Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Dropped from PokerStars

Last week I travelled to Spain to play the UKIPT / Estrellas Poker Tour Marbella as a member of Team PokerStars Online.

During the UKIPT Marbella there was a screening of the Spain v Holland match of World Cup 2014 at the hotel with unlimited free drinks for everyone.

I went there to support Holland, even knowing that would make me Mr Unpopular with a 95% Spanish crowd there.

I didn't do that just to "troll the locals" as some have suggested. The Dutch are my 'second team'. You'll find that every Scottish person has a 'second team', as a result our own team being less than world class and failing to qualify for major championships.

I've been a Holland fan since I was a kid when legendary Dutch coach Dick Advocaat came to manage my team, Rangers, bringing with him some excellent Dutch players such as Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Ronald de Boer, Michael Mols and Fernando Ricksen.

During the last World Cup 2010 in South Africa I was there supporting them.

And we all know what happened in 2010. Spain defeated Holland in the final.

Roll forward four years and the chance for revenge presented itself in the first match of Group B, Spain v Holland. I was really excited for this match and watching a massively important football match with a large crowd is the next best thing to being in the stadium. It's all about the atmosphere.

So Spain went 1-0 up and all the Spaniards went wild, while the rest of us had to sit and take it. Sigh, I had already busted the main event of the pokers at the start of Day 2 earlier in the day and it looked like I wasn't going to have any joy with the football either.

Then Robin van Persie scored an incredible equalizer with a diving header and it was our turn to go crazy. And this is what got me in trouble. Not the fact that I was screaming or jumping up and down but that during the celebration I was doing the "get it round ye" gesture (like "get it up ye" but from the side) that is very commonly used in Scotland to mean "take that!" when inflicting defeat on an opponent at any type of game.

Play pool or darts or go to any football game and you'll see that gesture used between friends and rivals. I didn't have my middle finger up, or two fingers up, or any fingers up. My fist was closed the whole time. I wasn't saying "fuck you" and making a 'fuck you' gesture, I was saying "get it round ye" and getting it right round them with the 'get it round ye' gesture.

While I admit that this isn't exactly a polite gesture it's incredibly normal for a football match and all I was trying to do was have some fun and banter with the opposing fans. I was smiling and not acting aggressive, not trying to offend anyone. How anyone can feel offended by someone waving their fist is beyond me. Have these people ever actually gone to a competitive football match before?

I managed to get a copy of the video from PokerStars so I've uploaded it for all to see:

Not exactly my finest moment, looking back at it in the cold light of day. Considering that I am, sorry was, a PokerStars sponsored player and it was a PokerStars event I should have known that I'd be held to a way higher standard than anyone else. But I was in the moment, immersed in a fantastic game of football, and acted just as I would have if I was in the stadium.

Like I say, I wasn't trying to offend anyone, just have some standard football banter with lads from the rival side. It's not tennis or golf, I'm not going to politely clap or tip my cap. It's football and I'm a passionate football fan.

Everyone was drunk off the free drink and it was a good friendly atmosphere right up until the equalizing goal. The Spanish fans were basically friendly up to the point where they stopped winning, then they weren't so friendly any more.

Holland then went 2-1 and then 3-1 up and realising that I overdid it for the first goal I just held my hands in the air and cheered.

Then Spain scored another "goal" and 20 Spanish football hooligans suddenly got out their seats and charged towards me at full speed. A big hairy one that looked like Bluto pressed his chest against my chest almost knocking me over and then butted heads with me. I pulled back and kept repeating "don't touch me, don't touch me". I'm all for banter but what these guys did was try to escalate it into physical violence. I was fortunate there was security there to send them back to their seats.

Where is the video of this incident????????

The fat Bluto guy even had the cheek to start complaining to the Spanish PokerStars tour manager about me right after he did that. As if what he just did wasn't 100x worse?

When the hooligans all sat down they realised that the goal they celebrated so emphatically was disallowed. A lot of faces as red as their shirts. Oops.

The embarrassment must have put them on complete monkey tilt as my phone started buzzing with twitter notifications. They were all sitting in their seats, threatening me with violence and giving me personal insults from their phones. So utterly lame.

They just took it way too far. All I did was celebrate a goal. I hadn't done anything else after what was shown in the video. Even though I stopped celebrating, they didn't stop sending me abuse.

