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04/06/2002 No.18
he Good Gambler
The Editor or one of our professional correspondants make regular contributions to coverage of the gambling world.
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Big Crunch or Big Bang

Physics and poker

We've just finished the 33rd World Series of Poker, the longest, biggest, toughest poker event in history. The prizes and the turnout for the Championship event were higher once more, continuing the long run of successive years that have broken previous records. The winner this year took away $2million, the runner-up took $1.1million.

By the standards of any sporting event in the world where individuals compete, this is the biggest top two payouts in history so far, excluding boxing events which don't compare equally.

Almost immediately after the finish players are presented with more tournaments to play in. The $10,000 event at the Bellagio and for those returning there is The Quatermillion in Walsall, events in Dublin, Slovenia, Vienna and then the Heads-up Championship. This is surely all too much!?

Well the prestigeous Quatermillion event in Walsall last year saw 121 players produce a staggering £300K pot that gave David Holmes £141,250 with no deal being done. This year a measely 57 showed for the event, falling way short of the number required to justify the ¼ mill tag line.

You can argue the timing of events was more favourable last year but that is just part of the problem. Why move the event from November to the busiest time of the year?

The answer isn't clear but what is clear is that the spiral of bigger tournaments feeding from more players feeding from increased media coverage of poker - that feeds from bigger tournaments - cannot continue. Casinos have seen the light of guaranteed revenue from poker players and are going for it whilst the pickings are good.

The World Series had a 6% vig. taken. British tournaments are suffering anything from 1% to 10%. Europe doesn't show anything different. More than the vig. though are the expenses. Its a tough job making a tournament pay when the hotel bill will wipe out all but 1st and 2nd prize money. It all adds up to a constant drain of money from poker players that can only be replaced by a constant supply of new customers.

But wait just a second. Its in my very recent memory that casinos I played in habitually added money to tournament pize pools to ensure customers travelled to their casino and not the opposition. Now they are milking and getting away with it. How did that happen?
There's a one word answer. Celebrity.
Poker got on TV and then a TV producer won a big tournament, the PokerMillion.

Its all a bit kitsch and ceedy to the general public but intriguing enough to bring some of them into the casino to play. More than that though, the irritation of some players who can't stand to see poker rookies pick up big prizes has moved them to play big tournaments in the hope of settling the score.

Poker players have given up the search for value in exchange for the hope of glory. Casinos are making the best of it and will turn on them as soon as its possible to fill poker rooms with slot machines. You haven't got long to wait.

The right idea must be to head for sponsorship of big events. Players can't support the industry into the next stage, the money has to come from outside. We are at that moment in time where small things can change the course of poker from the Big Crunch to the Big Bang, or vice versa. There just isn't the money in peoples pockets to maintain the momentum.

So whilst you await the onset of poker winter or poker summer, choose your events with care. If they add money or look after you well and run the tournaments as if you are a valued paying customer, then keep going. If not, don't, and tell your friends to stop going.