Does online poker need a collective voice?

Daniel Smyth in Poker News 27 Oct 2014
Does poker need a united front? (

Poker players across the world are often left to defend themselves when things go wrong due to the nature of the industry, but could things be about to change with the introduction of a players' union?

Over the last few years poker players have been forced to develop their own way of righting wrongs through a system of collective vigilance. However, such efforts are often reactionary and only take place on an informal basis, but it seems things could be set to change if a growing call for change gains more momentum. 

Although a formal structure has yet to be proposed, a number of online poker players have called for the formation of a players' union and the latest forum thread to propose the idea was posted late last week in response to PokerStars' decision to alter its exchange rate charges.

Citing a number of recent grievances as reason enough to form a group designed to represent players' needs, 'Spudhead' was keen to see if such an idea would work. Although he remains sceptical, he does think that a union led by a selection of high raking players could generate enough power to successfully lobby the major poker sites. 

A Game for Individuals

poker players union

Although some will argue that operators already take note of the community's views by surveying the biggest forums, the truth of the matter is that very few will directly address specific concerns raised on the community's message-boards. On top of this, many established grinders remain pessimistic about the idea of a poker players' union because the main concern of the average player is their bottom-line. 

Because, poker is an individual pursuit, there's often little concern for the well-being of potential opponents. Numerous instances of multi-accounting and collusion have often been glossed over by the community because it didn't directly affect their fortunes. In fact, it's often the case that despite players working together to expose cheaters (something everyone is extremely adept at doing), the perpetrators often get away with it because no one is willing to follow things up in any meaningful way. 

However, this doesn't mean a body designed to fight for players' rights isn't feasible. As 'Spudhead' notes, a collective voice fronted by high volume players could have some influence on an operator's policies. Of course, it's possible these players will simply be ignored, but if they were able to align themselves with some well-known pros, then things could be different.

A Pact with the Pros

Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu is one player who certainly isn't afraid to tackle issues on the community's behalf. However, if someone with his stature is to work with a union it poses the problem of company loyalty. Negreanu is a long-serving member of PokerStars and wouldn't speak out against the company, but that doesn't necessarily mean he wouldn't be willing to discuss issues with players. In fact, such a relationship could give rise to a three-pronged structure whereby players of note, such as Negreanu, act as mediators between the major operators and a player-led union. 

Another issue for any potential representative body is the group's policies. Professional players will have vastly different values and desires from casual players and this would certainly create tension between members. However, as with any union, democracy would be the order of the day and any campaigns would need to pass a majority vote. 

Could a Players' Union Actually Work?

Yes, but the chances of it succeeding would be slim. Aside from practical issues, the potential power of such an organization would be extremely limited. However, what is clear from the recent discussions online is that poker players are in need of some formal representation. While forum threads give the community a certain level of representation, it's not nearly enough to lobby sites that form undesirable policies. 

Will a Union ever be formed? Probably not. Having said all this, poker players are notoriously apathetic when it comes to anything that distracts them from 3-betting and bluff ranges. However, if discontent continues to spread across the community, then the calls for a collective voice could escalate from a distant din to a deafening battle cry.

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Does online poker need a collective voice?

Poker players across the world are often left to defend themselves when things go wrong due to the nature of the industry, but could things be about to change with the introduction of a players' union?

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