Monday, July 20, 2009

Ivey in the November nine... and why you're wrong

When the final nine were announced for the Main Event this year, and Phil Ivey's name was listed, people everywhere went ape shit. There were blog posts, Facebook status updates, and tweets representing the kind of hope that everyone believes will come of this because one of the worlds best players is there.

I posted that they were all wrong. That I would offer a rebuttal telling why they are wrong. My point is that their perspective is wrong. I am speaking to the folks in the business... players, reps, etc. Of course Ivey making it to the final nine is awesome. As Waffles said in his post, it gives good players, or players who have at least played the game while actually thinking about how it's played, hope that skill will eventually win out over douchebaggery drycockedness button smashing, limp calling, over-shoving retardedness.

So yes... in that sense, Ivey making the final nine is good. But not necessarily good for poker. Poker doesn't need to get any better. It's already there. What is good for poker? More players? Ivey making the final nine isn't going to do that. Respect for the players? Ivey making the final nine will only win him respect. Better Structures or lesser fees? Again, ,zero effect.

As a matter of fact, the only winners I see out of this whole mess is going to be ESPN. And that's a big fat maybe! Because guys like me and Hoy who watch poker on TV very seldom might actually watch this time around. Because Ivey is there. Ratings are sure to go up.

The whole table is actually pretty darned good. With the exception of Darvin Moon (who seems to be playing just a very aggresive game) everyone has proven to some extent some very high level of skill.

But this avoids my point.

One professional player posted on Facebook that he guaranteed "IVEY CRUSHES A MAINSTREAM SPONSOR" for making the November nine. My response was, I'll lay 3 to 1 that he doesn't.

Again, you have to define what is good for poker. In the industry, for players, reps, and publicicsts, what's good for poker is sponosrship. There seems to be this anticipation that Coke or Pledge, or Citibank is going to show up some day and pick out a player and offer him millions to endorse their product. I will tell you that in today's climate, as it stands right now... unless it changes, that will never happen. Ever.

It's a shame as well. If you think about it, Ivey, Helmuth, Lederer, Scotty, Jesus, Lindgren, Negraneu all have gotten more TV time than say Tiger Woods. The problem is what kind of TV time are they getting. Of course you can deduce that Poker is still gambling, and what type of reputable company that sells billions in goods and services would want to risk their consumer base by sponsoring gambling?

On top of that, you have to look at the players. Poker gets a ton of exposure. Even when TV ratings started to decline, poker still had a lot of exposure. The WPT, even though it has waned the last few years is still on a lot. The WSOP televises 4 months of new programming leading up to stupid prizes, and then reruns the rest of the year. High Stakes poker is a huge show with exceptional ratings. But it's the poker that is highlighted. Not so much the players.

Add to that the expense of sponsoring one specific player, and have him go on a bad run and you get zero return. None.

Poker players were told stories of paradise when the WSOP got those retarded ratings in 2003 and everyone and their mother started putting up poker shows. It was all about who was going to get the biggest piece first. Success meant TV time, and TV time meant endorsements. But with the exception of online sites throwing them a red name, or a couple of patches and some rake back and even an hourly rate, the promise of Michael Jordan money never came. And will never come. Yes, poker players will forever have to make their money the hard way. They'll have to earn it.

That being said, let's assume that Hersheys Chocolate takes a liking ot our boy Phil and decides to think about signing him up for a deal. He's not necessarily the world's best pitchman. He's no Billy Mays. As a matter of fact, I would reckon that he wouldn't want anything to do with it. Now, no one is going to look a gift horse in the mouth, but for the time he will have to spend, and the change in lifestyle he will have to make in order to get the type of dollars that players think they are entitled to, I would think Ivey would tell them very plainly to go fuck themselves.

So back to what's good for poker? As it relates to us as players and the game itself? Respect? The whole gambling monacher to be lifted? The fact that it will be seen as a game of skill moreso than luck?

Does Ivey sitting at the final table of the Main Event change any of that? I don't think so. Sure, he's a skilled player, but so is Helmuth. This is why I think Helmuth is one of the smartest guys going in poker. He realized that making money in poker, besides playing was going to take place in the poker arena only. He invested wisely in poker related companies. He didn't sit back and wait, or even complain about the lack of mainstream sponsorship that never came. He went out and created his own brand and made his money that way.

