Future of the poker industry: Part 3

Straight Stackin'

This series looks at how the future of the poker industry may lie in unifying players and casinos across the world to standardize the game.

The first two parts of the series discussed how an overall organizing body and standard for rules could help the game of poker in general and the various casinos and tours involved in the game. For the businesses involved, the biggest incentive is probably the potential profit increase.

That's a pretty big incentive to become more organized, though. The Professional Golfers' Association was started for just that reason in 1916.

Department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker invited a number of golf professionals and leading amateurs of the era for lunch at the Taplow Club in New York City in January 1916. His belief was that golf professionals could enhance equipment sales if they formed an association.

His idea was quickly realized, as the players came together in the PGA, started a tour and found a myriad of ways to promote the game of golf. Along the way the PGA found ways to benefit the players of the game as well.


From a look at the PGA Tour schedule, it's obvious golf enthusiasts don't have to worry about major events overlapping on the schedule. Usually there are a few days in between events as well. For example, the PGA Tour schedule for January was:

  • Jan. 3-6: Mercedes-Benz Championship, Hawaii
  • Jan. 10-13: Sony Open, Hawaii
  • Jan. 16-20: Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, California
  • Jan. 24-27: Buick Invitational, California
  • Jan. 31-Feb. 3: FBR Open, Arizona

It's important to note the locations of the tournaments as well. The PGA has scheduled tournaments in a way that makes it easier to travel from one to the next as well. As discussed in Part 2 of this series, this allows the players to take part in as many of the events as they want to.

In contrast, part of the schedule for poker players in January started with the Aussie Millions in Melbourne, Australia, then took players all over the world with a World Series of Poker Circuit event starting in the United States before the Aussie Millions was even finished, and then a World Poker Tour event.

It wasn't long after that that another WPT event got under way, and it overlapped with the start of the European Poker Tour German Open.

Poker players would have had to bounce all over the world to be able to take in all the events in January. Even if they did give it a shot, doing well in one event would mean missing out on whatever other major event happened to overlap it.

Cash in hand

Working out a better schedule for the various tournaments among the major tours and the casinos leads to a benefit anybody can get behind: more money.

It's not necessarily about the possible increased cash flow from tournament winnings either. Yes, players will have a better shot at winning more money if they can actually play in more of the events, but there are more surefire ways players will see their profits go up.

The first is from lower travel expenses. Let's say the PGA tournament schedule above is actually a list of poker tournaments.

Players will spend the money to fly to Hawaii, where they can then participate in two different tournaments. Then they're off to California where there are two more tournaments to play in, followed by a short trip over to Arizona for the next.

Even if the actual poker events that took place in January weren't overlapping, poker players would still have had to fly to Australia for one event, then to Tunica, