Poker is big business.
|Jesse May in
What happened in Vegas last week
was the explosion of poker. The 2003 World Series of Poker will go down in the
annals of this sport as the first one that was won by a poker room, and the
Pokerstars marketing strategy will be known as the beginning of the real
strategy. They got a player to win the World Series of Poker.
other Internet poker rooms gave away their World Series seats in promotions
that created massive rake and opportunities for poor players, Pokerstars WSOP
strategy stood out. Funnel the money up to the best tournament poker players on
the site, and then put them into the World Series of Poker. And they did.
Pokerstars took $440,000 out of their room and stuck forty of the best
tournament poker players on the Internet into the World Series of Poker, and
one of them won $2.5 million dollars with a combination of aggressive play and
good decisions. Chris Moneymaker won it because he was good.
been to the World Series when the agents ran around like little maggots,
begging for money and promising the world. But this year they were world
owners, men who threw steak and seafood dinners, who paid scantily clad women,
who dressed players at a thousand a pop, who had stands and cell phones and
gear to beat the band. This year the agents were paying. Paying
Because the media coverage this year was not just huge, it was
intense. The World Poker Tours impact cannot be overestimated. Poker is
in, and against the banal laws that seek to restrain it, poker holds up as a
game. ESPN was more than there, in TV fashion they sought to take it over, the
players seemed willing when offered a seven show series. The TV table of the
day, ringed by rolling cameras on every side and a boom swinging wildly and
zooming on in. The horizontal cameras embedded into every table that would have
caught all the hole cards when they were bent up in secret and had a direct
feed to a tape that was called always off-line. Every player wired for sound,
on Day 1 featured conversations between Robert Varkonyi, Doyle Brunson, Padraig
Parkinson, and Scotty Nguyen. Day 2 was Phil Hellmuth and TJ Cloutier, Bruce
Van Horn and Kevin Song. Day 3 featured Lederer, Darden, Moneymaker, and Chan.
Day 4 is Phil Ivey, on a day that saw every player started at the TV table go
out, Phil Ivey the last to fall in tenth position. Day 5 will doubtless belong
to the champion.
The Pokerstars agents were relentless, and tireless,
they were both dragging until the sheets came out, 4:30 am on Day 1, persistent
on the Internet and their mobiles, and in support of their players. And after
Letterman and the AP, Pokerstars will have gotten the marketing boost of the
Who else was there? Golden Palace that licenses software and
hosts Victor Chandler poker rooms in black t-shirts and caps, an army of
players whittled to Scotty Nguyen by Day 3s end. The green knitted polos
of 888 poker room that Dan Harrington wore faithfully in an Irish baize.
Ladbrokes was there with just two players that disappeared with their blue
shirts quite quickly. Former Pokerspot CEO Dutch Boyd wore a norake.com visor,
leaving many to chuckle about why he can afford to charge no rake. Phil Ivey,
who was reportedly offered fifty thousand to wear a shirt, wore a relaxed
fitting light blue button shirt with patterned swirls on Day 3 and a basketball
jersey on Day 4, in short, nothing. Ultimate Bet riding virtually on Phil
himself, Phil Gordon and his road sports web trip had the video camera out and
about. Paradise Poker was near non-existent.
Pro Deck card packs sold
out of Binions gift shop before Day 1, and the Australian documentary
makers are proclaiming their year in poker package sold and nearly done. The
Washington Times sportswriter, a New York Times writer with a photographer, a
California local news station, press badges from Montreal and Los Angeles and
London and more. The audience for the final table was not trapped behind
curtains this time, but seated in the tournament room and watching two big
television screens, one on the flop and one on the action, which gave a fair
idea when aided by the microphone. Something was being made about how quickly
the players were going out on Days 1,2, and 3, but Matt Savage felt this was
completely normal, and sure enough, the action slowed way down on Days 4 and 5.
Day 4 lasted until after 4am and the result wasnt official until after
two bells last Saturday, well after the party in the steakhouse last
Maybe one day well all long for the past, when poker was
played for money alone, but for now the future is here. Poker is big