Sunday, February 04, 2007

BLUFF Magazine and Poker-Journalism Integrity, Part 2

Thanks for visiting, all. In part one a couple of recent weird Bluff situations were under discussion, those being the sleazy Card Player / Bluff "plagiarism" video, and the dust-up between Daniel Negreanu and Bluff tourney writer Jason Kirk.

Small stuff, both. Now comes the issue that I do have troubles with, despite the fact that Bluff is doing a mea culpa of sorts, which you'll encounter if you read next month's magazine. You remember the Reader's Choice awards that were recently announced? It turns out the real winner of the award for best poker forum was not Pocket Fives, as published, but rather 2+2. Worse, it wasn't just a simple error.

2+2's publishing head, Mason Malmuth, detailed in a recent post how he received an e-mail from Bluff advising about the honor and asking it to be kept confidential until publication. Bluff also sent along some banners to Malmuth and asked for placement on the 2+2 site. Malmuth and Bluff have some previous history --- actually, almost everyone has some previous history with the gregarious and engaging Malmuth --- but the upshot was this: Malmuth told Bluff that if they wanted banner-ad placement, they could buy the ad, just like everybody else.

Bluff's response? They pulled the award from 2+2, and announced the winner as Pocket Fives instead. Now, this wasn't some internal made-up award, the likes of which have been given away in exchange for sweet-deal advertising or cobbled up out of thin air for the sake of self-promotion since, in print terms, the beginning of time. The problem here is that the award was generated by an official reader survey, a whole 'nuther can of worms.

Well, Malmuth's not the type to let something like Bluff's shenanigans pass without being exposed, which makes one wonder exactly why Bluff would try such a thing. Because it unfolded in a very predictable manner. Enter Veteran 2+2 poster Nat Arem, the founder of tourney database Arem sold his company to Bluff recently, acquiring an equity stake in return, and after his initial shock, he was able to verify that Malmuth's claims were indeed true. Bluff then trotted out a low-level vote counter to apologize for the "error" in tabulating votes, but that clearly didn't pass the smell test, since the 2+2 award had already been announced behind the scenes. Anyhow, Arem stepped forward to affirm that such shenanigans will not happen in the future --- they never should have happened the first time, of course --- and that he would try to be involved in the oversight of next year's process himself.

Ick. Just plain ol' ick. Poker journalism isn't shoddy enough without this type of debasement, is it?

Now, Bluff gives all indications of having problems maintaining their previous ad-revenue stream, which included the hilarious but very brief appearance of a poker bot program in Bluff's main-page ad-banner rotation. That one seems to have been yanked within hours of its first appearance a month or two back, showing that there is at least a baseline for Bluff's expected behavior. Chalk that one up to a idiot salesperson. Nonetheless, I share with you the video proof, so you know it's not an empty claim:

Funny stuff.

Still, the 2+2 hijinks are a sad episode. For what it's worth, the printed retraction and re-awarding of the proper honor will appear in next month's issue, the one following the Jennifer Harman mag currently on the stands.

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