Recent editorials emphasize the problems in poker
Since the WSOP there have been a number of editorial blogs written (some of which I’m proud to have been at the forefront of) ranging from Neil Channing’s absolute beat-down of the way young players chat at the tables and conduct themselves in general, to Daniel Negreanu’s rant against the TDA changing the rules with little player involvement, to my own opinions (along with Matt Matros and Matt Glantz) on the WSOP’s current schedule.
These, along with another editorial I will discuss below are an excellent example of the problem with the modern WSOP and poker in general; a tournament series that seems to be increasingly about numbers (attendance and money) and not about poker, and players that seem to be more concerned with themselves than with the game; to the point that they hurt the game and their own long-term earning potential. And this is a debate the poker world needs to have.
While the WSOP has worked very hard to boost attendance they seemed to have strayed a little too far from the true path of the WSOP in this writer’s opinion… but that is a debate for another time. What I want to focus on now is another recent editorial, this time courtesy of BLUFF’s Lance Bradley via ESPN.com, on what will sell in the new age of legalized US poker. I’m going to go a step beyond what Lance Bradley wrote for ESPN; not only is it important for poker players to start displaying some personality, but it’s probably their only hope.
I don’t know who these young players are trying to kid, but live tournament pros are a dying breed. Aside from a couple dozen of the absolute best players, there just isn’t enough money to be made in live tournaments to overcome the rake and the expenses. First off, the skill gap has closed too much for the overwhelming majority of players to make a living playing live tournaments, but judging by the poker reports from tournaments you would think that 5,000 of the 6,500 entrants in the WSOP Main Event are tournament pros, all rolling in money before they go to bed.
Frankly, there will always be 25-50 players who are ahead of the curve and can make a solid living playing tournament poker, for the rest of the would-be tournament pros survival comes down to a good run, a sweet staking deal, or a sponsorship.
If you want some evidence of this take a look at Daniel Negreanu’s recent vlog where he shows just how much money goes into buy-ins, and once you wrap your head around the fact that these guys are spending $1 million a year on buy-ins, try to do some back of the envelope math on what their travelling expenses must be? Is it any wonder that so many tournament players sell pieces of themselves?
Basically in the early days of the poker boom there was so much dead money in tournaments that players had over-the-top win-rates, with 100% ROI’s not uncommon, which meant there was easily enough profit to cover expenses and the rake. But in today’s poker world the skill gap has closed and most really good players are lucky to have 20% ROI’s in online tournaments. In live tournaments it’s even worse as they have to contend with higher rake and tips, and as noted above expenses.
Furthermore, players who may have been break-even or slight losers during the boom had the chance to get the ultimate poker hookup, a sponsorship deal! All you had to do was have one good run and bingo, you were patched up. Nowadays sponsorships are increasingly hard to come by, and as Lance Bradley explains they require far more than a good run. You have to be charismatic, engaging, and good at poker, not just one of the three.
My hope is that up-and-coming poker players read all of the editorials that have been written in recent weeks and do a little soul-searching to see if they are only looking out for their bottom-line, or if they have the greater interests of the entire poker community in their heart. And the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
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