The Index Finger Award

The Global Poker Awards have become a somewhat regular thing and look likely to become a fixed feature of the poker world. While there is much to celebrate if the spotlight finds you, it seems another reaction is to both downplay and even disparage the awards while simultaneously longing for their recognition. For what it’s worth, I see a lot more of the latter this year than the former – seems like an improvement in attitude.

Either way it goes, the reaction seems in line with human nature, so there would not be much to say if there were not also a very clear slant to the GPIs which should allow any unhappiness to mostly dissipate, once it is understood.

There is a big difference between an “academy” overseeing the excellence of a field and an actor or business within it which offers recognition. The difference is motivation, which creates scope. While the academy will be assigned to protect the industry as a whole and leave room for secondary voices to pick up the slack at the fringes, a business within the industry will be guided by its more specific market share and thus more focused marketing opportunity while also needing to monopolize the opportunity as much as possible for as cheap as possible – basic economic strategy.

The Global Poker Index and The Hendon Mob, in other words, don’t need or even have an incentive to cover all parts of poker while also covering the fringes modestly so that no one else takes their cake. Their specific incentive is spelled out to you in fact, in focusing on “best trophy” – which would otherwise be a bizarre or minor award choice, and best stream, because their investors – Mediarex – and investment partners – including the DAZN Group – make money from providing streaming services. It’s about tournaments and gathering consumer information and, of course, the sweet rake they send up the food chain to savvy international players – and if you think I am talking about poker players, you’re a fish – like Donald Tang.

In fact, the efforts Eric Danis and the GPI/THM make to do so and to please everyone while still making their marketing goal of forwarding live tournament poker are quite extraordinary. Consumer Advocate Spokesberkey, with a clear example of what he’d like to see improved, laments that his film was up against a picture and a book and a rabbit or something at one point, but he was owed nothing: the category itself is superfluous to what the Hendon Mob is responsible for.

(It’s occasionally lamentable that we think of Berkey, Negreanu, Polk and other big names as the “leaders”, when in fact all of them are pawns and consumers in their own industry, bigger versions of us. Nik “Airball,” the wonderful villain of the Hustler, is in banking and might be the only real true dual playa/player in the entire bunch. Well, that’s wrong obviously, but it’s just hard to know who is rich and powerful. Maybe Cary Katz – someone help me get more familiar with the bag men? To change things in poker, first see where the power lies.)

This is why you should rest easy if you were not picked or nominated by the GPI/THM – these awards don’t necessarily work with your life, poker accomplishments, or creations. I myself am a designated voter for the awards, and, among all the other chores (yes I voted for the damn vagina trophy, weak fool that I am!), I dutifully nominate the Sessions podcast each year in the preliminary round, and this time, its creator Billy for personality of the year. However, when neither final category showed any trace of that input, I’m not really surprised or upset. What does he have to do with the Formula One of our industry, live tournament poker?

In fact, if we’re going around asking who should get attention, how about some love for poor Robert Ciaffone, you know, the guy who wrote down the rules of poker like Moses. Yeah, HE DIED LAST YEAR AND NO ONE IMPORTANT IN POKER HAS GIVEN HIM OR HIS MEMORY ANYTHING. (Fox Wallace and Haley Hintze spilled a little ink, their hands are clean, natch.) Yes, so that was happening just as our cunty poker community was giving Jonathan Little a “personality” award. Does he even have a personality? (Psst, if you voted for Jlil, good news, I have some NFTs to sell you!) No, let’s not give Mr. Ciaffone any due, let’s find a trophy to give to a trophy!

Well, let the dead bury the dead, you say? Ok, so instead I could even be upset on my own half, right? Some of my pieces are good enough for magazines and such, but instead we saw 500-word clickbait articles among the “best” of written media nominations. I think I would be upset many years ago, but knowledge, specifically economic knowledge, has freed me from jealousy. In fact, what I think about now is how weird it would it be for poker’s most famous people to be anything but horrified at my work.

Their world is not mine, and mine is not theirs. In fact, I once sat with one of them, one of the head thumbnail people. He mostly said nothing, literally overlooked his earnest host with disdain, ignored my obsequious comments with a creepy deadpan I won’t soon forget, then suddenly offered me a sequence of direly vapid opinions on a current topic that left me at once seething but helpless in the face of his celebrity. “Like every Caucasian dude,” as one of my sharper students described this dullard they celebrate daily. (Geez, a little harsh there, bro.)

So why the hell would I want a piece of that? Summon Groucho on clubs. Still – what if you are of my world and want recognition? Well, you already know the answer: it’s a do-it-yourself world, bud, go dig out your own trophy. My world – the angry, fatless churn of low and mid stakes cash poker – is a grubby one, one of resistance and frustration and above all, people, people, and more people. It is a minor league for the tournament and streaming cash world in some respects, a small dirty secret of the economy in others. Sure, you might win your way out – I thought I had – but what really happens these days is that you rise above by stepping on someone’s head and screaming into a camera or your looks scream something for you.

The aging poker Crash Davis, spent in all ways, his best days behind him but seeing the sky ever more clearly from the field he sleeps upon, has much more to do with another tradition, and it’s a very American one: the world of tramps and bums and artists and musicians and addicts, the unworking even Marx condemned as unsalvageable, the lumpen. It’s a world of busses and cheap weekends and RVs and unwanted old people. A world of vacationing, still red-cheeked youths who have never seen a real paycheck but think they have a job. It’s a world of small cardrooms and small towns and small spread limit structures and needing to sit in some small 08 every now and then to stay in action. (Yes, with those people.)

My world, our world, is the desert, above all. It’s why I inevitably arrived there.

As part of describing this world, which has no mystery bounties, no studio parties, no custom vodkas, no free-lance video editors or trust fund whales, I furnish my own dollhouse, so to speak. I review blogs and vlogs, and even rate all the podcasts, giving preference, admittedly to what seems real to me. It doesn’t make everyone happy.

These are my awards for you all, and yes, my middle finger to some. Maybe you can do it better.

Now, I’ve been called all sorts of horrible things for my labors, and there is no pot of gold waiting for me: I’ll die on my feet, if not the felt. And remember my nomination? Well maybe no one’s too happy with me at the moment, but I believe that will pass because there is no insult in truthfulness or even dissatisfaction; insults arise from posturing. All I care about is describing the sky I once slept peacefully below but which now presses down upon me.

The Global Poker Awards, which may well miss all sorts of talented people and work, aren’t posturing beyond their basic market incentive, either. They are filling a space, doing a thing. (Hey, didn’t you post some shitty chip porn about a “thing” you “did’?) Eric Danis is frankly a bit too saintly with all of you, far too patient. Maybe you can do it better, but meanwhile, he and his crew don’t owe you much. It’s not your year, perhaps.

However, if you get to go to the studio and accept a plaque or a vagina trophy or whatever the hell it is that they pass out, accept it graciously. It’s an extra serving in a world and an industry that eats everything on principle, and a serving maybe someone else hungered for, too.

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