The Dumb Money

The dumb money follows an idea out of the overwhelming desire for it to be true. 

Last night, that was me. It was brutal. Worse, it felt inevitable, outside my control. After months of winning, I had returned to Vegas overconfident and unprepared, ready only to give it away. They bluff me out and then they get value from me. 

I’d ask what’s going on, but that implies I don’t know that I’m gambling, playing lazily, and hoping for outcomes I am used to earning.

The dumb money speculates.

Of course, to a large extent, I’m in good company. The world runs on the dumb money! “Consumers” – that weird word for people – don’t always make rational choices. Instead, they are actually quite impulsive and weak, including being unable to save or create themselves the things they need or thought they needed. “Industry” – that weird word for people – isn’t much better, flooding the world with barely wanted things and leaving the corpses of their efforts along with the unwanted toys. And the government? Well, I don’t need to tell you about those people.  

Still, our world remains grand and exciting. Poker culture is too.

Of late, though, there’s been a lot of dumb money in both.

The scurrilous attacks on a whole host of players who showed up or are associated with the Hustler Casino Live have taken a toll on those involved. It’s fun for a certain type of person to take shots at people they don’t know much about – grand and exciting, I’m sure. It’s even necessary, one could argue – how else does the community police itself? What circulates the air when the cash is stale? Who fixed Stones, and who caught Ultimate Bet?

However, something happened on the way to the forums. Everything is probabilities or at least can be measured that way. The Ultimate Bet scandal was resolved this way, and the work that went into documenting Postle – I’m not talking about having Joey bray over the airwaves, but the painful, labor-intensive work of compiling hands from video – was tremendous and mostly anonymous.

Not so the approach of late. For this excitement, it’s been a lot of guessing and very little substance. This isn’t Postle territory, no, this is election fraud land, Big Lie time. This is flu hysteria and MAGA country.

The dumb money brings fear in place of evidence.

The inciting incident has been covered extensively but the wisest among us noted that it was very different from previous scandals. A body of suspicious activity versus a night of it; well, really even a few hands; no, actually, one hand of it. And one without clear consequences, at that. Why did Robbi Jade Lew give the money back? What is the connection to Rip’s wife? Why is Garrett behaving the way he is?

Compelling. Exciting. Marketable. All that and more, but not definitive in any way, or even all that suggestive of cheating. Yes, some streamers and podcasters and posters proposed a few things, but there was no actual “investigation,” never mind a smoking gun. Joey and Berkey did their thing, but they didn’t confuse their gossip channels, not at heart, for evidence. Joey has even matured, warily speaking of the toll of promoting outlandish theories – progress, I’d say. (Regrettably, though, it seems he can’t take a ribbing.)

Yet that’s where the dumb money starts to find its way in. At present we have two Twitter accounts, the Poker Karen account, and the HCLscandal account who specialize in stirring things up in the least credible way possible.

The dumb money always wants it easy. 

It didn’t have to be that way. PokerKaren is a gadfly in potential and in phenotype. The account, interpreted generously, asks questions. That’s fair, but she immediately ruins her objectivity and purpose by going after reputations without evidence or even clarity as to what her slurs are supposed to accomplish. 

It’s hard to blame her in some cases. Fed by the incompetent Nick Vertucci’s endless public relations gaffes and security failures at the Hustler, PokerKaren has taken to an equally endless parade of penis-size jokes and other very low-brow satirical attacks upon him, his business, and his associates. It’s a bit… deranged. With such an easy target as Nick, who already has a dubious past, one might expect more on-target abuse from the public. After all, the responsibility falls to those in charge, not the peanut gallery they incite.

However, PokerKaren doesn’t know to quit while ahead. She really loses the thread in a sequence of almost mysteriously stupid and adolescent attacks on player/commentator Billy aka DGAF, where she shows no grasp of what is happening. Stumbling through various theories including the utterly vapid idea that his sunglasses are electronically rigged, the account loses any authority. Just as she did with Vertucci, she resorts to sexual insults – yes, that’s the baseness that you are supporting when you don’t counter this account.

The dumb money makes you a worse person.

The bad news is that it gets worse than PokerKaren. While the account is clownish – in fact literally cartoonish – the more serious stain on poker media is the Hustler Scandal account. This account and the apparent group behind it are posting names and numbers of winners and losers in the game, in order to impugn the Hustler, the players themselves and Billy specifically. The difference is, while PokerKaren revels in adolescent insults, the Hustler group is pretending to use math to take down their targets and so feign credibility.

