Shocked and Appalled
Please check the addendums. This story ain't over, and it appears something that I thought was so, might not be. More very soon, promise --- hh
A surf of several poker-related posts on Bloglines last night uncovered a couple of poker blogs announcing their registration into a curious freeroll on Full Tilt Poker. Called the SEO Poker Tournament, this $5,000 freebie is being run by whatever king-sized asshat is behind the site seoblackhat.com.
"SEO," should you be unaware, is short for "Search Engine Optimization," and a "black-hat SEO" is one of those people who typically scrapes your site and steals your content, putting his affiliate banners on the top of it, or litters your comment boxes with all sorts of unwarranted spam. Of course, that's just the start of it, as you can see by this neat list as shown on the site:
Now, that list isn't about things that are bad, it's about how to do them and get away with it. As an example, here's the lead-in for the "Scrapers" category:
"Borrow content from other sites," my ass. Basically, these guys traffic in theft, and if you create content, then you're one of the victims. Matter of fact, if you have a web site at all, then these guys victimize you, by manipulating meta code to mess with Google and Yahoo! search algorithms and get to the top of the list; in that instance, they're cutting in line, and they're not even doing it on their own dime.
These guys violate copyrights and ToS agreements by the thousands. Another of these sites proudly notes that "Yes, all these things are against the rules, but rules are made to broken." Don't step in front of my car, black-hat SEO guys; I guarantee you I won't brake.
So it's on to shocked and appalled time.
Shocking, that at least three recognizable poker bloggers have signed up for the event. Have you no pride, folks? No sense of worth for what you create? Shameful. One of them submitted an entry to my own puzzle contest a month or two back, but he won't be welcome to enter my future giveaways: I do not cater to thieves, nor those who would do business with them. As for this disgusting display, first prize is getting a bunch of other links to your site, but those three bloggers, who I previously listed, have been yanked from this site. They're on "-1" so far.
On to appalling. Not only does Full Tilt apparently think that site scrapers, spammers and link thieves are okay types, but they are actually donating $5,000 to the goddamned freeroll. I've fired off a complaint to Full Tilt, which they're in the process of shuffling from department to department until the event actually occurs, at which time they'll likely send me an empty, do-nothing apology.
It'll rank right up for there for meaningful value and sincerity with the apology Absolute sent to Pauly when his site got hacked. Absolute's way of dealing with that was to give the thief a brand new landing page, which remains operational to this day. If you think I kid, guess again; I saved the affiliate code from the thieving site and it's fully intact, right here. Then again, I do tend to be cynical; let's just say I'm seldom disappointed that way.
As to why this is so important, if you don't know, my screaming about it is unlikely to convince you. I'm way-y-y peeved, but I'm not going to call for a boycott, though the thought has crossed my mind. I'm just voting with my feet. I don't play at Absolute, and I won't be playing at Full Tilt anymore, either.
So be it.
Two of the three blogger sites I blind-referenced above pulled themselves out of the tournament after hearing about this post, one with the admonition that, frankly, I could have been a bit nicer about it. As in sending private e-mails. Umm, yes, but these tournaments tend to have a rush in late registrations, and I don't feel a nanny-type responsibility to keep chasing down any and every blogger who might register for something like this without thinking about the consequences. My aim is to tear that $5K bad boy down and leave a smoking crater in its wake. I doubt I'll be successful, but this thieving crap has gone on way too long and is too endemic. It's war.
The same writer tossed a small bomb my way, I guess for having an erstwhile link to Dutch Boyd's sad site. Besides the fact that I think Dutch's site is great for unintentional comic relief, there's still a huge distinction. Dutch maintains his innocence in a bizarre display of paralogical thinking, while these black-hat guys are not only proven thieves, they're willing and proud of it. And a site I give good money to is giving them more money, money that comes from people like me?
Seriously, I have made some friends in the blogging community, but I write what I think is important and what I believe in... and that comes first. For the rest of you, should you disagree, head on over to www.pap.com. In the meantime, I'm putting my neck on the line trying to get things done. I'm no saint, I don't live in a white castle, but goddamnit, I'm better than these black-hat thieves.
If the tradeoff is that a lot of people are more aware of these issues, and a lot more people dislike me for forcing the issue, I can live with that.
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Addendum 2: Gee, you'd think if I'd wrongly accused someone, they'd correct me. That didn't happen here, and while I am issuing an apology, pending further news, I'd like to bring y'all up to speed.
Short-Stacked Shamus over at Hard-Boiled Poker, which is a blog I've neglected to link up properly for far too long, has also been tracking this issue. Shamus sent off two different inquiries to FTP about this matter. He got nothing of worth on the first one, tried again, and got this back on the second one: "The prize pool of private freerolls is always supplied by the people who have requested the private tournament not us. Also Full Tilt Poker does not actively administrate private tournaments, we only host them."
Okay, but over on the black-hat site, there was this:
That pretty clearly says the opposite. Now far be it from a black-hat SEO site to lie, I know, but here we have $5,000 that no one now wants to take credit for or accept, except for that Tom dude in the comments. Nor, last time I checked, was your typical black-hat-SEO type in the habit of giving away five grand. And this isn't just any site; it is a trackable FTP affiliate (see below).
So you tell me, what gives?
I'd like to say that I jumped the gun on going off on Full Tilt, but I waited more than a day before making my post after notifying them of the tournament. Shamus's second try also included this text, and I'll just toss it out in his words:
I also asked whether FTP exercised any sort of discrimination when it came to allowing groups or organizations to use their site for private tourneys. I even gave the Ku Klux Klan as an example, asking would they
be allowed to host a tournament. In response to this question, FTP
says "We hold the tournament on our site to the specifications of the
person or group that has requested to hold it on our site. So it is open
to those who they want to participate in it."
--- Short-Stacked Shamus
I'm actually in agreement with that stance, though I note with a bit of a wry touch that Full Tilt's own in-house content is among the most commonly stolen in the poker world. I guess they're being paid not to care. But --- and this is a huge "but" --- it still doesn't answer where the money came from. I'm going to remain infernally curious about that one. If Full Tilt wants to disavow that site's claims, I'll be happy to print it here. I'd guess that making false statements about a poker site might violate an affiliate contract, and if Full Tilt has any interest in the matter, here's the seoblackhat site's affiliate landing page at FTP:
There, Full Tilt, I've done your work for you. What say you?