Mark-up Police

There's been a lot of back and forth in the social media sphere with people discussing mark-up in the poker world. I have an opinion about this, but for a while decided to pass on sharing it as it just seemed like one of those negative free-roll type spots. I just changed my mind, and hence this little blog post.

My opinion is that it's a free market, and people should be able to charge what they want and can get. Let me get in to the details, because that's really where the reasons lay.

Before getting in to the argument, I want to differentiate between "markup police" and giving an opinion. Giving an opinion is something everyone does, something I'm "guilty" of doing about politics and other things at various times, whether at my WSOP speech or on twitter. There is some similarity, sure, but I think there's a difference. There's a difference between sharing one's opinion on an issue and publicly calling people out for being unethical because they post a markup which may or may not be -EV for others - that the player/poster may or may not even believe is -EV for others. Similarly, I think people are entitled to post an opinion that they believe a certain markup is a good deal or others are a bad deal. Just as you could do so on about politics, or a youtube video, or whatever. But going so far as to publicly shame someone as unethical because they post a particular markup and then tell others not to buy it - is too far. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. But to think your opinion is not only correct, but so likely correct AND important that you are entitled to publicly shame someone in a way that borders on defamation is where the problem lies.

Now let me expand on the 3 main reasons why that is.

The first problem with people criticizing other people's markup is proper discernibility of EV. The arrogance of people to assume that they actually know what someone's EV in an event is interesting and of course mostly incorrect. In order to have a good idea about another player's skill level and thus EV, you generally need to play a lot with that player (which already fails for the markup police in 95%+ of the cases). And that might not even be enough as that can change over not that long a time if that player works hard studying away from the felt and improves (or takes a bunch of time off, in a rough place in life, and gets worse). And generally someone has to already be a very good player in order to accurately assess someone else's EV in an event. It's very infrequent that someone actually hits all these criteria and is in a place to accurately assess what another player's EV is... and even in those cases, it's still difficult because there is a lot of variation in field strength in tournaments that affects the EV a lot. So, in summation I find it extremely arrogant and wrong that people seem to think they know what the EV of other people are and therefore can even make an accurate judgement on the situation.

The second problem for me is a more theoretical one concerning the nature of markets. I just don't believe that there should be interference in a market unless there is a very good reason. To me, protecting someone from paying mark-up that might not be +EV for them is not a good enough reason. All the time in the world, people pay too much for things. Sometimes people even do this because they want to - because over-paying for something is worth it to them. In the poker mark-up world, there are a lot of reasons why someone might be fine being a mark-up "fish" and overpaying for a piece based on fair mark-up. I don't think I need to expand on this and list all the reasons this might be the case.

If you were watching a poker game, and saw someone make a play that was -EV. Would you interrupt the hand in order to tell the table that the play was -EV? Would you wait until after the hand to tell the table? If you saw a player gambling it up, being a "fish", maybe because they just like playing a lot of hands (or maybe bc they don't know any better), would you berate them for it at the table? Well, even if you answer no, the truth is way too many people do this because they can't help themselves. Through personal insecurity, they need to show that they are a good player or put someone else down, and do something along these lines. To me, the mark-up thing is a pretty good analogy for this. Even if you are pretty certain that a mark-up isn't a fair one, why is it your business to call someone out publicly for this? To shame people that might just want to buy a piece of that player for a plethora of reasons other than the EV? To arrogantly assume that you know what the true mark-up of that player in any event is?

The third argument is that I think this type of behavior is objectively bad for the poker community on the whole. If someone is actually -EV, and the markup police correctly identify that, and then call them out, etc... (already a parley in and of itself) then even though the investors are making a bad investment, it's good for the poker community as a whole if that person stays in action and continues playing tournaments. Again like the analogy from the previous paragraph, this is "fish" shaming - something insecure assholes already do way to much at the poker table... and this is basically an extension of that (assuming that the markup police are even correct in their assessment, which again is NOT a given). Additionally, this type of public shaming will discourage people from posting markups and thus likely lower the amount of people entering events as less people will play events they don't want to post all the $$ for themselves. So even if markup police correctly save a few bad investments I think it's pretty clear they aren't doing the poker community on the whole a service in any way. Although of course these self-righteous tamperers think they are, they are wrong.

Now, in cases where someone is being deceptive in the marketing of their markup, I would agree that some assistance is warranted. For example, someone lies about the amount of rake being paid, about the field, is selling more than 100% of themselves, or is otherwise obviously deceiving the people who they are selling to about the details of the event they are playing. But, if there is no deception involved, I don't see why people can't charge whatever markup and then let the free market determine the results.

I find this type of public shaming through an over-sized weight given to one's own opinion to be pretty standard today - at least here in America - unfortunately, but the fact that "markup police" then feel justified in calling people out as unethical - essentially telling the poker world that this person is a bad player and furthermore a bad person, ethically speaking. It's not only unnecessary but often times cruel. It's just general assholery that is disguised as public vigilance. I still don't know why people waste their time and energy in this type of "public service" that isn't a public service at all. All the time it goes way too far.

Again, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But to think your opinion is not only correct, but so likely correct AND important that you are entitled to publicly shame someone in a way that borders on defamation is where the problem lies.

Case in point is what happened to Allen Kessler, that became a big social media argument between multiple people. The way Kessler was shamed in a way that bordered on defamation, both personal and professional, for selling at reasonable markups (1.05 & 1.2) was absolutely disgraceful and a clear example of why this type of thing should be avoided. It's a giant waste of everyone's time and accomplishes nothing other than making a lot of people look like assholes. The markup police could only criticize Kessler's package if they are making the assumption that he's a losing player. If him or someone in the same situation is a losing player, than objectively they are shaming him and discouraging him from entering events - Which is bad for the poker community as a whole. If he isn't a losing player then not only are they doing all the aforementioned bad things, then they are also wrong and being an asshole incorrectly.

Either way it's shameful wrong behavior that is 1) arrogant, 2) theoretically incorrect, 3) bad for the poker community either way, 4) and just general assholery.

Again, this isn't to say that noone should say anything ever. Of course deception, theft, and malicious behavior should be prevented by people communicating. That's part of a healthy public discourse. I just don't think the markup police falls in that category.

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Las Vegas, Nevada

brianrast@brianrast.com

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