So no... Ivey will not be the savior of poker for making a final table at the Main event. Even if he does win. Which I hope he does. But for that matter, poker doesn't need saving. Sure it has it's problems. But neither Ivey or God himself making the final table of the most revered tournament in the world will have any effect on how this game is perceived by the non playing public, mainstream sponsors, or those that have enough influence to offer players a better game. Poker is and always will be about the money. From all sides. There's no one out there that isn't focused on sucking every last penny out of poker. Whether it be the players, the sites, or the casinos. And no one is bigger than that.

Look, I get as a player why you would think that a big named player, and possibly the most feared player ever making the final 9 is nice. But it sure as hell isn't going to do anything to improve poker as we know it. Not one I-oda! If you think Ivey feels some sort of kinship to other players, or some sort of responsibility to the poker community for being in what could be the largest spot light of his career... you're smokin' crack. He won't be caring about what others think of poker. He'll be thinking about 8 million. And that's that.


DrChako said...

Maybe not mainstream, but he'd be a good spokesman for luxury items like Corum watches. Wouldn't surprise me.

That said, I think your take is right on the money.


Riggstad said...

Poker players have gotten sponsorships... yes. But nowhere near what they expect. As I said, sponsorships have come from poker related companies, and trust me when I tell you... they aren't worth shit. Nothing more than free product and possibly a couple of bucks.

The notion that these guys get bought into events all the time is sooo misleading it's comical. but that's for another post...

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I think with Ivey in the November Nine this year, the 2010 WSOP ME will grow, not shrink, as compared to this year, more or less regardless of the economic situation in the country next summer. That's all I mean when I say Ivey there is good for poker. People will be more interested in the November Nine and thus more interested in poker than they have been in years, literally. I never meant to suggest that this will get the big pros better sponsorships or more respect for themselves or what they do. But I do think it's big for the popularity of poker among the mainstream.

Go Phillies!

BamBam said...

And a response shall be forthcoming, instead of a comment that went on too long.

BamBam said...

There! Post is up.

Gorilla said...

I agree that high end stuff are the only products Ivy would be worth the gamble from a company's perspective...but you still have the mainstream problem.

The only way I see getting around it would be to sneak him into an add with other credible/established stars.

Federer and Woods aren't very charismatic as pitchmen, but they don't have to be the way they're used in the Gillette ads...but what's the payoff of using Ivy in that role?

Ivy was fortunate to make the final table as he saw his 11 million stack cut in half as he limped to the finish line.

The worst thing for ESPN is for Ivy to make a play and get outdrawn by a big stack or lose a coin flip in the first hour.

That'll be anticlimactic and a complete dud for Erin Andrews' employer.

Too bad he doesn't have more chips heading to November because he'll need a quick double up to live up to the hype we're already hearing.

Baywolfe said...

Let's not forget Jeff Shulman in all of this. This gives, even the most casual of poker fans, two big names in the final table. Something that hasn't happened since the pre-Moneymaker days.

But you're right, no major corporation is going to sponsor one of the nine full well knowing they could be out in just a few hands. And the "family brands" like Coke, McDonalds, etc. are not going to touch sponsorship of Poker Tournaments until it becomes way, way, more mainsteam.

Still it's nice to see Phil in the final table. He always looked so dyspeptic in previous WSOP ME's. Hopefully he'll actually smile a few times.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Who is Phil Ivey?

Ok, I kid. I really don't get it. People who are into the WSOP will watch the final table. People who can't stand ESPN broadcasts of poker won't watch it regardless of who's in it (well, maybe that's just me). I'm not sure that Joe Blow who doesn't really care about poker would start watching it all of a sudden, only because Phil Ivey is in it.

Even if he hears about it from other coworkers about how great Phil Ivey is, unless Ivey is playing every hand and miraculously crushing everyone, he's gonna watch for 10 minutes and flip the channel. It's not like sports where the "god of the sport" is in action all the time.

Like if a guy heard of Kobe Bryant and we tell him, hey Kobe is in the NBA finals... and he flips to watch it for 10 minutes, it's very likely he will see some highlight reel material that he can at least converse the next day.

Watching poker? "Hey did you see that all in when Ivey had pocket kings and doubled up against a guy who had queens?" *yawn*

I love poker, but it ain't sports. Wait, so what was my point again? Oh yeah, so I don't think Ivey is gonna help mainstream that much. yeah, basically, what you just said. I shoulda made this a blog post.