The next night we had another big screen showing for the England game. There were tables of English supporters next to tables full of Scots and Irish, all calling each other c***'s and the same gesture I used was used 100 times by dozens of people, and it was all fun and games.

England got beat and the "Scottish Bastards" and the "English C***s" all went into town together after the match and had a great time. You see, in the UK we don't take ourselves too seriously and we certainly don't go crying because we lost a game of football and someone waved his fist at us.

For the rest of the week I was still receiving threats and insults through social media but did my best to enjoy the rest of the trip, enjoy Spain and remember that all Spaniards aren't like those keyboard hooligans.

I had a long journey back to Thailand at the end of the week and had completed 2/3 flights when I got an email on my phone.

With half an hour before an 11-hour flight from London to Bangkok I didn't want to spend the whole flight worrying and wondering so got on Skype as quickly as I could.

They didn't even want to discuss the incident with me. They'd already discussed it between themselves and decided what to do about it.

[17/06/2014 20:51:44] Chris J: ok
[17/06/2014 20:51:48] Chris J: well, sorry to ruin your flight
[17/06/2014 20:52:00] Chris J: but i've had a lot of complaints on this video
[17/06/2014 20:52:12] Dale: Is the video public?
[17/06/2014 20:52:21] Chris J: no, internal complaints
[17/06/2014 20:52:31] Dale: Can I see it?
[17/06/2014 20:52:38] Chris J: sure will forward it now
[17/06/2014 20:53:20] Chris J: bottom line is, it's the strong opinion here that this is not acceptable for a brand ambassador
[17/06/2014 18:54:49] Chris J: we're terminating the contract
[17/06/2014 18:54:55] Chris J: i am sad about it, you've been a key part of the team
[17/06/2014 18:55:10] Chris J: but the view here is that's just not excusable from someone representing the company

So it was not the most enjoyable 11 hour flight I've ever had. I still had 6 and a half months left on my contract and had planned my life according to that.

I feel that this is a massive overreaction by PokerStars. I accept that I deserve a yellow card but a straight red? For getting it round some Spanish fans during a goal celebrations? Seriously?

Some local fans get butt-hurt for a few seconds and I have to put up with a week of cyber-bullying and then top it off with having my livelihood taken away from me with no notice. It's just not just, especially not after spending the last 4 years of my life promoting the PokerStars brand. How can 10 seconds of madness cancel out 4 years of loyal and dedicated service?

It wasn't even poker related. I've never berated a player and have chatted it up and been friendly to hundreds of PokerStars players when playing their tournaments. But go a bit too crazy during the world cup and I'm told to GTFO..


  1. Wow. Your celebration did not even call for you to get a red card or yellow for that matter. It was more to the likes of the ref blowing a whistle and awarding the opposition a free kick.
    I'm truly sad to hear what happened and I'm glad that I can not play online here in the states. Good thing I live close by to many casinos. I am sure you will bounce back. Keep blogging and tweeting because I really find your posts interesting and entertaining.

  2. Can't really support this decision. I agree that you were a bit out of line to be at a representative for a company, but that's a bit harsh. You could release a statement of apology and I would think it's done. Also, I would be extremely surprised if most of the backlash was from sober non-Spanish fans. What happened was just the reaction to your action, and if X > Y, then I can see Stars taking issue with it, but the decision does seem premature; unless X >>>>>>> Y. That's pretty difficult to justify. Maybe it has some to do with Amaya and a little bit of downsizing to focus on US play or another agenda? Maybe they felt you had done your job giving them customers as best as possible and X truly is that much greater than Y? Who knows man. Seems like a combination of 1 part live and learn and 100 parts unlucky. Sorry man. I feel for ya.

  3. Whole story is more of a joke than anything. Clear failure by PokerStars and I'm very sorry that you've lost your sponsorship. But look at the bright side, you're not bound to your contract any more and are free to sign for a new sponsorship with an operator that is more open minded.

    Good luck!

  4. When I first heard about this, my initial reaction was that it probably wasn't the cleverest thing to do, celebrating a goal against the Spanish in front of the Spanish, as a Stars pro, but that the reaction of Stars seemed a bit harsh.

    Having now seen the Vid and learning that you genuinely do support the Dutch and not just trying to wind them up for comedy,, I am honestly pretty incensed by the actions of Stars and the Spanish idiots that abused you both on twitter and face to face.
    I was watching the vid waiting for when you actually did something bad, and it never came! This is just a standard goal celebration for the team you support at a world cup. If Stars are going to put on a free bar with a big football match like this, then they are going to have to accept that there will be celebrations on both sides plus a lot of unhappy people form the losing side.

