Brian Rast Challenges Sheldon Adelson to $2 Million Poker Wager, Defends Game’s Skill Element
Online- and live-poker pro Brian Rast, widely known under his “tsarrast” handle, has issued a comment-worthy $2 million dollar challenge to Las Vegas Sands CEO and poker-skill dismisser Sheldon Adelson in the wake of the latest comments made by Adelson dismissing the skill elements of poker.
While there’s no chance the venal Adelson will ever accept Rast’s challenge — there’s a good chance his assistants will keep him from even hearing about it — it’s actually just the latest example of “Variation on a Theme.” Despite the latest uproar, it’s not the first time Adelson has denigrated the game, largely in the pursuit of is own financial game. And it’s also far from the first time a well-known poker player has told such a person to put his money where his mouth is.
It makes for good theater. If you want to check on Adelson’s latest slap at poker, Flushdraw’s Dan Katz opined on it yesterday. And, if you want to verify that Adelson remains anti-poker, despite the Venetian still hosting its ongoing Deep Stacks Extravaganza series, here’s some Adelson from 2013. In an interview with Bloomberg, Adelson said this:
“I believe that poker and other forms of gaming, poker particularly, since it’s considered a social activity and not ‘gambling’, per se. Ahh, kids will get up in the middle of the night, if they can’t sleep, or they come online, and they challenge each other to say, “Let’s play some poker. Let’s play some blackjack. They’re going to lose.”
And then, regarding poker, Adelson added this:
“That ‘skill-based’ is, in my opinion, just a bunch of baloney. The cards — to get a card, it’s not skill-based. I know people say it’s skill-based, but it’s just so they can categorize it in a certain category, in a certain segment.”
A skunk never changes its stripe, to allude to a better-known animal saying. As for this latest poker bashing, and Rast’s curious challenge, here’s just part of what the well-known pro posted on Twitter:
Hey Sheldon Adelson, waz up? Poker is a skill game. Don’t believe me? You’re a billionaire, I’m not close. Let’s play HU 4 2 million each.
— Brian Rast (@tsarrast) September 10, 2016
In fact Sheldon my man, I’ll pay you 500$ 2 play 100bb freeze outs for 2mil, so if poker isn’t a skill game u earning and can prove me wrong
— Brian Rast (@tsarrast) September 10, 2016
“Game of skill”: optimizing decisions to create an advantage. Inferior & superior strategies. Can involve luck (gammon/poker) or not (chess)
— Brian Rast (@tsarrast) September 13, 2016
There’s no legitimate debate about who’s correct here; it’s Rast, just as it has been the poker defender every time some stuffed suit or government official makes such claims.
Way back in 2006, one of the four Congressional horsemen of the UIGEA apocalypse, US Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), attacked poker’s supposed lack of skill as one of the reasons online poker should be banned. (Goodlatte helped shove the UIGEA through the US Congress and into law, along with Bill Frist, Jon Kyl and Jim Leach.)
Among those offended at Goodlatte’s hubris and general cluelessness, the late poker author Lou Krieger. Writing on his Keep Flopping Aces blog, Krieger (real name Roger Lubin), challenged Goodlatte. Krieger offered to donate $1,000 to the charity of Goodlatte’s choice if Goodlatte could beat him in a heads-up match, with the proviso being that Goodlatte would stop reintroducing his UIGEA bills and supporting them with his “poker has no skill” mantra.
Goodlatte, of course, never responded.
One could even argue that such mockery of poker’s skill elements and poker players’ willingness to push back dates back, in an official sense, to Billy Baxter‘s celebrated lawsuit against the IRS. In that case, the IRS tried to tax Baxter’s poker winnings as “gambling income,” which was taxed at a much higher rate than earned income. The skill element of poker weighed heavily in the case, which Baxter won, at considerable expense. The IRS threatened to appeal the case all the way to the Supreme Court (which was a bluff, and not a very skillful one), but didn’t. Instead, for three decades, the IRS ha chosen to bottom-deal the rest of the US’s poker-playing public, by simply pretending that the Baxter case doesn’t exist.
The common thread to all of this: Non-experts at poker denigrate the game’s obvious skill factors because it’s financially or politically expedient for them to do so. Nothing more, and nothing less.