Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Death of the Private Blogger Tournament

I've read more than a few posts out there lately in the poker blogosphere -- such as it exists today, anyways -- lamenting the apparent death of the private blogger tournament.

There's something to be said for it. I've written this many times before, but I still remember vividly the days of Wil Wheaton's weekly WWdN tournament on pokerstars, which really, truly was the only time that more or less all of us involved in poker blogging at the time would get together and chat it up. Every single week, Tuesday nights at 8:30pm ET it was as I recall, Wil provided the opportunity for everyone to sit and laugh with our friends and sling some cards. Sure near the end people wanted to win if they were close, but for the most part these things were for fucking fun. I looked forward to them all week, literally. It would be Saturday afternoon and I would already catch myself thinking about the next Tuesday night and my next chance to make some jokes, drop some hammers, and play a little poker with my new friends. And of course, to eliminate Wil from the tournament and get it named after me the next week, but that's neither here nor there.

The thing is, the WWdN was a looooooooong time ago at this point, and it took place at a time when the composition of the group who identified themselves as "poker bloggers" was significantly different from what it has become over the past couple of years. Back when the WWdN was rampant -- regularly attracting 120, 130 runners in its heyday -- I would describe poker blogging as still a relatively new thing. There were way fewer poker blogs out there, and more than the smaller number, the poker blogging that went on back in the day was more "pure" in a sense. It was purer in that the people involved were, for the most part, blogging about poker because they were interested in poker and wanted to write down their thoughts and get some analysis and thoughts going in the comments. Some people wrote stories about poker on their blogs, some people wrote about the 2+2 threads while they were still readable, and some wrote about their adventures in and around poker tournaments, Las Vegas, whatever. But for the most part -- and I acknowledge that I am surely over-generalizing here to an extent -- the "poker bloggers" of four or five years ago were really into it for the poker, and for the enjoyment of all that blogging about the game can bring.

It was this "pure" spirit that led to the creation of the first poker bloggers' gathering back in Ought-4 or whenever it was, and it was that same spirit among the then-existing bloggers that used to contribute to the 120 WWdN participants every week, and the jovial atmosphere that surrounded that game week-in and week-out. There really were very few (there's always some, but very few) bad eggs. And it was that same spirit that was still very much in force throughout our community that led to 125 donkeys showing up for the blogger gathering as late as the summer of 2006, my first time actually meeting "the bloggers" face to face.

And what a time it was. People who won't even fucking talk to me today came up to me and introduced themselves, and I made a lot of good friends. By that time I was already going strong here on my blog, building my readership quickly, and I had introduced the notion of using screenshots to graphically illustrate and discuss poker hands into my blog. It was really catching on, and people actually wanted to meet that crazy pompous ass Hoyazo who took all the screenshots for their amusement. Tons of people. The old school. The new school, which by now is basically almost old school themselves. I'm not sure when was the last time I had such an unexpected great time hanging out with a huge group of people who had been absolute strangers to me just a few days earlier. That open, warm spirit was still very much alive in bloggerland back in 2006, and even though the WWdN might have been gone or at least on its last legs back then, the Mookie was waiting right in the wings to pick up the slack and maintain that place where everyone in our group could get together with some regularity and shoot the shit.

I would say it was somewhere in early 2007 where things started to change. And when I say "things", I don't mean the popularity of the private blogger tournaments per se -- these were actually just about to take off with the advent of the BBT -- but I mean more the composition and nature of the participants in our group. At first it happened so slow that nobody even noticed it, just a few new additions to the group who weren't really making themselves or their true nature known yet in a public way. But it didn't take long for many of us who had been involved with the group for a few years already to notice that things were simply different than they had been. I've spent countless hours over the past few years trying to put my finger on what exactly it was that changed, and I think the best that I can come up with goes back to the level of "purity" in the nature of our group. Back four or five years ago, for the most part the only people who bothered poker blogging did so because of either a love of poker and/or a love of blogging about things related to poker. Again, there have always been exceptions to this, but generally speaking that's the purity I keep referring to.

However, by the time 2007 was well underway, the number of new people entering the fray of "poker blogging" was exploding. The BBT had begun that summer, bringing a whole slew of new people, with new motivations, into the fold. Others got involved for other reasons, not necessarily bad ones at all, but not those same reasons of love of poker or love of blogging that had been predominant over the early days of our group. More and more people were starting to blog about poker not for the sake of poker blogging itself, but rather for some other ulterior motive, for which the poker blogging was just a means to an end. Some people created poker blogs just to play in the WPBT or the BBT. Others started poker blogs to make money from other bloggers, and for some, to outright commercialize our group for some purpose or other. Some even created poker blogs just to scam other bloggers out of their money. A number of members of our group over the past couple of years only joined to meet someone and not out of any real sustained interest in blogging at all. Many people created or maintained their blogs as a crutch for their own insecurity, to create a false internet identity and then live that persona and interact among our community like they wish they lived and interacted in real life.

