The armed robbery at EPT Berlin is probably the biggest story in poker I have had to work on since I became a poker journalist. Don’t get me wrong, from an industry point of view there have been lots of bigger stories within poker – the November Nine, Chris Moneymaker winning the Main Event, the UIGEA and the Superuser Scandal all spring to mind. But in terms of attracting mainstream media coverage worldwide I think this was the biggest during my time in the Industry.
The security of the event has come into question, as you would expect it to whenever something like this happens. I for one wasn’t there, so I will not speculate about how prepared or unprepared the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the EPT were for such an incident, I think my colleagues over at Pokernews.com are in a better position to do that. The one thing this did immediately make me think about, however, was how we poker players often treat large sums of money with quite reckless abandonment.
I am not trying to say anyone who played EPT Berlin was taking a massive risk in doing so, not at all. I just found myself explaining how live poker tournaments and buying in worked to a bunch of non poker playing friends who had caught the news. Although obviously biased by the weekends story, they were quite alarmed by how we often walk around with big sums of money in our pockets and also surprised that something like this didn’t happen much more often.
Poker players live in a unique bubble, especially where money is concerned. Money is not treated like something we use to pay our bills, feed our kids and buy life’s little luxuries, it’s used as a way of keeping score, of determining whether we are winning or losing players. This attitude, although alien to people outside of poker, is correct in the context of the game, because over attachment to money will inhibit a players ability to make profitable decisions at the table.
But that appears to have clouded our judgement towards money in general. As Stuart Rutter put it brilliantly in his recent column, there have been so many times where poker players will have been incredibly vulnerable with large sums of money. Whether that’s waiting in line to pay into a big buy-in tournament, lending money to players you don’t truly know that well, playing self deal games or agreeing to buy a piece of someone in a tournament.
I’m as guilty as anyone of being prepared to do poker transactions without much research, ones that I would never dream of doing in any other realm of life. I’ve bought percentages in people I have never met, swapped stars money for tilt with acquaintances I couldn’t really call proper friends and engaged in the daft prop bet or two. If a mutual acquaintance outside of poker asked to lend money from me I would say 100% no, but if a mutual poker acquaintance wanted $500 Stars for $500 Tilt, I would ask no further questions than their screen name and the city they are from (Thankfully I still say no all the time if a poker player ever asked to borrow money from me).
And I’ve been burned a few times too. I have been grimmed by horses I have staked without doing the appropriate research beforehand and I have done work for poker magazines that promised me riches but who never ever planned on paying me. I have also had several, one successful, attempts on my online poker accounts by key loggers wanting to joyride with my bankroll. As much as I love this game and this industry I have also seen more than its fair share of theft, scams, staking requests gone sour, fly by night poker companies not paying the bills and much worse.
Poker players have a flippant attitude towards money which is why I think that they are the ideal pray for armed robbers or fraudsters. Whether that means the EPT Berlin Robbery was destined to happen I have no idea, but if nothing else we should all use it as a lesson so that it doesn’t happen again. We need to start recognising that poker is a very vulnerable and largely unregulated industry, one which despite this vulnerability most of its participants walk around with such a carefree attitude towards money that would make you think they were in Fort Knox.
We need to start taking more responsibility for our own money, our personal and financial security and the integrity of the game. We need to be much more careful with our money, be much more scrutinous of whom we transact with and insist upon higher standards in the places we play poker. Ultimately the blame for this incident lies with the dangerous men who carried it out, but we can all take steps to make sure things like this it don’t happen again.