Congressman Barney Frank Visited the WSOP Today

Did Not Arrive in Chariot or With Indian Headdress So Received Little Attention

by , Jul 5, 2009 | 2:56 pm

It was no secret. It has been public information since mid-June, and the PPA announced it days ago that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank made plans to visit the WSOP today. First, he took to the floor of the Amazon Room to speak to the Day 1C players and issue the “shuffle up and deal command,” after which he toured the Rio Convention Center to see poker’s bizness and held a press conference at 1pm. You’d think it might be quite an event for those with any interest in the future of the poker industry.

But while the general reception Frank received in the Amazon Room was positive, it also gave an indication of what kind of struggles his efforts face. Beyond having to deal with the self-promotional shenanigans of Phil Hellmuth and all he brings to the table in the name of poker (for better or worse), behind me on the rail were some poker players/fans/bigots who made hateful gay jokes during his entire short-but-semi-important speech.

Nearing the 1pm start of the press conference in the Full Tilt Chris Ferguson suite, there were about 5 reporters present. No kidding. By the time Frank began speaking, there were possibly twice that, excluding PPA representatives and Full Tilt Poker bigwigs. Of the 5-8 media outlets represented, ESPN got their headshot early and left, before the speech had hardly started.

Some of what the disinterested might have missed:

~It is likely that the Obama Administration was not behind the Southern District of New York’s seizure of more than $30 million in online poker site payments, though Frank is pursuing answers and will attempt to clarify the role of the Department of Justice in the actions.

~While Frank’s current proposed legislation (H.R. 2267) may not be heard in committee until September, it is a priority for Frank to push his companion legislation (H.R. 2266) that will delay the implementation of the UIGEA through 2010.

Meanwhile, everyone else was standing outside the Rio waiting for Phil Hellmuth to arrive in a chariot with scantily-clad chicks, then following him down the hall like he was someone important President Obama. After that embarrassment spectacle, I noticed that there was more media interested in interviewing a WSOP player wearing a full-length Indian headdress than were in the Frank press conference.


I just can’t help but wonder if the people who ignored Frank’s presence today will be the same ones asking why the delay in passing pro-poker legislation, or why their online poker funds are frozen, or why they have trouble finding work in the poker industry.

15 Comments to “Congressman Barney Frank Visited the WSOP Today”

  1. DanM

    Just an indication of the obstacles we face. Fuggit. If this is how poker fans respond, you can only expect something similar from the political media and populace in general, I’d think. Long row to hoe.

  2. Johnny Hughes

    Fantastic headline. Great story. Give ’em hell, Jen.

  3. BJ Nemeth

    I understand your frustration, Jen, but surely you didn’t expect a larger turnout. PokerNews, Card Player, and Bluff (the big three in poker media) only needed one person each in order to get the facts and write an article about it. Ignore the number of reporters, which is a poor indicator (Hellmuth’s entrance demanded video and photos) — do you feel that the press conference was ignored by any of the major poker media news outlets? Which ones?

    Hellmuth’s entrance, on the other hand, required multiple photographers, videographers, and others to just witness and write about it. Check the download numbers comparing videos of Hellmuth’s entrance to videos of Barney Frank’s press conference, and I think you’ll see they’re only giving the poker fans what they want.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I wasn’t at either Frank’s press conference or Hellmuth’s entrance, but the only video I watched was from Hellmuth’s entrance. Does that mean I don’t care about the politics that affect poker? I hope not, because I do care.

    By the way, was there any breaking news revealed in the press conference? I read this post, and I didn’t see anything surprising or particularly newsworthy. If Frank had announced his bill and released it to the public for the first time during the WSOP, that would have been a much, *much* bigger deal, and the turnout would have reflected that.

    Ultimately, Barney Frank’s presence at the WSOP today was just a photo op — which makes it no different than Hellmuth’s entrance.

  4. DanM

    I kinda sorta agree with BJ as it pertains to the ESPN camera-guys … they’re there to get a certain shot, for a few seconds of their production. It’s honestly not their job to give a shit about Barney Frank.

    I’m sure CSPAN wonders why it doesn’t get the same numbers as the WSOP on ESPN.

  5. California Jen


    I was there for Bluff and PokerNews represented, but I saw no one there from CardPlayer or PokerListings. None of the major poker outlets were there with video cameras (only Casino City Times), thus there is no video to watch. No wonder you only saw a video of the Hellmuth entrance – there was nothing about Frank to even offer an alternative.

    When people decided that the press conference was not newsworthy, did they somehow know that beforehand? NO. No one knew what he was to discuss, and he was open to questions, which was announced. Anyone had access to the Congressman who is fighting for our rights, and hardly anyone showed up. It wasn’t known until after that there was no breaking news.

    Barney Frank’s appearance was no different than Hellmuth’s?

