No place for Politics on the Poker Table? The PokerStars Ban Controversy!

The Poker World has seen its fair share of controversies and furor in the recent past. From the Ultimate Poker Scandal to Full Tilt Poker’s Black Friday to Daniel Colman’s ‘anti-glorification of poker’ statements after the One Drop Win. And Poker has landed up in another controversy now. This time it is the much anticipated and hyped European Poker Tour(EPT) being held at Casino Barcelona in its 100th Main Event edition which is in the middle of a heated debate. And Daniel Colman has found himself being talked about again. And again not for good reasons.

The EPT Super High Roller Event ran into trouble when the star studded final table saw the two heads up finalists Daniel Colman and ultimate winner Olivier Busquet wearing T-shirts with political messages. While Busquet wore a white Tee with ‘Save Gt-shirt-gate_largeaza’ written on it, Colman’s white tee sported ‘Free Palestine’. Criticism started pouring in on twitter immediately. It was taken in bad taste by most as the players had chosen to take to the live tournament to express their discontent towards the Israel v/s Palestine war and their desire to show support for an end to the war. It specifically didn’t go down too well with the tournament organisers and PokerStars decided to ban this.

“Our tournaments are designed to promote poker and poker competition and not as a platform for political statements,” PokerStars’ Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser wrote in a statement sent to CardPlayer Lifestyle’s Robbie Strazynski who also became the first to kick off this discussion. “Players have many channels to express their views on world politics, but our tournaments are not an appropriate place,” Hollreiser continued. “We will refuse entry to any player displaying political statements of any kind.”

Poker Historian Nolan Dolla came out in defense of Busquet and Colman who are very good friends. Busquet who otherwise dresses very crisply for final tables had chosen to make an exception here, perhaps an intelligent and well thought off decision. But it had stirred a hornets nest and PokerStars didn’t take it happily to use their tournaments to lobby such things.

While this political debate about ‘freedom to express’ one’s political thoughts on the poker tables rages in the blog-sphere, there is much not-so-needed attention now on the clothing of the players. Robin Ylitalo was spotted wearing a ‘Go F$#@ Your Selfie’ Cap and the broadcasters decided not to show in on their TV Coverage. While the Main Event Day 5 is yet to begin but Ylitalo continued to wear the cap and no official had said anything to him. So the debate can go on to extend ‘What is offensive?’, ‘Can the tournament organiser stop a player from wearing something?’ and ‘Is the freedom to expression being suppressed?’.

Debates continue and a lot is being said.

Robin Strazynski’s Article that started the whole controversy can be read here while Nolan Dolla’s reply is here