Will Jaffe’s Flying Poker Circus
“I wasn’t sure if there was enough interest in getting one going tonight,” said Will Jaffe, as he wound down an explosive and extremely well attended Twitter Space which covered a whole host of topics, most notably the High Stakes Poker livestream and the four-year feud between Doug Polk and Charlie Carrel.
an unpredictable, multi-participant conversation that could literally go anywhere
Reminiscent of the way that Joe Ingram streams can act as a focal point, linking members of the poker community, Jaffe’s Spaces are becoming a late night hub for players, industry people, and fans. With a call-in radio show vibe, Jaffe is the fair, funny and affable ringmaster of poker’s flying circus, presiding over an unpredictable, multi-participant conversation that could literally go anywhere.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, that is exactly what happened when a passionate Carrel was given the floor and he used his time to criticize Polk’s ‘hit pieces’ on him, accusing him of bullying and cruelty. What followed was a raw ‘no holes barred’ exchange as Polk defended his actions but was met with articulate counter-points from both Carrel and Matt Berkey.
The purveyor of ‘tough convos’ is at an interesting inflection point in his own poker career. A veteran cash game player, Jaffe deservedly won the most recent GPI Global Poker Award for Best Twitter and he has been rightly scooped up by PokerGO and Live at the Bike to produce content and commentate. These Twitter Spaces are another popular touchpoint with the poker community but it is clear that he is simultaneously welcoming and wary of his newfound notoriety.
Fame can have an altering effect on a person and producing content that has a tangible monetary value can have an altering effect on that content. There is absolutely nothing wrong with selling your work or ideas but most creators struggle or at least feel a tension when their work has a commercial component.
missed the mark and targeted the wrong person
Jaffe’s to-camera bits have been a weekly treat for several years now but his most recent ‘tough convo’ missed the mark and targeted the wrong person for criticism. When Len Ashby tweeted his own personal disdain for the recent High Stakes Poker stream, he incurred the wrath of Jaffe:
To be fair to Jaffe, he is quick to admit when he is wrong and he offered a mea culpa just a few hours later:
The self-flagellation continued when Jaffe started a Twitter Space after his Saturday night cash game session as he invited Ashby to come on and set the record straight. It was a nice moment of magnanimity and a measure of both men, standing in sharp contrast to some of the other exchanges that had come before.
The Polk & Berkey Show?
Plenty of people had taken the mic to weigh in on their thoughts about Nik ‘Airball’ Arcot’s High Stakes Poker antics. There had been lots of discussion about the level of antagonism on the show and whether it is a net plus or minus for poker. Polk and Berkey were both present so, naturally enough, they were asked for their takes, from which Polk segued to criticism of the easy-listening hangout style of Berkey’s ‘Only Friends’ podcast.
Polk is in his element in conflictual situations
At one point, it seemed like Polk was floating the idea of a joint podcast venture with Berkey who quickly demurred. That interaction possibly spoke best to their opposing world views. Polk is in his element in conflictual situations and he relishes situations that can be parlayed for financial benefit. Berkey has helped an eye on publicity but he is more selective with his battles and has made it clear that he really dislikes Polk.
For that reason, Berkey said that he would not want to invest time into a joint vehicle regardless of its likely popularity. While their differing perspectives might result in some fireworks, it was made abundantly clear that only one of them would feel like the ends justified the means.
The fuse was lit in Jaffe’s Twitter Space when Carrel took the mic to confront Polk on what he called a ‘smear campaign’ of his character. Carrel, a sexual abuse survivor, has long spoken out about his belief that the best way to prevent child sexual abuse is to empathize with pedophiles. It is an uncomfortable subject and Carrel’s take is unpalatable to many, including Polk who believes that pedophiles are unworthy of empathy and that their existence:
keeps people who have kids awake at night.”
Figuring out how to prevent child sexual abuse is clearly a charged and triggering issue and one about which fair-minded people and professional clinicians could argue. Carrel introduced the topic back in April 2019 with a now deleted controversial tweet that read “the best way to prevent child molestation is to have more empathy and love for child molestors.”
Polk replied on Twitter, Carrel followed up with an angry video on his YouTube channel and Polk responded to that with a video entitled ‘Young Millionaire Destroyed By Patrik Antonius’ which has been watched over 700,000 times.
