Rob Yong pledges $1.2 million to start a Poker Players Union

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on September 6, 2021 11:46 pm EDT

Rob Yong is putting his money where his tweeting-thumb is. The director of Dusk Till Dawn has pledged $1.2 million dollars and five years of his time to set up a poker union. He made the announcement in a video on Twitter yesterday morning.

“RE: Global Poker Organisation/Lobby,” Yong wrote. “Thx 4 feedback. This is my commitment to this project, 5 years of “something”, $1.2m for basic running costs + my time. Gives time 2 try & get it self financing.”

The idea first came up in Yong’s feed on Friday, when he posted a poll to Twitter. After the results came back with almost 2/3 of respondents in favor of the project, it appears that he moved forward with the idea.

The goal here is not just to unite players into a lobbying body, but to include all parts of the poker community. Casinos and websites, the poker media and affiliate brokers, dealers and fans would all be welcome at the table too.

Yong was responding to the increasing rake in live and online games as well and the absurd gambling taxes instituted in Germany this year.

The Yong ones

Some of the factors that make Rob Yong an ideal instigator for a union like this also weigh him down with numerous potential conflicts of interest. He is an active part of almost every aspect of the poker world. Along with playing the game, he runs the brick and mortar Dusk Till Dawn—one of the beating hearts of UK poker—and is involved with partypoker, in particular with their live events calendar.

As a result, he bridges a gap between players and casinos. This is an excellent person to have in charge of coordinating the community against regulators. However, when player interests run up against the platforms, his loyalties could be divided.

Against this concern is the fact that Yong’s standing in the poker community is solid. He has a reputation both for integrity and for prioritizing the game over profit. He has resisted opening DTD this year to avoid putting poker players in danger during the pandemic. This was at a time when just about every other poker room in the UK was open.

With Yong in charge, the project feels like it has a real chance to work.

There has been talk of a player’s union for a long time. However, there are several things standing in the way of such a union seriously getting off the ground.

A more perfect union

Many of the concerns that are raised whenever a poker union is discussed remain unchanged.

When pros do strike, the result is going to be temptingly soft fields. In a game that is all about profit, scabbing is an enormously +EV play. Recreational players make up a large part of the poker community, and are unlikely to have either the time or the money to join a union.

Most of the highest-profile players out there have sponsorship contracts. These are the players who give the most weight to a union like this. They are also the ones whose interests least align with the idea of a union. Their previous contracts are also likely to interfere with collective action.

The biggest obstacle is the fierce independence of poker players. This year we’ve seen how the anti-authority bent of the poker community has overruled basic science and the survival instinct to create a highly prevalent anti-vaxx community.

Despite these factors, the response to Yong’s announcement has been largely optimistic. Part of this optimism is because Yong has headed off a lot of the usual concerns.

The inclusion of so many elements of the poker community will hopefully align various factions. It will also give the whole thing more weight than a simple player’s union could.

With a proper hub to build around, most of the difficulties can be overcome. Already, pros like Ryan LaPlante and Maria Ho (along with several media and affiliate organizations) have come forward with offers to help push the project along.

Phil Hellmuth expressed his support for the idea, too. The poker brat wrote: “Would be nice to have this,” in response to Yong’s poll.

It will be a fascinating endeavor to watch grow and—hopefully—succeed.

Featured image source: Flickr by WPT