    What has Hellmuth ever said that has been truly important to the game of poker and its future? As Benjo points out, Hellmuth wouldn’t even respond to the UB cheating scandal when it happened. And yet he still gets all of the press that he desires. Whether you like Frank’s politics or not, he is fighting for the rights of all online poker players in America, and he deserves attention and respect for that, whether he’s saying anything earth-shattering or just telling us the status of the legislation and answering questions about it.

    Shocking, but we definitely disagree on this one, BJ.

  6. SangyFarha

    Whoa, huge miss on the assessment by BJ. The singular importance of Rep. Frank’s speech is that there is no movement within the DOJ in more federal seizures. If anything the actions of the Southern District may be indicative of of a federal DA out of touch with the administration. That is extremely important. Now was that piece of news reported before his appearance in Vegas? I troll all the media outlets for political news and the seizures out of the New York office was never commented on by anyone especially by someone of Mr. Frank’s stature. And if I missed it, then I missed it. But how many people inside the Rio knew of that prior to the speech?
    As to the number of people at the appearance, what i would love to know is whether any of the reporters present tried in any way to further question Rep. Frank’s take on the direction of the administration and DOJ. Or did they just jot down a few notes and run to the Hellmuth free for all? And as for the comment of “…you’ll see they’re only giving the poker fans what they want.” Just about one of the most short sighted comments I’ve read in some time. When UIGEA came into existence millions of sponsorship dollars were lost that effected the entire industry. Now when a senior politician who will directly impact that law speaks, the lack of attention will just be dismissed by a “give them what they want” mea culpa? Wow.
    This is exactly the type of post this site should inject into the poker world on a more regular basis. It offsets the fan boy/ douche bag culture that seems to exist on all poker forums and sites. If I sound like a self-righteous prick then great. On this issue a legion of self-righteous pricks are absolutely necessary.

  7. BJ Nemeth

    Nobody watched Hellmuth’s grand entrance expecting him to *say* anything. It was pure spectacle, and every single person involved (Hellmuth, UB, the media, the fans) knew that ahead of time.

    JEN SAID: “It wasn’t known until after that there was no breaking news.”

    BJ SAYS: No, it was known beforehand. How? Because nothing was leaked about the press conference. Politicians don’t break news when nobody is around. (Unless it’s a scandal.)

    Take Sarah Palin’s recent announcement as an example. She made sure that cameras would be there for her announcement by leaking to reporters that she would not be running for re-election. That was big enough news to get the media to cover her speech. Then she shocked them by going one further and announcing that she was prematurely stepping down from office. But first, she made sure the media was there.

    If Barney Frank was going to announce anything of importance, he and his staff would have made *certain* that the media was there to cover it. They didn’t, because it was a photo op for both sides. He got to show his support for poker and gaming, and they got to show their support for him.

    No, the Obama Administration wasn’t involved when an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York seized online winnings. This qualifies as news? If you asked me on Friday, I could have told you the same thing. None of the mainstream political media bothered with this issue because, to them, it wasn’t an issue — they already knew the answer.

    Yes, if anyone had a question for Congressman Frank, they certainly should have showed up and asked it. But I know enough about politics to know that the questions I really want answers to would not be answered directly. (And I also know enough about politics to know there are damn good reasons for that.)

    The presence of a Congressman at the WSOP is newsworthy, in and of itself, and I’m sure most of the websites covered that, even if only to say that he did the “Shuffle up and deal” announcement. But was his press conference newsworthy beyond that? I don’t think so.

    I’m not arguing that the Hellmuth entrance was newsworthy. Hardly. It would have been far more newsworthy if he quietly showed up at 12:00 noon and took his seat in street clothes, ready to play. But it was definitely media-worthy, as fans want to see how that blowhard Hellmuth would try to top his already over-the-top Main Event entrances from previous years. There’s a reason ESPN shows Hellmuth’s entrance on TV — he’s good for ratings. (And traffic for websites.)

  8. BJ Nemeth

    When I said, “Give the people what they want,” I’m not trying to suggest that news-based poker sites should have ignored Barney Frank. What I’m saying is that they should have covered both, and most of them did. They gave the people what they needed (info from Barney Frank, of which there was little), and a clear idea of the Hellmuth spectacle, using words, images, and video.

    Jen & SangyFarha — In your opinion, how would the poker media have covered the Barney Frank press conference and the Phil Hellmuth arrival to the Main Event? I’m looking for a realistic scenario here, and not a pie-in-the-sky Obama-style press conference with everyone ignoring Hellmuth.

    Barney Frank — Would you want multiple photos posted, or would one suffice? Which sites should have posted videos of the press conference, and in what manner — edited for highlights, or unedited for the full press conference?

    Phil Hellmuth — Would you want fewer photos? Would one photo of Hellmuth on his chariot suffice to tell the story? Would you want fewer videos? No videos?

    It’s also worth considering that, as someone interested in politics, I had no interest in watching a video of Barney Frank — any news coming out of him could be quickly read about in a text-only article. Contrast that with Hellmuth’s entrance, where words alone could never give the full impact of what happened.

