Kevin Mathers was backed for a World Series of Poker Main Event seat. This $10,000 entry fee came from backers and was the idea of Daniel Alaei. Many successful poker players ended up staking Mathers in his quest for a Main Event bracelet. He ended up busting.
Earl Burton took issue with Mathers receiving backing for the Main Event. His position is that Mathers’ job with Bluff Magazine might affect how he covers events involving players that staked him. Bluff had no problem with this and granted him permission to accept the staking agreement, one that was not solicited by Mathers.
The issue of bias in media is important. It does not apply in this situation.
Kevin Mathers’ Position at Bluff
Mathers’ title at Bluff is Manager of Poker Information, according to Bluff’s website and a Linkedin profile. A deep search into Bluff.com reveals that Mathers is not listed an author. His duties consist of compiling information for the results database of live events. He reaches out to poker rooms to find out results to make sure Bluff’s database is current. He also tracks schedules for upcoming events.
One of his more recent assignments is a segment called Stump the Kevmath. This is a poker trivia YouTube series where Mathers’ ability to answer poker trivia is challenged. According to Bluff, he has not been a floor reporter at the WSOP since 2011.
In other words, journalism is not an accurate word to describe his job duties at Bluff.
A Staple in the Poker Twitterverse and 2+2
The service Mathers provides to the poker community goes far beyond the information and entertainment he provides to Bluff. His personal Twitter account @Kevmath is a wealth of information. There are 22,300 followers that agree. This is the most of any individual poker media account that I can locate.
The @Kevmath account has tweeted 55,600 times since May 2008, the date he joined. That is about 25 tweets per day. Unlike most accounts that tweet that much, Mathers does not fill up his feed with crap. The tweets generally fall under two categories. One is important live poker tournament information. The other tweets tend to be replies to player questions.
Players constantly reach out to the @Kevmath account for live tournament help. Questions include start times, seating assignments, and bust outs. Mathers often has this information before players even start to ask and tweets links to the poker room’s website. Players have come to depend on him to supply up-to-date information and he never lets them down. Player questions often receive responses in minutes.
It would not be a surprise if most of these players did not know where he was employed since his tweets do not often contain links to Bluff.com. He is not shy about posting links to other sites or retweeting relevant information, even if it is to a site that competes with Bluff.
It is clear from watching Mather’s Twitter feed that he is an encyclopedia of poker knowledge. It might be impossible to find someone that knows more about the live poker side of the business than Mathers.
Twitter is not the only place he helps out. He joined Two Plus Two in 2002 where he has been a moderator of New, Views, and Gossip. This is the most difficult forum to moderate. I can attest to this as I was once a moderator at Two Plus Two and saw what went into the moderation of that extremely busy forum.
The service Mathers provides the industry is why players were quick to stake him. Having someone like him in the industry is important. It keeps players engaged and shows that there are some good guys in the poker world. It also gives players a gateway to behind-the-scenes access and perspective at major events.
No Conflict of Interest Concerns with Mathers’ Stake
Burton’s issue was that this gift might influence decision making. Considering Mathers’ position at Bluff, this seems impossible. Sure, I understand if an editor or columnist is accepting this stake, but what is the concern here? That he may falsely post one of his stakers as a winner in an event? Post fake chip counts? The insinuation is absurd.
All of the work I have seen from Mathers at Bluff is fact-based. If he were making up information then it would be quickly discovered.
Accepting a token of appreciation from successful players for all of his hard work in the industry is not going to affect his job performance. He is one of the most straightforward people in poker media and from what I see never shows favoritism or negativity about anyone.
It also needs to be considered that this was a stake, not a cash gift. The people that provided the buy-in had an expectation to be compensated if Mathers made the money. This is no different than arrangements made by thousands of other people at the World Series of Poker.
The backers were cheering for him, but it is hard to imagine they were counting on booking a win. Even if Mathers had a positive expectation in that field, it was with massive variance. I suspect Mathers was far more crushed that he busting out before cashing than any of his backers.
The column in question was one of the most controversial editorials written in a while. The point that accepting a Main Event stake might create bias was answered right here when he tweeted a link to the article that basically shredded him and accused him of being unethical:
— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) July 8, 2014
There were dozens of responses. Most showed support for Mathers. Those that did not took a middle of the road approach. Here is a small sample:
— Gavin Smith (@olegsmith) July 9, 2014
— Amy Calistri (@amy_calistri) July 9, 2014
The last one is a very good point. Most revenue from poker news sites comes from advertising deals made with poker rooms. If there was going to be bias, and it is fair that say there is some of that in the poker industry, the thought of where a paycheck originates would affect the editorial process far more than participating in a poker tournament with backers.
I am happy that Kevin Mathers got to experience playing in the World Series of Poker Main Event. It is something most players dream about and he got to experience it. The fact that he has a job in the industry should not stop him from being able to accept a stake that is available to virtually every other player in the field.
This should have been a feel good story, a positive one, in an industry full of scandals. A group of players helped someone that gives his life to better the game of poker accomplish their dream. It is unfortunate that a writer had to try to take that positive moment in someone’s life away.