BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: MAY 18, 2010
Banning Sunglasses in Poker: A Solution in Search of a Problem
If something within the rules of poker gave you an edge at the table, would you take advantage of it? I sense many of you are nodding your heads up and down, saying: “Sure, why not?”
It’s no wonder, then, that when Daniel Negreanu, possibly the game’s most popular player, recently proposed that wearing sunglasses be banned from live poker, the outcry was blinding.
Negreanu, who in the past decade amassed $12.5 million in tournament winnings and four World Series bracelets while NOT using sunglasses, believes that players wearing shades have an edge over those who don’t.
In his blog last week, he listed several reasons why his proposal to ban sunglasses from competitive poker has merit:
– Sunglasses make it easier to see marked cards, which facilitates cheating.
– Live poker is a human game, with an important skill set being the ability to read your opponents.
– Banning sunglasses on televised poker would uncover players’ emotions and create more compelling footage.
– Hiding your eyes is an advantage, so banning sunglasses would level the playing field.
“I don’t expect a sweeping rule change for all poker events to ban the use of sunglasses, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with creating a show, or poker tournament, with the explicit rule that sunglasses are not permitted,” Negreanu wrote.
The poker superstar’s opinion lit up poker forums and blog comment sections on the Internet. Most posters strongly opposed Negreanu’s idea, suggesting, among other things, that such a ban would put poker on a “slippery slope” of ever-increasing rules that would suck the life out of the game.
It already may be too late for that.
Rules for the World Series of Poker — the game’s most prestigious event — fill page after page, citing tons of things you can’t do during a tournament. The list ranges from all forms of cheating and use of foul language to bans on extended theatrics, excessive chatter and
And yes, the WSOP mentions sunglasses in a new rule for this year’s event, which begins its string of 57 tournaments on May 28. Shades aren’t banned completely, but the rule specifies:
“Players may not cover or conceal their facial identity. Tournament officials must be able to distinguish the identity of each player at all times and may instruct players to remove any material that inhibits their identification or is a distraction to other players or tournament officials. Players may wear sunglasses and sweat shirts with hoods, but may be asked to remove them if they cannot be identified by tournament officials.”
Violating any specific WSOP rule or engaging “in any act” deemed to compromise the tournament’s “competitive integrity” carries stiff penalties, including: Forfeiture of chips and prize money, ejection from the tournament, and a ban from future WSOP events.
When poker’s popularity exploded about seven years ago, much of the attraction was because of the game’s unique characters – who can forget Greg Raymer’s lizard sunglasses or Sammy Farha’s charming smile and dangling cigarette? — and because of poker’s sublime unpredictable blend of skill and luck.
Ironically, when the masses flocked to poker it created the need for more control. “Colorful” characters who drank and cussed and generally disrupted the game would not be tolerated by the millions of new players who wanted a safe, fair and competitive experience.
Tournament officials everywhere had to take steps to assure that order prevailed over chaos. It’s hard to argue with that decision, but a ban on sunglasses would be overkill.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 RUSS SCOTT
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