Statistics takes years to master, but I and many in the community know enough to be aghast at what this account is trying to pass off as suggestive. Even disregarding the mistaken inputs, the utter lack of comparative analysis and mitigation of the data using the spread of results (standard deviations, etc.) – yes this is where that magical poker word “variance” comes from – leads the group to all sorts of absurdities.

What is this even supposed to suggest? All while cowardly saying “not suggesting anything.” Right.

Adding total winnings from players with a session sample of one to sixty-two? Hello? Let’s compare apples… to every other fruit in the grocery store.  Hell, let’s throw in some nuts and vegetables too.

Trying to argue that the game state is tough with samples with a mode of yes, two sessions. Yes, two sessions as the majority sample size.

Total fail. Still, we could be okay even with all this, amazingly. After all, these accounts and the people behind them, as dumb as they are, have a certain right to do what they are doing. Public speculation is sanctioned in a free society. Criticizing PokerKaren or HCLscandal (and yes, hot new weathermen duo Norm and Joey) for acting on that right is not the way forward.

Those who benefit from public attention must also expect the public’s opprobrium. In other words, misinformed and careless morons are going to do what misinformed and careless morons do.

The dumb money disappoints.

However, what’s really disappointing is that the “thought leaders” in poker, big-time players with big names and reputations, aren’t doing anything about these irritating and unfair attacks on Billy and the players and announcers. It was easy to gobble up attention – just look on Youtube – about jack-four, but as soon as the clicks begin to fade, our leaders are nowhere to be seen. One usually hyper critical and detail oriented thinkfluencer even sanctioned the HCLscandal account, shockingly. (I won’t call him out by name because he does so much good on the whole.)

Ok, so we have to live with Nick’s incompetence and Ryan’s mysterious leadership. Maybe we even need to accept the interesting idea that the security is deliberately and slightly compromised in order to make a great show, and that they can’t seem to release their pride enough to explain this clearly.

So be it. What we shouldn’t be able to live with, however, is throwing the bystanders under the bus. You shouldn’t be able to post lists of names and impugn them without being challenged.

The dumb money is embarrassing to everyone.

But, you object, what if they are not innocent? What if there is a secret cult of legerdemain, a conspiracy of signaling and skullduggery, of secret seats and beads, and the so-called trolls are the heroes who just need time to sort it all out? 

Well, that’s just part of understanding probabilities. The point is not that it is impossible that all sorts of nefarious things are going on – this is the world of poker and gambling, obviously – but that until there is strong, suggestive proof, accusing people of cheating with no evidence is incredibly stupid and damaging – even to the accusers, never mind its targets.

Empty accusations distract and harm. Accounts like PokerKaren and HCLscandal are crying wolf and causing scandal fatigue when we really might need to be watching for something, rather than gaping at a pointillistic result and feeding the “poker is rigged” crowd.

Unsubstantiated accusations are the dumb money, and there is too much of it going around. The HCLscandal account isn’t just being allowed to fester unquestioned by the established, it’s being aided by the indifference of poker influencers and thus is attracting a lot of stupidity. Look at these interactions:

What is this cretin trying to even say? Yet the scandal account retweets it to acclaim.

Here a bunch of people fall for a straw man argument – no one is thinking what this account is suggesting.

And who with influence stands up to this stuff? Are there any heros? Basically, only Alex Jacob, of all people. He isn’t even really in poker anymore.

The dumb money reproduces all too easily.

Anyone remotely familiar with Billy or his story should be leaping to his aid, instead he has to suffer under a public regime of the most idiotic debasements. Seat two. Vaping electronics. A magic cheating wallet. Flashing light from his belt. Even bathroom breaks. Yes, we may have a security issue in poker streams, but that is not really the excuse to suddenly start wearing tin foil hats. Apparently, the games are better than we thought they were, because this really is us out there.

We’ve seen the dumb money and it is us.

This state of affairs has consequences even if you have behaved well (read: kept your opinion to yourself) during this trial of math and of character. Vast numbers of poker players have chased the dumb money in crypto only to be upended and have to learn words that even middle-schoolers know, such as speculation. A bunch of us have had to grow up all over again, thinking stupid acronyms like FUD would ever replace words like risk or research. You may need to hear that if you have fallen for NFTs or SFX or one of the endless varieties of foolishly misnamed “securities,” “projects” that produce no value and are led by people with no intention of creating value, the fault is not in the stars.

