Meandering post today.
There's been some discussion during the last week about the all-time tournament money list in poker. Several commentators feel that closed events like the WSOP Tournament of Champions and events like the $250,000 Super High Rollers at the Aussie Millions -- tournaments that are only open to the richest of the rich -- distort the list.
I was surprised that people care about such trifles until I remembered that poker players care about anything where ego is involved. I guess it's easy for me to be dismissive of how the list is tabulated; I'll never be on it. But I'm also someone long on record as preferring to be rich and anonymous rather than rich and famous (if given a choice). In that sense my ego is minimal.
To me poker is an intellectual exercise, the goal of which is to win money. Period. I'm not too concerned if I've won $9 million and then someone who won $7.5 million wins a $250,000 two-table sit-and-go for $2.2 million and leap-frogs me on the list. I say, "Good for that person. Congratulations on your score." And then I go to sleep "on top of my large pile of money, surrounded by many beautiful women."
Maybe there's an innate need to rank players against one another, to say that this player is better than that one. I suppose I understand that desire but in a game where luck plays a substantial role, ranking players is a Herculean task. Poker isn't tennis, where an elite player at the top of his/her game can go out week after week and compete for the top finishes and the top prizes. Some days Phil Ivey is going to be eliminated in Level 3.
That's got to be the rub. The all-time money list is supposed to represent "the long run" for a player. We're all told that "over the long run" a player's skill edge should become apparent and that "over the long run" the best players should win the most money. The long run will correct for this eliminated-in-Level-3 days, and the total amount of money won is the best way to "keep score".
I guess. But if I've got $9 million in career earnings, I'm pretty sure I don't care where I fall on an arbitrary list.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Meandering post today.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Time for some good old-fashioned armchair quarterbacking.
Earlier this week, Federated Sports and Gaming announced a new professional poker league that will begin play in 2011. Participation will be limited to the world's top 200 live tournament players. A limited number of exemptions will be available; everyone else will have to play their way in under a proprietary formula that has yet to be released to the public.
The league will have four events, all at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, between now and January of next year. At each event the game played will be no-limit hold'em. The league aims not to charge players any juice on their tournament entry and possibly to provide added-money to the prize pool.
Since the announcement I've purposefully avoided reading any blogs, forum posts or other media pieces about the league. I didn't want to taint my own theorycraft about the league. But I do gather from Twitter, at least, that the league has sparked a fair amount of discussion.
You can debate the merits of a PGA-like poker league. The as-yet-unknown critera for player inclusion. Whether the viewing public wants to see the "old guard" pros exclusively or a mix of old pros and rising young guns and amateurs. The likelihood of the league's success. You can debate all of those things until you're blue in the face. To me that's not the interesting part. The interesting part is the people and entities surrounding the endeavor.
FS+G is run by a few people who know something about poker and gaming: former WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack; several former executives of Youbet.com; and professional player Annie Duke, who will serve as Commissioner of the new league and will not participate as a player. Duke, you may remember, ended a long-standing relationship with UB at the end of December.
Although nobody predicted this transition for Duke, it's not entirely shocking. At the 2010 WSOP in particular she seemed unenthused during several events. She also has some nostalgia for the pre-boom days; during one $10,000 WSOP event last summer, she remarked to her table, "Remember when making a dinner break used to mean something?" This new endeavor allows her to branch off in a new poker direction, presumably renewing her enthusiasm for poker, while also restoring something of the old feel of poker from before the boom.
Pollack went over to professional bull riding in May, but has five years of poker experience under his belt. He's also something of a social media proponent. As Zynga has shown the world, gaming and social media go together shockingly well. Backing up Pollack's and Duke's live poker experience are the online gaming experiences of FS+G's other founders, who all are former Youbet.com executives. And Duke, of course, is well known to the world from her stint on Celebrity Apprentice.
See where I'm going with this?
Unless I've missed the mark entirely (possible, since I'm just theorizing based on limited information), FS+G and the Palms may be looking to get into regulated online poker, using Duke as the face of the product and using this poker league the way many of us assume the WSOP brand will be used by Caesars.