  9. California Jen

    What would I prefer? That Phil Hellmuth be completely ignored by ALL media until he can act like a normal human being and get rid of his god-complex. But he puts on a toga and everyone whips out their cameras. That is poker news.

    Obviously, everyone wants poker-politics news in a sound byte or one-paragraph article, so why should I try to argue differently? Give the people what they want and dumb it down so they’re happy and uninformed. *banging head against wall*

    I’ll try to respond more intelligently later when I calm down, though I’m sure most people would prefer to see an actual picture of me banging my head against the wall than spelling out words in paragraph form.

  10. BJ Nemeth

    Who said everyone wants a sound bite when it comes to poker politics? I think there has been a strong level of interest in Barney Frank’s bill, if only judging by the lengthy threads on 2+2 and the entire episode of “The Poker Beat” devoted to it.

    But you can’t keep talking about the bill week after week if nothing happens to either further its progress or slow it down. Why aren’t we talking about the Clonie Gowen lawsuit against Full Tilt? Because nothing has changed since the last news story about it — it’s in a holding pattern. The same goes for Barney Frank’s bill. We aren’t talking about it because at the moment, there’s nothing new to talk about.

    Yes, poker sites could run a refresher story about it, but for most of them, now is not the time. Those are the types of articles you use as filler during a slow week — *not* during the WSOP Main Event! Yet another reason why I think “National Poker Week” has some absurd timing, the week after the Main Event. Either ride the wave of WSOP publicity or get out of the way! The PPA picked the worst possible compromise between the two, if their goal was to get the attention of the poker world. (If their goal was to get the attention of the political world, then designating it “National Poker Week” strikes me as a very amateurish tactic.)

  11. California Jen

    If I understand it correctly, the purpose of National Poker Week is to get everyone on board to call, write, and visit D.C. during one particular week and inundate Congress with pro-poker messages. Those kinds of tactics DO work, especially when everyone is all fired up about the WSOP Main Event that will have just wrapped days before. Timing seems perfect to me.

    If we can’t get a convention center full of poker players excited about pro-poker legislation in Congress, how the hell are we supposed to get the support of the general public and subsequently their members of Congress?

    You’re right that there’s no major news right now. Nothing earth-shattering is happening – certainly nothing as exciting as Phil Hellmuth putting on *another* “I am awesome” stunt. News of late? Hearings on the bill have been pushed back to Sept. Does anyone care why? Poker players seem to be getting their money from online poker sites. Anyone care what happened to the $30 million-plus that was seized?

    I’m going to tell John Pappas to invite Frank – our staunchest supporter in Congress – back wearing a tutu. Maybe that will be newsworthy enough to cover.

  12. SangyFarha

    BJ you write, “No, the Obama Administration wasn’t involved when an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York seized online winnings. This qualifies as news? If you asked me on Friday, I could have told you the same thing. None of the mainstream political media bothered with this issue because, to them, it wasn’t an issue — they already knew the answer.”.

    So how did you know, name your source or are you trying to pass off your assumption as some fact?

    You also write that, “But I know enough about politics to know that the questions I really want answers to would not be answered directly.”.

    So wrong on so many levels. A journalist shows up in this instance in order to fully clarify what Rep. Frank can offer in respect to such answers as what kind of support does he have in number of committee members on his bill, what are the positions of other key politicians such as Harry Reid, or even Bill Frist, what will be the cost to the banking industry in trying to enforce UIGEA, is any federal bailout aid being diverted to pay for such cost, AND if he doesn’t give a direct answer then the story becomes his evasiveness. Why won’t Rep. Frank give a direct answer to a certain line of questioning, a journalist starts to peel the onion, trying to piece together a story.

    I think I also answered your request for a realistic scenario for covering Mr. Frank. Two poker outlets, and one camera crew wouldn’t qualify as coverage even at a Bangor Maine city hall meeting.

    As to the assertion that nothing new is happening in relation to the bill, how can we know that if no one is asking questions.

    You also say, “But you can’t keep talking about the bill week after week if nothing happens to either further its progress or slow it down.”.

    When’s the last time Pokerati posted a story on this legislation? Not since the Spring I believe. As for 2+2, that’s a thread of opinions, not journalism.

  13. DanM

    *** When’s the last time Pokerati posted a story on this legislation? Not since the Spring I believe. ***

    Actually, Sang, just to set the record straight — noticing your post comes 20 minutes after the bars closed in Texas — we last posted about this legislation on:

    June 23
    June 16
    June 10
    June 8
    June 2 …

  14. Poker Shrink

    The out of touch NY attorney was indeed in the press well before yesterday. At least it was in the French poker press when I wrote about it two weeks ago. Not even close to being new news, they (NY) have done this before on other issues under both dem and rep administrations.

    As for the rest of this: Much Ado About Nothing. Except that I had hoped that Jen would gain some perspective on the political activism of the american public, now that she was reached the ripe age of . . .

  15. California Jen

    Shrink, I’ll keep my optimistic perspective…thanks.