A very wise person gave me some good advice last night. Some of it had to do with the debacle at the Orleans. I'm not sure he even realized he was giving me advice, because he was kind of thinking out loud and maybe pondering his own dilemma about what occurred there, wondering what course of action he was going to take in print.
He said that sometimes he doesn't speak out about some of the corruption he sees in the poker world. Not because he is afraid of exposing it, or wants to hide it, but because every time there is a scandal in poker, the legitimacy of it take great hits, yet every time there is something positive for poker, it simply takes a tiny, baby step forward.
Pondering his words, I started thinking to myself that maybe I wouldn't write such harsh things about what happened with the WPPA. Maybe I would cushion the blow a bit, not by lying or covering up the truth, but by thinking about exactly what I was going to say, and saying in a way that didn't make it sound quite like the nightmare it was.
Glenn said it wasn't right, I should just report things that happened straight up, in the "Felicia way," blunt and candid. As much as I would like to protect the integrity of poker, he said I had to do the right thing.
I tossed and turned last night, sleeping horribly, wondering what I should do. Jeez, all I talk about is the legitimacy of poker, and maybe if I expose the dark, horrible side of it, poker will just fall right back into the stink hole that it is known for.
Today I woke up tired, but with a better attitude about what had happened. I thought about the wonderful people I met during those two weeks (almost all players). I thought about the nice things they had done for me, said to me. I thought about the trip I was about to make to Foxwoods, and the many other nice people I might meet there. I was doing the smiley, happy, shining people dance, singing Kumbaya...and then I got an e-mail.
Four days after I'd been booted out of the Arena at the Orleans by the Game Show Network, Louis Asmo finally decided to write me an e-mail about it.
On the surface, the e-mail seemed positive. Digging deeper, it was very negative. To make matters even worse, he took a private e-mail and copied several people into it! Guess who one of those people was? YES, the guy who kicked me out of the Arena from GSN! My gawd, just when I thought people couldn't possibly be more hypocritical!
Suddenly Kumbaya froze in my throat and I knew what I had to do. I had to tell it all. Thus, it begins.
I met Louis this April at Binion's. He was seated at my table. If you have ever met Louis, there is no way you would forget him. Anyway, he got short stacked and defended my button raise (I had KQ or AK or something like that), with an all-in. I believe he had pocket sevens, and they held up.
I didn't speak to Louis again until the WPPA came up. It sounded so good. Sure, the website was a disaster, but not everyone knows how to write well. It was ambiguous, yet I understood his message, and I agreed with it. I was just as outraged as him that poker players were generating millions of dollars for TV stations, getting nothing in return, and being forced to pay higher and higher juice all the time, only to be treated like secondhand citizens in most cardrooms.
So I wrote Andy Bloch an e-mail asking him about the WPPA, since I had talked to Andy before, and he was on the list of volunteers. Andy never responded. I guess that is another dark side of poker...people you think may be your friend because they treat you so well during a tournament end up never writing you back.
Anyway, I wrote Louis and we chatted back and forth a few times. He had this way of using capital letters in practically every sentence, to emphasize things, but just way too often, it was over done and seemed as if he was shouting almost all the time.
I'm not a perfect person. I'm not even a nice, amiable person, so I looked past this. I could understand where Louis was coming from, and furthermore, there were so many people I respected on the list of volunteers. Later I would find out that almost all of them didn't even know they were on that list, hadn't volunteered for anything, and didn't even belong to the WPPA!
I trusted that Louis was on the up-and-up about the integrity of poker. He asked me what committee I wanted to volunteer for. I told him I would think about it. Then I remembered that right before Andy Glazer died, he'd asked me if I wanted to do tournament reporting with him and Max. I went to the WPPA website. Nope, no tourney reporter. So I volunteered.
Before I just up and gave my time and money to the WPPA, I also wrote to Mason Malmuth about it. Mason has been very supportive of me over the last two years. I have not written much about Mason, although I should, because he is one person who has stood behind me on all of my twists and turns in the poker world. No, we don't agree on everything, we have had big disagreements before, both on 2+2 and in private e-mail, but people who support each other genuinely don't have to agree on every point. That is the whole meaning of friendship. You don't always see eye-to-eye, but you can still be friends and be there for each other. I don't really know Mason that well, but I do know one thing, he has been there for me whenever I needed advice. That's good enough for me.
Mason wasn't so crazy about the WPPA. He didn't say anything overtly negative, just more of a warning about giving too much of my time for nothing.
So when I decided to go ahead and do the tourney reporting, I was wary. Mason has never led me in the wrong direction before. I wanted the experience, since I'd never done tournament reporting before, and I had planned to play in the two Stud events anyway, but I kept my eyes open.
Louis kept saying he was going to try to get someone to pay me for the reporting. I assured him that I'd volunteered, just like all of the other volunteers, but I didn't refuse to take any payment they may offer, either. Little did I know at the time that there were no other volunteers.
I never received a cent for my work, but that is already common knowledge. I didn't ask for one, I volunteered from the start. I did think that I might get my two-week hotel bill reimbursed, or maybe some entries to satellites, but I didn't expect it, and nothing like that ever materialized. I paid the bills myself, although I was compensated somewhat by the generosity of players like Max and others who I plan on profiling in my series of stories.
When I arrived at the Orleans, I was extremely disappointed to find no signs, no banners, nothing, not even a made up little hand written sign with a magic marker arrow pointing the way. They had us jammed up into a dark, dismal little space.
Louis was pretty disappointed, too, none of the volunteers showed up. He told me that he'd had dozens, but in the end, I was it. It was Louis and Felicia, he sighed, clearly hurt.
Lots of players showed up for the first event, but after they experienced Bryan's pessimism and rude arrogance, they walked out. I counted at least 20 who decided not to enter, and simply walked away. Some said it was the structure. The structure was great for a decent amount of chips, but 25/25, 25/50, 50/75, 50/100 was just not enough for only 1000 in chips. Kenna James and Asher Derei were two who expressed that opinion, then walked out the door.
Another surprise was Mel Judah. He stood around, but never entered. I couldn't figure it out, he was on the list of volunteers! That is when I first started having some doubt that maybe the people on the list of volunteers weren't even WPPA members, and hadn't volunteered for a thing!
In all, the first event got 62 players. Most were very disappointed by everything, and I went around taking notes of their complaints. Louis tried to defend the Orleans, and the WPPA position, but seemed to do more damage and create more ill will than anything.
The first day was great from the standpoint of a brand new tourney, where everyone was unsure, most players were in Aruba, and the Orleans did everything they could do to ruin it. It was actually a great start, given the obstacles we had to overcome, but to many in the pro poker world, it was a failure. It was certainly a failure to the Orleans staff, all they did was whine about it all day long. They never shut up for a second, but let us know at every turn that they hated the WPPA, hated the players and hated us.
Louis was not respected at this event, and was openly mocked and ridiculed by several parties, from the Orleans to the players. I felt sorry for him, still believing him to be sincere and out for the best interests of the players. It was one of the many mistakes I would make in the next two weeks.