Currently, the live poker offerings at the Palms are minimal. The room is quite small, even by Vegas standards. It doesn't usually have more than a couple of tables running at any one time except during the two weeks of the WSOP Main Event when PokerStars and its (rapidly diminishing) hordes of qualifiers invade. So at face it's curious that the Palms would choose to get involved in this league, and that the league would choose the Palms -- especially given the usual "down-market" choices of the Golden Nugget and South Point.
FS+G can't do online poker alone though. With every piece of poker legislation we've seen so far a unifying element has been the need for a brick-and-mortar casino to be involved. That's where the Palms fits in. FS+G develops the social media gaming side of things in anticipation of regulated online poker (allusions to it are littered through their press materials); the Palms develops the TV brand awareness side of things and provides the required B&M presence.
I believe that FS+G is betting that the TV audience will tune in to see the "top professionals", the "colorful personalities" of the "old school". Those players won't be able to pass up money-added, zero-juice tournaments. The Palms/FS+G brand will be heavily marketed to the public, similar to the way PokerStars is marketed now (think EPT Live, the PCA final table, etc.) When regulation finally comes along, a combined FS+G and Palms partnership moves in and set up shop with regulated poker on the internet.
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, WSOP / Caesars.
Look, I never believed for a second that Duke would go to "The Big Two" or some other UB analog. I also didn't believe she would get out of poker. At the time I remarked, "But Caesars / WSOP.com isn't the only company that's rumored to be sitting on the sidelines of the U.S. online poker market, waiting for its regulatory golden ticket to be punched. ... That could send Duke to one of those other idling companies..." Specifically what I had in mind for Duke was social media gaming, perhaps something like Zynga, an SMG company widely believed to be positioning itself for regulated online poker.
But if I'm right this move is even savvier. Pollack and Duke are essentially looking to hit a home run the same way all the Full Tilt founders did back in 2003 by creating their own poker site. If that happens the league becomes self-sufficient. The overlay money and zero-juice is made up for out of the coffers of the online poker site and accounted for as a marketing expense.
Regulated online poker isn't here yet though. The league has to survive on its own merits long enough for regulated poker to get here. That will require corporate sponsorship, angel investors, or maybe a combination of both. Pollack will have his hands full in that regard, convincing "reputable" corporations to get in bed with FS+G's "gambling operation". What's the line that the Palms is putting up some of the necessary money as an upfront investment on what it hopes is a lucrative long-term online poker return?
Again, I could be wrong about all of this. I probably am. But it's been fun to think about and if nothing else it will be fun to watch it all play out.
Monday, January 17, 2011
The craziness in the Bahamas is finally over. The dust has settled on the 2011 PCA and you can't be bothered to fly all the way to Melbourne for the Aussie Millions. What's a tourney grinder to do?
Head to Los Angeles for the 2011 L.A. Poker Classic, of course.
This year's installment of the six-week bacchanalia of tournament poker starts on Wednesday at the Commerce Casino with what I like to call "Event #1: The Super Donkathon". $335. Four Day 1s, with re-entry allowed. Although Commerce TD Matt Savage didn't invent the re-entry format, he certainly brought it back into vogue when he started rolling it out at Commerce about 1.5 years ago. This year he's added "Event #20: The Crack-Addled Super Donkathon", a $125 Turbo NLH tournament with four Day 1s and two heats on each day. There's a $300,000 guarantee on that sucker.
Unlike the WSOP, the LAPC truly offers something for everyone. Rebuy events. Team events. Turbo events. Mixed games. Heads-up events. A healthy mix of hold'em events and "other" events. Buy-ins from $125 to $25,100. Check out the LAPC schedule for yourself. It really is one of the most player-oriented schedules you'll find outside the WSOP anywhere in North America.
Structures are fantastic. Hotel rates have been extended outside the Crowne Plaza located on the Commerce Property to three nearby hotels. Matt and his team are doing everything they can to make the player experience this year even better than it was last year. The only thing they can't do is make sure players show up.
