What does poker need? [Editorial]

What does poker need? [Editorial]

Monday, 17 October 2011

We all love poker. Most people do [citation needed]. It’s the most popular card game, and one of the most popular games in general, in the world. So why are we still, in the Twenty-frickin’-First Century, left with it being banned as illegal gambling in the world’s dominant country; with the game beset by cheaters, thieves and scammers? It’s a bit silly, isn’t it? To correct this, we need some changes:

Worldwide regulation.

Obviously the US is the most pressing of these regulatory concerns but some sort of laws and systems are in dire need of implementation worldwide. Look at the UK compared to France, for example – now, our culture is quite open to gambling compared to others around the world, but even with that taken into account France dwarfs us poker-wise. Why? Regulation.

PokerStars.fr and PokerStars.it are among the top five largest poker sites in the world. Admittedly, there isn’t a lot of competition nowadays but the booming popularity of poker in these two markets shows what magic a regulatory system can work. If poker is totally legal then advertising it is, too. Look how many poker ads we see on TV and in newspapers in this country. I’d wager in France and Italy there are far more. That’s us, though – in other countries, gambling is pretty taboo and poker has a bad reputation. That means...

Let go of the past.

Part of the appeal of poker, especially to the typical demographic of 18-30-year-old males, is the slightly dangerous aspect. Sure, you can get the Tube to the Fox Poker Club and be in no more danger at the felt than you would be at your own dining room table – hell, the most dangerous part of that journey is making it home with your winnings. Poker’s background, though, is one of outlaws and gunslingers playing on upturned barrels in a grimy bar. The original Late Night Poker reflects this, with the shades – and shadiness – and smoking. Compare it to today’s sleek, ESPN-esque production.

Poker is going some way to letting go of that dangerous past and embracing life as a mainstream sport (it’s not a sport, but for the purposes...) but we keep getting incidents like those involving Howard Lederer, Russ Hamilton and Jose Macedo. Of course when lots of money is involved, people will be trying to steal it. This is part of the reason why we need...

A central governing body.

Quick potential vision of the future – the poker calendar has the WSOP take place in June; the WSOPE in September. WSOPA (WSOP Asia) hits Macau in February. WSOPANZ (WSOP Australia/New Zealand) is shortly after. Each area also has a WSOP-Circuit ring and regional championships. All these events are under control of the WSOP and the Poker Players’ Advisory Council, now a full team of players and industry experts.

That seems feasible and, well, good. We need central governing body. We need worldwide established rules; we need defined rankings of who the best poker player in the world is. It doesn’t have to be the WSOP – replace the first paragraph with EPT/ANZPT/APPT/LAPT with the WCOOP becoming a live extravaganza if you think PokerStars will take over the industry. My point is, we can have dozens of tournaments taking place a month but only if they are working together for the good of the industry.

You may be thinking that I’ve started describing the Epic Poker League. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the idea, despite Annie Duke’s less-than-ideal background in the online poker world. I love the Global Poker Index and I love the qualification criteria. I think the Pro/Am events and the distinction between EPL qualifiers and the registered card-holders is a great way to get the idea of poker as a skill game out there without putting off recreational players – yeah, it is a game of skill and this $20,000 tournament has over 100 of the world’s best players in it BUT you can qualify for $500 and win a million with a little luck.

Personally, I can’t see the Epic Poker League surviving too long, though I reckon they’re gambling on US legislation enabling them to go online and aggressively market in the US. That doesn’t matter, though. We need a governing body as ethical and impartial as FIFA; a series of linked major tournaments as riveting to watch as the PGA Majors; a worldwide extravaganza like the Cricket World Cup... OK, I jest, I jest. That last sentence was all sarcasm, which is kind of my point. I am frustrated that poker, a game in my eyes that is infinitely more interesting than football or cricket or golf (sorry, Dusty Schmidt) is still stuck in the Dark Ages.

It’s a great game. No one who has played it can deny it. We need to sort this out and establish it as such.

Tags: Editorial, Matt Perry, WSOP, EPT, regulation, Epic Poker League