Throwing all these new people with all these new motivations into the mix ended up being the beginning of the end of the private blogger tournaments as we know them today. Sure, the participation in blogger events soared as the BBT and then the BBT2 went off in 2007, and by the time BBT3 rolled around in the summer of 2008, we actually saw one or two blogger events that rivalled the size that the WWdN had been almost every week some three years before. But it was still never quite as big as the WWdN had been regularly, and the purity was almost all gone from it. Take away those big BBT prizes, and the attendance would always cut more than in half almost immediately. The mix of people in our group were, as a whole, no longer blogging for the sake of blogging, and they weren't playing the private tournaments for the sake of camaraderie and fun. They were playing for something else -- whatever their own agenda was -- and it showed.

It was around this time that you really started to see the very first of the consistent negative comments in the chatbox in the private events. It's been all too common among the bloggers to explain this away simply because "tempers rise high with so much more on the line", and to an extent that is surely true. But most people don't realize that it was always more than that. By and large, the people who were playing in the private blogger events by 2007 just weren't in it for the fun and the camaraderie anymore. So where we had 98% fun, funny people playing in the WWdN back in 2005, and therefore we almost never saw the dickheadedness in the chatbox of our own private events among friends, by 2007 and 2008, that percentage was way, way down. And with a bunch more people who weren't interested in being friends, having fun or in being civil to anybody were playing in the events, of course the atmosphere suffered. It wasn't just about how much more was on the line, because even with nothing on the line people were jerks aplenty. And the jerkness spread to all corners of the poker blogging community, not just the private tournament chatbox. The number of negative blog posts and negative commentary about others was significantly higher than it would ever have been back in the day, by several multiples. The number of people maintaining poker blogs who were actually just angry, jealous people with not much else going on in their lives had jumped over the past few years, and these are the people who tended to cause most of the trouble, and especially to pile on when they sensed another member of the community was vulnerable. The whole notion of doing anything but helping another poker blogger who was vulnerable for some reason would have been abhorrent to all of us back in 2005 -- back when 120 people played the WWdN every week with nary a cross word uttered in the chatbox, back when 130 people descended on Las Vegas from all around the country and around the world in the summer of 2006 -- but by 2007 and 2008, if certain people saw another blogger getting slammed on, it was over. It was negative comments about the person in every blog they could find. Shit, you can actually look at these people's blogs right now and they still have the negative crap up -- prominently featured in some cases -- because amazingly they aren't even embarrassed about the piling on they've done. They're proud of it. Because they just don't care. Again, back in 2005, there just weren't many people interested in doing that to other bloggers, because the nature of the group and its members' interests in participating in it was so much purer in the sense I have described above.

Now here we are getting on late 2009, and this trend within the composition of the poker blogging community has continued still over the past year or two. To a guy like me it seems like the majority of the people who have joined the group over the past long while are doing so not for the sake of the poker, but for some other purpose. With such a different customer base nowadays if you will, it only stands to reason that the private blogger tournaments have very little interest in them anymore. To the people who helped make these things the fun and jovial times-to-look-forward-to that they used to be, today they are an absolute shadow of their former selves.

Ever wonder why the only people who clamor anymore these days for the private blogger games to continue to grow are people who weren't playing them even just two or three years ago? Now you know.

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Blogger The Poker Meister said...

Hoyazo -

I'm a fairly new blogger - doing it for about 4 months now. I'm going to say I've found just the opposite of the negativity you describe. I've had a bunch of cross-blogging within my blog and have always had courteous, helpful comments from the group. My motivation for writing my blog happens to be one not itemized by you: I'm in the camp of not caring who reads my blog (although it is very flattering when I get comments), but writing for the sake of dumping out my thought process as somewhat of a public diary. I use it to track my milestones and any difficult decisions, as well as strategy issues, and any poker deals I find throughout my web surfings.

I have been reading a whole bunch of the "old school" people for years now, and realize the value of their writing, which in turn motivated me to write. That said, I haven't ever taken part in any of the blogger tourneys - for a multitude of reasons (primarily a factor of my time & not knowing when they take place), but entering the blogger circle is not an easy task as you make it out to be.

I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this comment, but I want to clear the air that not all the "new" bloggers are bad / negative / schmucks - and integrating into the clique of the bloggersphere is not an easy task. I can imagine that it would be fun to play against poker brainiacs (no offense intended) like foucault or fuel or bruechips, etc. etc., but who is being the killjoy or killjoys, and why not chastise those people and not invite them back so that it is not ruined for everyone else?

Just a thought.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...


Thanks for the comment. A few points of clarification:

I certainly never meant to suggest that all of the newer bloggers are bad, lesser or really *anything*. There are several newish faces in my daily blogroll these days that I'm really glad have entered the fray over the past couple of years. However, I will definitely stand by my comments about the trend in the mix of people playing our games in general, over-generalized that they may be.

Also, don't take from my post that I think it's easy to penetrate into the world of poker blogdom these days. I completely agree with you that it's not, and again I did not mean to suggest otherwise in this post. If you look back over time a couple of years ago and feel like reading more whining, babyish commentary than you could ever imagine, you could find comments from me on others' blogs to the exact effect that there are cliques in the group that hinder the togetherness and inclusion that was once the very essence of our community.