    Personally I think this is an absolutely terrible decision by Stars and If you ask me, I'd say that they have had some memos over costcutting with instructions to take advantage of any tiny situation that they can to lose some people off the payroll, so you may have just been unlucky and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    anyway best of luck with the future, sure you'll be fine pokerwise anyway and I guess now you don't have to worry about what you say and how you act.

  5. Spaniards are known sour losers. To be honest I m not surprised to this situation caused by them. Pokerstars should not be implicated in this. It is non of there business plus you were not wearing you PSO team logo at this time. You were on personal time, It like if you were home and PS didnt like the way you dress up to play your home game. NON OF THERE BUSINESS !!!! I m railing for you !!! To Be Honest your contract sucked, Your not loosing much except the prestige of being with PS and at this point is it realy prestigious... GL Dale !!!!!

  6. I think there is some cultural missunderstanding here. As you said in your country is pretty common to celebrate in that way and it is not offensive. But for me it looked like a "fuck you" dance, I am peruvian and probably spanish people would have the same impression.

    As an example I was once in Brazil in a college presentation where I did some kind of explanation gesture with my hands that there actually meant to have sex lol.

    Sorry about you maybe thats something you could explain.. GL

    Diego Ventura

    1. Hi Die Ventura and others,

      I'm from Spain and the images i watched i guess can create trouble in Spain. It looks like you are saying fuck you fuck you. I´m really sorry about what happened later, those people are just crazy for football.

      I don´t know what´s on your contract, but i guess you have to be polite when you are with a ps shirt. At the same time, i can´t understand how someone who likes to travel around can do this in a country he doesn´t know at all.

      i got fired from company in 2007, nothing happens. haha

  7. Los españoles son una puta mierda...

  8. Thats laughable from Stars! Seriously, its called having fun.

    Sorry about the contract, but welcome back to paying your way with the rest of us!

  9. WOW... I read your tweets about the incident as well as the angry responses by many Spanish fans but was waiting to get the whole story before I jump to conclusions. While I do believe you overreacted, the fact that I see you smiling and laughing the whole time makes it clear you had no intention of insulting anyone.

    I have seen Pokerstars players and even commentators say or do much worse and offensive things with no "ramifications".

    This is totally unfair and has more to do with PR than with you and the actual hand gesture. I think Pokerstars should reconsider. It would be a shame for them to lose such a great asset because of that.

  10. Very unhappy to hear about this Dale, I've emailed PokerStars in support of you as a PokerStars ambassador, I'd encourage anyone else who's had dealings with Dale, enjoys reading his blog & hearing about his trips etc. to do the same. The punishment here was completely out of proportion with your actions, hopefully there can be a good resolution here.

  11. If you go to India and you kill a cow try to explain them that in your country is a very normal thing....As a PS teamplayer you should have known that every country has its own culture so you have to be more carefull with those things when you are away from home....And if you do something wrong and you didn´t know a quick apologize could save you. But trying to excuse yourself again and again is not a good option.

  12. If you were Liv Boeree, Daniel Negreanu or Jason Mercier, Pokerstars wouldn't have banished you.

    I'm very disappointed Pokerstars ditched you, especially since they are riding the back of the World Cup during their current promotion and should realize that people are extremely fanatical when it comes to soccer. I've seen (and done) much worse at MLS soccer matches.

    If you actually gave them the middle finger, then I get the banishment. But you didn't, and now I'll reconsider if I want to play on a poker site that doesn't allow their pros to be them self and express them self in a non-profane manner.

  13. Hi Dale,im a big fan of you...and this Pokerstars action is a joke portuguese and former england worker i saw a lot of celebrations in english pubs between them and scotish fans and at the end all finish in a lots of guiness pints ...kid regards

  14. Fuck those dirty fucking spanish, what a bunch of bitches complaining to Stars to get you fired...

    Fuck pokerstars.

  15. Dale, decision was poor. Always thought you were a good ambassador for Stars and to sack you for a minor infraction during a heated footy game is ridiculous. Feel for you. Decision made by someone with no concept of the passion generated during a football world cup.

  16. In France, the move you made with your arm basically means "fuck you" so I can understand why the crowd might have been offended by that if the meaning is the same. Stars' décision is still too harsh, they don't consider the cultural differences in this matter at all, they might have had an ulterior agenda (Amaya ordering them to cut some costs ?).

