Sunday, December 23, 2007

2+2 Plagiarism Hubbub Gathers Steam

What happens when a major poker publisher discovers that one of its longest-running titles contains a brief passage that seems to have been lifted in its entirety from another early poker treatise? Though the long-ago incident seems to have been done in all innocence, with no ill will or intent involved -- and I truly and sincerely believe that -- it doesn't make certain actions connected with the recent discovery of the accidental plagiarism any easier to accept.

But I digress.

Here's what happened, in case you missed it, and thanks to a prominent reader for the tip. Apparently, in David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth's first seven-card stud book, Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players, there was an example borrowed something like word-for-word from an earlier example by the Chip Reese and Doyle Brunson in the original Super/System book. Here's how one poster put it:

Originally Posted by Bama Gambler
plagiarism? looks like it to me.

From Page 151 where they discuss the play in 7CS where you raise for a free card on 4th where if the card on 5th improves your hand means you will act first. From SS1:

" Suppose you have 10s Js up and the 10c - Qs in the hole. Your opponent started with a King-up and caught a Baby on Fourth St. Now, if you catch a King or an Ace, you'll be high but it won't wreck your play because you'll have a chance to make a straight."

On Page 119 from 7CS4AP published more than 10 years later:

"Another example. You have [ shows pic of (Tc Qs) Ts Js ] and your opponent started with a king up and caught a baby on fourth street. Raise if he bets. Notice that if you catch an ace or a king, you have improved your hand since you now have straight potential"

The immediate response from Malmuth? It read as follows:

Plagerism is a very serious accusation that we don't take to kindly to. SCSFAP was written completely from scratch and we did not look at any other material. If there is an example that is similar this is the first I have known about it.

Also, both versions of this book, the original and the expanded include numerous ideas and concepts that never appeared in print before.

Enjoy your vaction.


The last line, "Enjoy your vaction" [sic] was a reference to the fact that Malmuth banned several of the posters making the accusations, and even, according to other posts, deleted a couple of the threads discussing the matter. 'BamaGambler' was in fact banned for making the post; whether permanently or temporarily is not at all the point.

Is that -any- way at all to act?

Whether or not the cited example was plagiarism isn't even for sure. While the example cited discussed a similar concept as Reese's original and even included the same four specific cards, unlikely coincidences have been known to occur. It could also still be plagiarism --- and yes, that's still the proper word --- of an accidental or subconscious nature, with it being drawn from Malmuth or Sklansky's memories of other texts on the topic.

That part of it is no big deal. It's the deleting of threads and the banning of posters who dared to broach the topic that raises the hackles, and that's why the topic needs mentioning here and elsewhere, outside the 2+2 universe. This is a Generalissimo Franco way of dealing with the accusations, not those of a responsible publisher. Yes, there can be anger and indignation, especially if the one being accused believes himself or herself to be innocent. But striking out like this is magnitudes worse than the original offense, if any indeed occurred. Deeming the people making the posts "troublemakers" as a way of justifying banning them (and that also happened) is kind of like the 'LOL' of the week, if you get my drift.

The one thing you're not likely to read, of course, is the words, "I'm sorry," from either Malmuth or Sklansky. What has already been stated by Malmuth is that he immediately got in touch with his copyright attorneys about the passage in question. The reason "I'm sorry" would never appear, then, is obvious: it would reflect a possible admission that something that might or might not be labeled 'plagiarism' had occurred, and that in turn would open up Sklansky and Malmuth to needing to provide compensation to Brunson and Reese's estate for use of the passage. That might amount to something like 1/300th of the net profits for exactly one title in the formidable 2+2 library, which wouldn't be a whole lot, but 2+2 has always been about the dollar signs first and foremost.

Better to ban first and ask questions later, right? The problem with that is that poker players, by and large, are a smart, independent-minded bunch. Incidents elsewhere in the poker world in recent months should clearly illustrate that imperious, strong-armed tactics seldom work in handling a burgeoning situation.

History repeats itself, doesn't it?

As Harlan Ellison once wrote in a famous short story, "It's easy to be smart, later."

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