I've received about 100,000 well thought-out, helpful and just generally civil comments on my blog over the past five years and over 1000 posts, so I feel you on that front as well. But again, if you were a robot and felt like reading over the comments to every one of my posts in order, you would see a really disappointing trend away from inclusion and positivity and towards smack-talking and really pure insults -- at me, my play, my friends, my family, you name it -- with no redeeming value at all. I am well aware that most of this stems from the anger and jealousy that only poker can muster up in some people, but my longtime readers will know exactly what I'm talking about, and it's really sad IMO.

FWIW it sounds like your motivation for starting your blog and mine were very similar. The list of people you think of as poker braniacs we can probably differ on, but nothing wrong with that. And, again FWIW, part of me would love it if the people who really participated actively in ripping down this community over the past couple of years simply no longer participated in the weekly games. But I am always in favor of inclusion and I don't personally believe it is appropriate to try to force them out (nor would I know how to do that in any event). It would have been nice all along if the same aholes who make the negative chat and the negative comments and just generally spread the bad juju self-policed themselves out of this group, but unfortunately it just doesn't happen that way, and then with the BBT series always around the corner it seemed that these people were always hanging around in hopes of picking off the easy money.

Thanks for your thoughts. If you were ever interested in playing the private games, there are 10,000 places online where you can find the times, the hosts, the passwords, etc., and to my knowledge every single one of them is and always has been open to absolutely anybody, so you should jump in and see what it's all about. Wednesday night 10pm ET, the Mookie is still on full tilt as far as I know (password is "vegas1" as I recall).

2:47 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

Hoy come out to the Mookie tonight, Mookie tonight, Mookie tonight, oh Hoy come out to the Moooookie tonight.

Do it do it do it.

4:07 AM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

Having joined this community at the point you noticed things changing (lord, I hope it wasn't me tipping the scale) - I've noticed changes in the community that some of the old school bloggers aren't always noticing. (Not sure where I fit in the whole old/new: A/B/C/D List thing, but whatever)

There are new bloggers popping up all the time. The circles you speak of are changing, but new a different ones are filling voids.

The tournaments we've been playing for years are disappearing, but new ones have also popped up, it's just no one in this circle is pay attention.

I miss the old days too. I've been losing some interest in the private tournaments of late because frankly, no one ever recaps them any more. They play, the bust, the leave. No write ups?

Also, there was a time when players like you seemed to really try. I remember a time when the Mookie was a place that a low stakes grinder, such as myself, could really play with the some very skilled players for a low stakes price. Lately, people played them like they had to, not because they wanted to.

There are a few of us that still write for the love of the game. Hopefully that shows in my blog. (Would it kill you to stop by once and a while?) My kids have reached an age when most of these tournament start around bed time. Life stage changes make right now, a tough time for me to play like I'd like.

I'm sure I'll be back more and I hope I get to write another 'D' Listers {insert tourny name}Recap. For me, those are some of my favorites to write.

12:22 PM  
Blogger CC said...

I think the big bonus tourneys had a great deal of excitement and upside but ultimately deteriorated part of the base. As the group grew, it became more diverse/fractured as to what they wanted from poker/tourneys I think. That may also have caused some of the erosion.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Drizztdj said...

The prizes were a boon the private tourneys, making it more exciting to play. But it also attracted those with pure profit motives, similar to me dropping in on a $2/$4 live game and sitting down with 10 racks.

I'm there to have fun, probably donk off a rack as long as the conversation is flowing, while "serious" players kill the fun with berating comments like "HOW COULD YOU CALL THAT?!?!!11111".

It was one thing to play for Grubby's Dreamgirls DVD box-set, its another to play for a $10K main event seat.

When I play nowadays I enjoy a small profit, could careless about wins/loses. That's not the case to some of those who played solely the BBT tourneys when prizes were on the line, and didn't play when they were not.

1:16 AM  
Blogger randompoker said...

I find it ironic, having never particularly been a blogger but having been an avid reader in the past before a self-imposed exile from poker for a year or so(read: life tilt) that this post shows up here... as everytime I've poked my head in over the last while, your blog is defined by a complete lack of poker content. I think some of you just stopped thinking about or playing the game as much. It happens to all communities at times, a lack of interest or a drying up of inspiration, and then it all follows suit.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Lucypher said...

Too many of the tourneys moved to Full Tilt. If the tourneys covered a few sites (or at least on Stars), there would likely be more participation.
Stars > Full Tilt.

10:36 PM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Familiarity breeds contempt. It's like college. At the beginning of freshmen year, everyone is hanging in the hallway, happy to meet each other. No one has any problems. Then, as people get to know each other, groups form, and groups within groups, and eventually conflict happens. It's utterly inevitable. But reading this post made me think that maybe it's time to throw an old school one shot private tourney with the sole goal as having fun.

3:00 AM  

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