Of all the honest, hardworking, skilled poker players who would make a great ambassador and positively promote the game, well, Dan Bilzerian isn’t one of them.
Yet GGPoker decided to sign him up as a sponsored pro on its site.
Bilzerian claims to have won almost all of his fortune (which he estimated at roughly $100 million in 2014) from poker, including winning $50 million in one year. (More likely is that he got most of it from his criminal corporate raider father Paul Bilzerian, who paid just a fraction of the $62 million judgment against him in a securities fraud case.)
There is the argument, presented by Daniel Negreanu, that Bilzerian would attract exactly the type of players poker needs.
This is perilously close to saying the quiet part out loud, but yes it’s true, poker needs to constantly attract new players. Because it needs new losers to pump money into the ecosystem. But the biggest boom to the poker economy will be a return of all 50 states to online poker. To do that, there’s an ongoing battle against lobbyists led by Sands owner and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and future legal decisions arguing about poker being a distinctively skill-based game. Having untrained degens like Bilzerian in the public eye won’t help those efforts.
“I would definitely guess he hurts legalization efforts,” Las Vegas pro Aaron O’Rourke told Deadspin. “Obviously he sucks at poker, but he’s obviously also problematic as a face of your company. There are people who know things who think he’s problematic, but they are greatly outnumbered by people that don’t know anything other than the fact that he’s rich, he’s in good shape, and he has naked [women] around.”
Canadian pro and streamer Vanessa Kade was outspoken on Twitter attacking GG for its decision.
Being an attention whore, narcissist and Portnoy-style Internet bully, “Blitz” wasted no time in attacking Kade, signalling his 1.7 million followers to attack.
East-Coast mixed games crusher Melissa Burr, never shy in attacking poker sites, put GG and Bilzerian on full blast.
“I will find it insulting when people inevitably lump me in with this guy,” she told Deadspin. It absolutely gives poker a bad name when one of their paid ambassadors calls a respected female poker player a ho.
“Poker already struggles to gain any kind of credibility. A publicity stunt like this will force the industry to take five steps back.
“It’s another black eye, and we as a community need to express our disdain for representation like this.”
Others doubted that Blitz will have much of an impact either way.
“I don’t think we have as much control over what attracts new money to this industry as those with influence would have you believe,” said high-stakes pro and SolveForWhy training site leader Matt Berkey.
It must be noted that Bilzerian does not claim to be highly skilled at poker, and no one has ever accused him of being so. And Berkey points out that it is possible Bilzerian has made a fortune at poker despite an unimpressive skill set.
“I promise you, most of the community has no idea who or what billionaires are playing,” Berkey said. “Andy Beal has never ceased to be in action, there are many Chinese billionaires in consistent action as well, playing blinds that are equal to a middle management salary.”
Bilzerian buddy and rich guy Bill Perkins has repeatedly claimed to have seen his massive winning sessions.
Here’s a video of Doug Polk breaking down a session of Bilzerian playing terribly. His closing line kinda sums it up:
“On the internet, he’s a fish in the water.”