Blog | Poker Players and Huge Losses

Every week I go to Pokernews and I’m met by yet another article telling me who lost the most money online this week. Normally it’s either Viktor Blomblom_orig_full_sidebar or Gus Hansen. Actually it’s nearly always one of those two. But why do the poker media have such an obsession about who lost the most money?

Poker has always been money-orientated. Even as a student I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked one or more of the following: “Do you win a lot of money?” “Have you lost a lot of money?” “Do you have a lot of money?” *

The real reason for people writing these sorts of articles are because people read them. There are all sorts of people who are genuinely interested and almost entertained by the numbers involved with those who are at the very top of the game, and they will continue to do so from now until forever.

Speaking of which, the numbers involved are astronomical. I’m reminded of a sketch by Eddie Izzard when he talks about mass-murderers, and how that we have no concept of the fact that Hitler killed 20 million people. It’s just unbelievably huge. We can’t quantify it.

“If somebody kills someone, that’s murder, you go to prison. You kill ten people, you go to Texas, they hit you with a brick, that’s what they do. 20 people, you go to a hospital and they look through a small window at you forever. And over that we can’t deal with it. Somebody’s killed 100,000 people, we’re almost going well done!”

It’s the same with poker. You win a $100 in a tournament, and it would appear that drinks are on you. You win $1,000 in a tournament; congratulations you must be thrilled. You win $100,000 in the WSOP ME, and that’s a massive achievement for any poker player. Anything higher than that is, for most of us, simply unfathomable. Just like Eddie Izzard says in the sketch, if someone loses $500,000+ in a week you’re almost saying “Well done! That’s quite an achievement” because in order to lose that much money you must have a heck of a lot more than that.

Perhaps that is what it is about. We aspire to have enough money in order to be able to lose that much money. But that doesn’t really explain why we continue to publish a list of the largest losses in poker that week. I’m not saying that people don’t at the same time report those who have won the most in the week. The Pokerstars Blog runs an excellent series of articles which includes big pots from all limits and forms of poker including play money where the sizes of pots stretch into the billions (even more unfathomable!).

I was always taught that we should reward people’s success. A fantastic quote about journalism, and specifically sports journalism comes from America politician Earl Warren. He said “The front page has nothing but man’s failures. It’s the sports page which records people’s accomplishments. ”

Which sounds better?

  1. Viktor Blom ran his bankroll up so that he was playing at the very highest of stakes available online. He continues to do so, and will probably do so for a very long time.
  2. Viktor Blom lost $600,000 in a few days

Therefore, in order for poker to progress past this money-orientated perspective people perceive it to have, we either need to stop obsessing about the losses of poker players quite so much (I mean how do you think Blom and Hansen feel about their losses being plastered in their face) or start focussing on the skill and achievements of players without focussing on their monetary values.

*The answers to which are a pretty obvious No, Yes and No.