I've been to the LAPC every year for the last... um... I've lost track at this point. Trust me though -- it's a great tournament series. Make sure you give it a whirl this year.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I intended to write about the New Jersey internet gaming bill today. The bill would create the first sanctioned intrastate online gaming system in the country. It was overwhelmingly approved this week by the New Jersey Senate and New Jersey Assembly and now goes to the desk of Gov. Chris Christie for his signature.
As I was getting ready to dig into the meat of the bill this morning, PokerStars sent out a baffling press release from the PCA entitled "Dawn of Woman". It was so tasteless that I decided to hold off on discussing the New Jersey gaming bill until Gov. Christie signs it and to focus instead on the presser.
In its continuing quest to bring more women -- an under-represented demographic -- into the game of poker, PokerStars handed out video cameras to all of its female Team Pros at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. The women were encouraged to create daily video diaries of their experiences at the PCA. Those diaries would then be uploaded to PokerStars TV.
On its face the idea makes sense. Stars wants to encourage more women to play live events, since the live events are mainly a marketing angle for the online poker client. By showing women what they're missing out on by not playing these events -- from a woman's perspective -- Stars may very well bring more women into the game.
Then came the press release, in which the female Team Pros are compared to "shrieking, howling" Neanderthals who have no idea what to do with their video cameras when they first receive them. The presser goes on to state that the project lead's instructions to the "girls" were "pointless" and "ignored", that "the more 'advanced' women were already dismantling the devices and trying to work out what was inside." It concludes with the bizarre, "The results of all these vblogs are fantastic.. some of the women should definitely stick to poker for a living; others could consider forging new careers as videographers."
I should say that I have plenty of friends who work in Stars PR and marketing, people who are fundamentally good people. Even good people mis-step sometimes, and I don't believe anything overtly malicious was intended by this press release. In fact it is trying to promote women in the game. However the whole thing was sigh- and cringe-inducing. At best it seems like basic marketing was completely ignored while writing this press release.
At a deeper, perhaps more subconscious level, we have yet another case of women being given the short end of the stick by the poker industry. The message this press release conveys is, essentially, three-fold: (1) women are little more than a shrieking pack of Neanderthals; (2) women have almost zero capacity to handle anything "techie" without painstaking instructions from a man which they will ignore anyway; and (3) women are "girls", a term that is demeaning in its own right.
As someone who loves strong, smart, capable, independent women (see, any woman I've dated in the last 6 years), it really pains me to see tired cliches being applied to a demographic that the industry is trying to court. I feel like the poker industry might have better success increasing female participation in poker if it stopped treating women as "girls" and started treating them as people.
You get an "F" for this press release, PokerStars.
Friday, January 07, 2011
Yesterday I received this email from a friend (who will probably be mock outraged in the comments to this post that I do not mention him by name):
"No comment on the Washington state cash grab?"
The short answer is, "No."
The slightly longer answer is there are two reasons why I was mum about it. First, I just plum missed the story on Wednesday. Sometimes the internet and I have a lover's spat and I turn the damn thing off for a day or two.
The second reason was that when I finally did spot the story yesterday afternoon, there wasn't much to say except, "See? This is why we need regulation."
Well, fine. There you go. See? This is why we need regulation. With every new seizure, the government gets bolder and the chilling effect on the rest of the payment-processing industry grows a little stronger. Those $8 million seizures may not seem like much for an industry valued in the billions, but they add up.
Sure, one of these processors could try to take a stand against the government. Unfortunately that takes a great deal of time and a great deal of money, two things that the typical fly-by-night payment processor doesn't have. In the meantime the government will continue to steam ahead with other seizures unless the legal landscape changes.
This is going to get worse before it gets better. I'd say one train left Chicago at 4:45pm heading east at 70mph while a second train is pulling out of Penn Station at 7pm going west at 80mph. I'm no mathemagician, but at some point those two trains collide unless Denzel Washington and Captain Kirk put aside their veteran-rookie differences and save the day.
Casting call for online poker's Denzel Washington and Captain Kirk starts... now.