else to go play, so we can’t cry wolf and claim that we’re going to.
What does crying wolf mean to you? Is this the story of pretending we are being harmed but it turns out we are fooling ourselves, and then finally one day it happens and no one listens? This is not the story here, so perhaps you mean a different story altogether like Little RRH, which truly fits because we are in fact already inside the wolfs belly and the hunters we wish to save us are arguing for the wolfs’ right to eat! The economy of the game has been “slowly” and yet  somehow “immediately” drained and regulated to death. We referring to an era 10 years ago as “the golden age”, yet we still have not experienced the explosion of a global player field (where ALL other countries have free access to internet as well). The game is CONTROLLED, it is regulated and raked to death.  There is a collective player pool that knows and has been taught no other environment. The image is toast in many countries, and Amaya just blocked a bunch of “terrorist” labeled type countries in order to get into the US. Phil forgive me, these are the most ignorant statements coming from someone who is supposedly intelligent and wise. CARE.

If you want change, you need to put together a strong organized argument as to why some of these changes could hurt both us and them. I haven’t run any numbers, but the main argument that comes to mind is: If it gets to the point that a gifted college kid depositing $100 has no chance to grind cash all the way up to $50/$100, we all have a problem. If the dream of becoming a high-stakes poker pro dies, business will eventually follow.
Yes and it has certainly come to that point, if we are willing to put all excuses aside. YEARS ago many US players had to move out of the country in order to attain that. This is because they are not free enough in their own country to take part in the game. Are we paying attention to this? Do we feel this is acceptable? Is this poker? Seemingly we have been slowly watching over time jackpot type poker become acceptable and legal while free running low/no raked poker has become highly regulated and sometimes completely illegal, and often simultaneously publicly “defamed”.

We need to form a good relationship with the new owners and try to explore changes that will be mutually beneficial — rewarding game-starters, for example — going in with an understanding that we aren’t entitled to anything and the humility that comes along with that.
You need to pay attention and keep yourself up to date on the changing economics of this game as well as encourage your other RIO pros to do the same. If your pros cannot claim that they help others learn and understand the economy of the game as part of the MAIN focus of their teaching materials, then it can be said that your RIO memberships are rip offs. How can it be that a “good” strategy is to watch the game slip from thriving to non-profitable? How can you be helping players by teaching them to play poker in  such a broken environment (and to accept it as the norm)?

Most importantly, I know if I had a company with a viable piece of poker software, I’d be celebrating right now… that, and working my ass off to become a competitor. Hopefully someone out there will finally get their act together in case this is just the first of many changes. The biggest reason I think this could be a misstep is that Pokerstars has cracked open a door for other sites that had previously been dead bolted.”
There are many viable companies that are begging for support from the players community, there are even multiple applications in development and soon to be complete that will give the community the voting power in order to enact the PROPER economic decisions that need to be made for the game. But as a community we will remain oblivious to these things until a few PROMINENT pros start reading the material on the subject of the decentralization of poker (and perhaps get the conversion unlocked!). We have the technology, we know the paths/direction.

The light-switch has been designed, built, and wired in quite some time ago, it simply needs to be flicked on.

Let us end with a quote from conclusion of “Ideal Poker”:

Political Evolution

There perhaps will always be “rake”, like also “death and taxes”. But it is sometimes remarkable how poker strategies can evolve. And in relation to that I think that it is possible that “PSFTCIAFBIDOJ ” are like a political faction that will become less influential as a result of poker revolution. The “PSFTCIAFBIDOJ” view of things did not come into existence until after the time when what we can call “Black Friday” had become established in the US. And by this label we wish to differentiate between any theoretical or ideal concept of justice and the actual form of governing regime structure that came to exercise state power on the poker community. (All over the world varieties of sites make claims to have systems very properly or even ideally devoted to the interests of the professional or recreational players of those sites and always an externally located critic can argue that the site is actually a sort of despotism.)

PSFTCIAFBIDOJ implicitly always have the argument that some good managers can do things of beneficial value, operating with the skins, and that it is not needed or appropriate for the players or the “customers” of the chips supplied by the site to actually understand, while the managers are managing, what exactly they are doing and how it will affect the “ROI” circumstances of these players.

I see this as analogous to how the PSFTCIAFBIDOJ were claiming to provide something much better than Ponzi schemes that they could not deny existed in all other sites. But in the end the “dictatorship of the proletariat” seemed to become rather exposed as simply the dictatorship of the regime. So there may be an analogy to this as regards those called “PSFTCIAFBIDOJ” in that while they have claimed to be operating for high and noble objectives of general poker welfare what is clearly true is that they have made it easier for their sites to “print money”.

So I see the entire privately raked community as in a weak sense comparable to the “PSFTCIAFBIDOJ ” because of the support of both parties for a certain “lack of transparency” relating to the functions of poker sites as seen by the players. And for both of them it can be said that they tend to think in terms of sites operating in a benevolent fashion that is, however, beyond the comprehension of the player of the raked sites. And this parallel makes it seem not implausible that a process of poker revolution might lead to the expectation on the part of players in the “great game types” that they should be better situated to be able to understand whatever will be the rake policies which, indeed, are typically of great importance to players who may have alternative options for where to place their “deposits”.


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