Monday, July 17, 2006

WSOP Elaboration

Okay, since I've had so many IM's and other requests to elaborate, I'll try my best.

I'm not going to do your homework for you, but I'll say what I think, and you can do the research yourselves.

I predicted in 2004 that although players would benefit from the poker tournament boom by winning more than statistically correct amounts from prize pools, the real money would be made by the casinos, TV stations and advertisers.

I was very doubtful that players would stick together and demand their part of the pie. I tried to help with a player's union for a time, but that didn't work out. The problem with these sort of organizations is that everyone has some kind of angle they are trying to shoot. It's poker, it's so ingrained in us to be competitive and not play as a "team," that we start naturally looking for ways to even exploit our fellow players, whose best interests we are supposed to be protecting.

As an example, all of the money that was given to Louis Asmo for the WPPA was supposed to be given back to the players. To my knowledge, that money was never given back to anyone besides Asmo, lol. People have complained about his scams with the Ohio charity games, as well.

The players who really wanted to make this happen were also hand tied. I remember talking to David Levi during the festival, and he said he couldn't play. When I asked why, and why he wouldn't support it, he said it was doomed to failure (even if Asmo hadn't been involved), because most name players are backed (sponsorship wasn't something as widespread in those days). And backed players go where the boss tells them to go. They don't go to events with a prize pool of 100k for 2% juice when the boss wants them to go to an event with a prize pool of $1 million and 8% juice. The boss calls the shots, he tells players where to be, and couldn't care less about the juice when the ROI is so much higher in the bigger event.

So players "unions" are doomed in many ways. The players who absolutely refuse to be taken advantage of, and play in raped events simply cease to exist. They play cash games only, or they play in a festival here and there which is known for treating it's players fairly.

If a player gets sponsorship, it's even worse. Now he is REALLY hand tied. His backer says "Play in the series, I don't care how much juice they are taking and how badly they are treating you, I want some kind of payback here!" The sponsor says, "I'm not paying you to play in Joe-Bob's Grand Poker Tournament for 2% juice and ad revenue which might be returned to the player. No one can see my tee-shirt at Joe-Bob's, everyone sees it at Rio!"

So what choice do these players have? Not much. Sure, there are the elite of the elite. The Greensteins, Forrests and Negreanu's who can put their feet down and still survive, but most players have to go where the backers and/or sponsors tell them to go.

Thus Rio wins. Rio wins no matter what. They win by default, no matter how badly they treat the players or media. No matter how much juice they charge, how much they lie, how much they scam. Until the boom dies, Rio will just be sitting around counting up the cash. And when it dies? No problem, they still win. Harrah's has always hated poker, and poker players. So when they feel the poker craze is peaking? They sell the WSOP name rights. And as soon as the boom starts to die? They close up all of their poker rooms worldwide, just like they did before. No sweat, they know they will make way more money with slots anyway.

It's a no-lose situation for Harrah's, it's a no-win situation for tournament players.