Big news for British sportsfans – The
, the august journal, has just added a
new sport to its online nav bar. Yep, right under football, cricket, Formula
One, tennis, athletics, etc, sits the sport of poker. A “sports extra” blurb on the Times Onlinesport homepage
gushes: “The
best players don’t rely on Lady Luck: Get all the latest poker news straight from the tables today.”

How astonishing! Times
reporters are presumably now covering every hand of the world poker tour, along
with Test cricket and Davis Cup tennis and Premier League football, which adds
new credibility to the card sharps, does it not? Actually no, because
once you click on the link, the truth becomes horribly clear.

Brought to you, along
with wall-to-wall banner ads, in association with an online gambling site, this
is nothing but advertorial. There is even a prominent “play now” button. Guess
which site that goes to?

Not much of The Times
hard-hitting editorial seems to frown at the dangers of online gambling, from
what we read. The lead article today offers tips on how to find opponents who
suit you in online poker (Um? They bet too much and don’t know when to fold?),
and includes the following line: “The playing field in
poker is much flatter than in other sports and while you could play 100 rounds
of golf against Tiger Woods without winning a single one, blind luck could
sneak a few quid out of Phil Ivey for a poker player of any aptitude.”

Which shows that The
is now a card-carrying (pun intended) member of the shameless media
forces pushing the most insidious part of the poker craze – trying to convince
people blowing out their credit card in faceless online competitions that they
are only a hand or two away from appearing in a Vegas casino, beating the big
names for a million bucks.

We should have smelt
the rat when poker was placed on the nav bar underneath “betting” (and above
“columnists” which might be a clue as to how seriously Times Sport is taking journalism these days).