29 November 2006

Panorama Puritans

Never mind 'Auntie', the BBC should be nicknamed 'Nanny' (or perhaps the less cuddly 'Authoritarian Socialists') after broadcasting this tripe. The Panorama program that I am referring too was 'investigating' the world of online gambling. Now there was so much bias, underhand implicating and misinformation going on it would be hard to describe it all in one blog post, but I shall try and give you a flavour. My specific problem was with the handling of poker, although the more general stance of the program makers was clearly at odds with any kind of libertarian or even generally liberal attitude to the law.
First online poker was described in it's basic workings, along with some examples of the people who make money playing as a living and those with enough business acumen to take advantage of the potential of online poker. Then suddenly these were juxtaposed with a woman who had gambled away thousands of pounds of other people's money on the horses. Now clearly we are supposed to infer that this is the 'dark side' of online gambling, which it could arguably be, but what it is clearly not is the 'dark side' of poker. Whatever else one may think of gambling, the particular game of poker has a certain degree of skill, otherwise there could be no consistent winners.* Incidentally, even this biased broadcast left you with no doubt that there were winning poker players, so how it could brazenly equate that with the fleeting luck of a not-too-bright woman betting on the gee-gees, then losing it all, is beyond me. Horse race betting is specifically tailored to make sure bookies come out ahead; poker is a game between players who are on a level playing field. The house does not take players bets directly; it merely charges them to play at their tables, a perfectly equitable arrangement.
The other point that particularly grated was the way the program portrayed The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (the USA passed recently) as some sort of pure moral crusade against 'evil' poker. If that were really true why are fantasy sports and horse racing exempt?
Finally the program went into overdrive to hammer home how terrible online poker was. This was done by the presenter telling his resident poker pro to play way above his bankroll (i.e. to play at tables where he could wager all the money he had on one had), predictably enough he lost it all. If the program had really been interested in helping people avoid trouble would it not have been sensible to at least mention bankroll management in passing? In fact I am almost as annoyed at the poker pro for not pointing out that this is nothing like how he plays poker, but then he was probably having a laugh at the earnest presenter's expense.
To the BBC, you stop thieving my money, I might just listen to your advice on what to do with my earnings, although considering this effort, I doubt it.
*It is theoretically possible that winning poker players are simply statistical anomalies, but I would be willing to make bet (somewhat ironically) that their number, consistency and success rate makes it highly improbable that their winning is pure luck.

17 November 2006

RIP Milton Friedman

A great man who clearly changed the world for the better. To my mind he did not quite go far enough in his pursuit of freedom, but if the world now turns to the ideas of his sons, Milton will have done another great service to humanity from beyond the veil.

My sincere condolences to David and Patri for their great personal loss.