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Joe McKeehen, the 2015 WSOP Main Event Champion, has taken exception to the new start times for 2016 WSOP events. For whatever reason, McKeehen has decided that the poker media is to blame for these new start times.

As a member of the media that has worked the WSOP for multiple outlets in the past, I found that claim comical. Jennifer Newell gave a much more pointed take on his words but I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about some of the accusations he made against the media’s involvement in this year’s scheduling and their supposed “involvement” in past poker events.

If the Poker Media Are a Joke, Then the Joke’s on Poker

McKeehen openly shared his disdain against the poker media via his Twitter account. He believes the media is the driving force behind the changes to the 2016 WSOP start times and then gave us a good verbal thrashing.

According to McKeehen, the media should not influence the game in any way. To quote McKeehen:

joe mckeehen tweet 1

If that is the case, then I guess that poker from 2003 forward is an f***ing joke. If it were not for the media, how many people would have known about the win of a certain accountant from Tennessee?

If the event was being treated the same as a simple news story and reported on by regular print journalists, it would have been equivalent to a “feel good” story and reported in maybe a couple dozen papers on page three of the sports section.

Instead, ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker made Chris Moneymaker a worldwide celebrity and helped to usher in the Poker Boom. While some may argue this, how many of you reading this article right now got involved in poker as the result of watching ESPN, the Travel Channel, or another station that was broadcasting poker.

As poker grew and expanded, so did the media coverage of the event. Some concessions were naturally made to accommodate the media coverage and to help grow the game.

However, simple things like Day 1 starting times are hardly areas that the poker media would attempt to influence, and they certainly wouldn’t try to start their day even earlier than it already does.

Every time a poker program is broadcast, streamed, or reported upon, this is another chance to grow the game and the players involved.

Poker has grown because of the media and will continue to do so. If players don’t like becoming famous or winning money, the local employment office is down the street.

Poker Media that Don’t Try Don’t Survive

McKeehen made another comment that I found a bit laughable. He stated:

joe mckeehen tweet 2

He is right that the media has nothing to do with how the game is played, nor should we. We do report on the game, the players and everything involved in the game. However, to say that 90% of the media doesn’t even try is clearly misguided.

The average workday for a poker media member is 12 hours, and that’s on a good day. On final table days and select other days such as the Day 1 of an event like the Colossus, their day may be 16 hours or greater.

The day before the 2008 WSOP Main Event, Donnie Peters of PokerNews and I worked the final table of the $1,500 Limit Shootout for 19 hours until 7:30 that morning. We had to be back in at 10 am to prep for Day 1 of the Main Event. Our boss let us knock off early on Day 1 – at 6 p.m.

There are many other people in the poker media that work hard and work long days. Their work may not always be perfect, but they are certainly trying. Are there people that take jobs in the media that don’t give it their all? Sure there are. Those people don’t last.

Media members that don’t give it their all will usually stick out and over the course of an even like the WSOP, many complaints will start centering around on these bad eggs. Thinking back to that same summer I mentioned earlier, we dropped at least 5 field reporters and 1 blogger due to lack of effort and poor performance.

Having worked in the media in one form or another since 2008, I can tell you that if you do not put in the effort, you will not survive nor will you make enough of an income to support yourself. I have watched dozens come and go thinking that this is a cake job because all they do is “talk about poker.” When it came time to work, they didn’t want to or they wanted more money than was reasonable in the industry.

The poker media is not perfect, but to say that most don’t try is either uninformed or pure bias.

Kind of Hard Shitting on People When You Are Kissing Their Asses

According to McKeehen:

joe mckeehen tweet

I really would like some hard examples of these players that are getting shit on by the media since 2010. Based on what has been my experience at several different outlets over the year, it is quite the opposite.

Many media members and media outlets go out of their way to cater to poker pros and could be classified more as ass kissers. This is one time where I using ass kisser in a positive context. It is beneficial to keep a good relationship with poker players and pros around the industry. So if that means going out of your way to cater to them or be nice to them, that is what you do.

Some media members, this comes naturally. They are just natural nurturers and enjoy getting to know people and spending time with them. Others are just staying professional so that they don’t burn bridges. However, there are seldom times I would consider that media members are “shitting on players.”

With that said, are there times that media members are critical on players for one reason or another? Certainly. However, that is part of reporting on the industry. If a player screws ups, they can expect some backlash.

The poker media does not go out with the intention of trying to hurt players at the table. That does not benefit the media member. Their job is to report on the game and to find interesting stories. If anything, they are looking for players whom they can brownnose in order to get a good story, interview or to turn in the next star of the game.

What Would Influencing Start Times Gain Us?

When I saw McKeehen claim that the media influenced start times, my only question was “why?” Out of everything that we could try to change about the WSOP, why would we focus on such an insignificant matter?

Oh, I know, we want more sleep right? So we petitioned to have start times moved back to 11 a.m., so that we have to leave the places that we stay by 10 am, which means getting up at 9 a.m. Oh, and that assumes that we can show up at 11 a.m. to start. If we have a 10 a.m. meeting, then we have to get out by 9 a.m., which means we have to get up at 8 a.m.

I don’t know about you but I didn’t get into poker to get up at stupid o’clock in the morning, and I damn sure wouldn’t ask to change the start time in order to have to get up even earlier.

OK, so maybe we asked for earlier start times so we could get out of the Rio earlier and try to have a life outside of the Rio. That assumes we can get out exactly when tables break and not have to stay after for up to two hours doing wrap-ups, interview and other post-day items of business.

Afterwards, we can get out, have a couple of drinks at the Hooker Bar or try and find a late night game to play at and then roll into our apartments about 4 a.m. Then we get up at stupid o’clock in the morning just to start all over again. Umm, how about no.

The WSOP is already enough of a grind without having to get up at stupid o’clock every day, so we can go ahead and throw this theory of us influencing start times out of the window. Just don’t throw it out the window at a Caesar’s property. You don’t want to get banned.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.