In my last blog, I wrote about my involvement in the business and media side of the Italian poker industry. This time, I want to talk about my broader role as an ambassador for the game. Even though the "boom" was several years ago now, there are still a lot of misconceptions about poker and people confuse Texas Hold'em with video poker or pure gambling games like roulette. I continue to host a show on Italian TV called Poker1Mania and I try to use it as a platform to help people understand why poker is a skill game.
I've also been invited on several other Italian talk shows as a guest, including a program called Campionato dei Campioni that focuses on football matches (Americans would call it "soccer"). Football is wildly popular in Italy and I was excited to appear on the show not only to demonstrate my love for football, but also to try and explain more about poker as a skill game and how it carries many similarities with traditional sports. My appearance on the show was really well received and I was so happy to have the opportunity to talk about poker to a whole new segment of people. The experience confirmed for me that there is still a lot to do in terms of erasing people's misconceptions about poker, not just in Italy but around the world. I really want people to understand the deepness of the game and the mental challenge poker can provide. PokerStars has done such a great job promoting the game, but we still have a lot to do.
I'm passionate about the legitimization of poker for many reasons. First, of course, there is the personal aspect, but on the other side, I feel a great responsibility to be an ambassador, not only for PokerStars and Italy, but for the game as a whole. I think it's something everyone involved in the poker industry should do, whether you're a player that's fortunate enough to get some media attention or if you just play recreationally. Everyone who loves the game needs to spread the message that poker is a game of skill--not just for the good of the game, but for their own good as well. Consider this post a call to action. We need everyone's help.
I don't want to say that as a community we've loosened up a bit when it comes to spreading this message, but back when poker was first regulated and taxed in Italy, the media attention helped a lot of people better understand poker. By selling licenses and taxing games, the Italian government has raised several billion Euros. Most of these funds were used to rebuild the historical city of Aquila, which was devastated by an earthquake back in 2009. Because of that, people discovered that regulated poker can bring great benefits to society. At that stage, the media viewed poker very positively, but now I think people are starting to forget about all the good it did.
Our entire society is changing in terms of how we socialize. Five or ten years ago, people were just going to disco clubs, pubs and cinemas for entertainment. Now people like to stay online, to communicate on social media sites like Facebook, and to play games against each other through the internet. Instead of being afraid of that type of change people need to realize it's just the evolution of society and no one can stop it.
Poker is not a crime. We need to embrace the future, not fight it.
Luca Pagano is a member of Team PokerStars Pro