Put through hell
Given the opportunity to speak directly to Polk, Carrel said that he had “been put through Hell” by Polk’s repeated attacks. Polk defended himself by repeating a comment he made to Carrel in response to his tweet back in 2019:
Polk’s suggestion is that Carrel was engagement-farming by wording his tweet in such a sensationalist way. There’s no doubt that it was a poorly phrased comment on a complex issue that left room for interpretation where none should exist. To his credit, Carrel acknowledged that aspect but his overwhelming point was that Polk never accepted his offer to debate him on a forum where neither would be limited to 280 characters.
produced hit pieces against him, and assassinated his character
Instead, in Carrel’s opinion, Polk ignored his subsequent clarifications, produced hit pieces against him, and assassinated his character with cruel jokes and innuendo at every opportunity, including during a moment on the recent High Stakes Poker stream. Carrel said:
“I know you like to project. I know you like to project that JNandez is a scammer when it’s you that actually stole from him, I know you liked to project that the crypto people were scammers when you led them down Coinflex. Maybe you’re projecting because you have pedophilic urges… now I don’t actually think that but listen to how fucking insane that is to have somebody say that to you.”
Doug replied by saying his take is “I don’t think you should be tweeting about pedophiles on Twitter,” to which an irate Carrel replied: “No, that’s not your take… your take is ‘hey there’s this person called Charlie Carrel… and he supports pedophiles,’ 750,000 watched that and that was so fucking painful for me, man.”
A narrative twisted into a meme?
Polk then reiterated his position that child molesters are the scum of the earth for whom he has no empathy and expressed concern at Carrel’s contrary viewpoint. It was at this point that Berkey was drawn back into the debate, arguing that this incident was perhaps the best case in point for why he would not ever consider working with Polk. He said:
“When Doug doesn’t respect you, he will never take the time to think deeply or critically about what you are saying. Instead he will jump to the first conclusion that fits a narrative that can be twisted into a meme and dunk on you in whatever capacity he chooses.”
Berkey got into the specifics of Carrel’s experience but also claimed that it was a prime example of a broader point about Polk’s worldview:
“What Charlie is ultimately speaking to is there was zero benefit of the doubt given when you read the tweet. The immediate snap to judge what this guy is a looney tune. He’s talking about protecting pedophiles and I’m going to take to my platform and alert the masses that Charlie Carrel believes pedophilia is okay.”
The world through dollar signs
Berkey was emphatic in his condemnation of Polk for what he perceives to be his personal and business modus operandi:
“He is very openly saying that he had one of the worst things that you can imagine happen to a child happen to him… and that’s the place the tweet was coming from, and instead of meeting that with any level of humanity, you used it as a jumping off point to villainize this guy and demonise him in the community in which he earns.”
Berkey questioned what he perceives to be Polk’s pitiless cynicism
Doug tried to push back, claiming that he had no business overlap with Carrel but was quickly rebutted on the grounds that they are both players and content creators in the same community. Influence is certainly a currency of sorts and Berkey questioned what he perceives to be Polk’s pitiless cynicism:
“These are the reasons that I have zero respect for you as a man. These are the reasons that I wouldn’t consider in a million years doing this hot-take [podcast] with you It’s not about being disagreed with, I don’t care about that… it’s about not wanting to sit across from someone that you think is not human, who only sees the world through dollar signs and everyone is just the next person that he can step on to benefit himself.”
In response, Polk claimed to have no ulterior motive in this instance and insisted that he was simply responding to a 140 character tweet with which he vehemently disagreed.
Mise en scene
Sitting in his parked car outside his home, Jaffe wound down the Twitter Space a short time later. The sun was rising and there was a deer defying next to his car, an evocative image strangely fitting for the moment, a peculiarly perfect mise-en-scène to reflect upon what had been an hour of catharsis and ablution.
Dirty laundry had been aired and perhaps for some, a weight was lifted
Hundreds of listeners from all over the world, including myself, were left to reflect on a haphazard meeting of minds, at an unexpected symposium of poker’s top influencers gathered in one virtual space. Dirty laundry had been aired and perhaps for some, a weight was lifted, having been given the opportunity to get things off their chests.
At one point during this night of purgation, Joe Ingram interjected to talk about the role of popular content creators whose videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people:
“What responsibility do we as content creators have, to do our due diligence, researching what we’re going to say, especially knowing that this stuff is going to live on the internet forever.”
It seems like an obvious point but one that is perhaps sometimes lost in the hustle and bustle of the modern fast and often instant media landscape. Polk is a showman and one of the best we have in the industry. He is entitled to his opinion and the expression of that opinion in hot take or satirical form. However, so too are the people that he lampoons and it was they who were provided with a forum on Sunday.
It had been the toughest of tough convos for Polk and clearly cause for introspection. On Monday, he responded with an apology video for Carrel and a promise to remove the videos about him from his YouTube library:
As per that promise, ‘Young Millionaire Destroyed By Patrik Antonius’ is now no long accessible on YouTube.