  17. Sorry to hear it Dale. Definitely harsh but all things happen for a reason and it probably tells us more about them than you

    Just watched it and I was waiting for you to pull a mooney or do something really disgusting but it was normal. Goes to show with people filming everything now you have to act like you're a robot if you're in the public eye

  18. I have never done this ever where i defend someone i have never met but i hope pokerstars and whoever Chris J is on stars realize you guys made a big mistake letting him go. I follow him on twitter cause he responds regularly and he interacts with fans.
    His actions in my opinion and probably many others are not anywhere near the actions that some of your other "professionals" do on live tv. for example Vanessa selbst (see Robert Varkonyi, Eric Buchman, Kevin Macphee).
    Funny you guys do nothing in that instance

    Not only that you guys didn't take into account that soccer celebrations and games generally do get a bit Rowdy and this is probably quite mild compared to what it normally is. On top of that you guys failed to consider the threats Dale probably got in retaliation to this. (and yes people get threatened all the time due to this type of behavior in a Soccer game) So congrats, you fired a loyal person and that loyal person probably had his life threatened too. Job well done!

    I am very disappointed in whoever Chris J is, and the rest of the pokerstars management for even thinking this was a necessary step as opposed to a quiet conversation with dale saying "hi dale.. we received some negative feedback about this.. lets try to tone it down a bit so we can avoid this in the future"

    Quite upsetting guys, you got a lot of "internal complaints"
    so you got internal complaints about this? Do you still get those same complaints when someone like Vanessa Selbst can constantly berate people on national TV and get away with it?
    I really hope you are enjoying the "external backlash" that you are receiving and rightfully deserve for this horrible decision


    One Quite upset customer.

  19. I always thought you were a great Pokerstars rep and I hope that you keep up blogging and tweeting.

    I think Pokerstars could have handled this way better. The situation I does not come close to the punishment. They should have given you the opportunity to apologize for unintentionally offending players.

    You prob have a fair case against them. They knew your personality when they made you a pro. In fact that is why they made you a pro. Cutting your contract short for being that person is insane. Get advice once you get the termination papers. Also, telling you on chat is disgusting, that should have been a call to say the least. As well as the email making it seem like you guys were going to figure out what to do together. I don't even know you and the the way you are being treated pisses me off.

    Also how jealous of a person do you have to be to try to get someone fired for this?

  20. 100% agree with poster who said that Negreanu, Boerree, or Mercier wouldn't even get a notice over this...technically, that's fine, because there was nothing here of note. Kind of like TMZ reporting that Phil Laak was delinquent on his taxes, when it was only like $2,000 or so and clearly just an accounting error.

    Soooooo obvious that they are just looking to trim their roster and are so eager to do it that the bastards can't even wait 6 months before choosing not to renew it, rather than publicly disgracing a fine rep. Shameful.

  21. Pfft. Publicly quoted companies need to worry endlessly about the brand image. Quite possibly you got out at the right time. Shape of things to come imo.

  22. Hey, anybody at pokerstars we could email to say we are unhappy with how you were treated? I think it's just plain wrong, yes you could have acted better but sports fans act way worse everywhere. You represented a passionate sports fan and in that sense doesn't pokerstars want to poker to be seen as a passionate sport?

  23. For a company that break the law every day from their support offices and from people representing them at a high level, its a bit hypocritical of them. You should see them scramble and panic when a tax audit comes around.

  24. Hey wake up pokerstars isn't about poker but about social engineering, so remember in there view Scotland is inferior and teams like Spain should always win.

  25. Hello
    I am French a I understand the reaction of spanish people. If you do that in France during a soccer match, you might be in trouble. This gesture is a real insult for us. As strong as 2 fingers in the air...

    So everything has been said, but it is a question of cultural difference.

    Maybe you can propose to PS to write a message to Spanish people to apologize and to summarize what you wrote in your post. You did not want to hurt anyone.

    Anyway, very good blog, I read it on a regularly basis.

    Goog luck

  26. Booo hooohhh pokerstars !! its all good bounce back like a champ

  27. and I always thought you were a Celtc fan, lol !
    sorry to hear this, what are you doing now ? Are you still a pro player ?

  28. did you get your contract reviewed by a lawyer and if any justification exists for the termination under terms stated.