Now of course, one way to beat the dumb money is to just wait it out. That is happening. I’ve been told to shut up, and with some reason; neither PokerKaren nor HCLscandal has said anything of interest of late. That is probably telling. Maybe ignorance is also fair to plead: not everyone can be aware of PokerKaren or her worse twin. For this reason, I’m not going to distribute this piece widely unless it fills a pressing need.

However, the idea that someone has to stay silent or not have an opinion is a troubling position, and subject to its own form of bad faith: just imagine if the way forward was to never respond to baseless allegations.

It all hurts. I pay off the fake action whale, again and again. I wanted to believe the stories, but the answer was there all along. I wanted something to be easy, to take from someone else without working for it, and got punished, as all who chase the dumb money do.

The dumb money leaps to conclusions. 

When you follow someone like the PokerKaren or HCLscandals, you do see the smoke, but the cliche ends there. You never, ever get to the fire, because the accusers never understood what was going on in the first place. LA and high stakes culture by definition features a lot of things that don’t end up on the IRS form. That mild collusion happens, that shifty ex-real estate hustlers get along in poker is utterly obvious to anyone with their head on a swivel, but for the dumb money types, it’s a scandal, a shock. Let’s clean up this game based on a black-market economy, by gum.

Have you ever thought about who is in your games, what past they have, and why we allow them to play unquestioned? Why poker is on the fringe of society? Why is it as complex as chess but a thousand times as lucrative?

The dumb money can’t read the room.

It would be fine if the dumb money didn’t follow us everywhere, but the problem is, there is too much of it in poker. The dumb money is the $500 in poker ed videos, now just $17 (funny how the value of these things is always getting closer to its true worth.) The dumb money is that 1.4 stake you just bought. It’s that never-to-be-paid-loan to your poker “friend” you just made and now want public sympathy for. It’s the almost hysterical need to spread poker strategy to everyone, to sell out the game culture for pennies on the dollar. The dumb money is in crypto dreams of inexplicable, unearned growth and NFT projects that children could see through.

The dumb money has no stamina. It loves short-form videos and delights at thumbnails. It’s all hair on fire and hands on head. The dumb money is click-through, not opt-out. The dumb money is TLDR, not IMHO.

Recently one of the better take-makers Berkey coaxed onto his podcast half-quoted another, even better take-maker, the esteemed Ben Hunt. The guest mentioned that Hunt had brought up render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s in the context of the currency markets, but of course, no one on the show could name where the phrase came from. “Shakespeare?” the bro cabal guessed pathetically, then proceeded to lecture us on the future of money, eager to impart yet more gems of speculation. 

The dumb money is always ready to be right all over again.

What was to be rendered to Caesar was, yes, the cash, but what Jesus meant was that there is a currency beyond the world’s which is more valuable. He is saying that the things we think are important are often not and so we can cede those things to the world. After all, what is the historical end of Christianity and its much-abused book, and why does it remain important after all? For the most part, it is the understanding that sacrifice is what ends the cycle of human violence. That Rome’s economy would only stop eating the living if the beasts of the imperium became men of the universe. Christian revelation, at its painful heart of hearts, is that God would agree to be an atheist if only we would take the painful responsibility of ending our cruelty to each other. It is the cry of conscience along the vale of tears, that we render what Caesar demands so that we can make that more important (yes, rending) demand of ourselves.

Yet the dumb money has no context, only appetite. Cue the laugh track.

In the small world of poker and in the bigger one beyond, leaders ought to protect those who are acting in good faith and hold those who are not to the better standard.

The reason is, the dumb money ultimately dissatisfies. It’s not all clicks and income, not when you look back at your life, as (ffs, ffs!) Larry Flynt of all people has to remind us at the beginning of the besieged show. There is always someone watching who might expect something better of you, and Mr. Flynt’s point is that person might even be your very self.

Time to smarten up.

2 thoughts on “The Dumb Money

  1. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates). Introspection might provide answers to some of life‘s problems that are otherwise unavailable. “Who am I,“ is a very reasonable question to ask oneself from time to time.

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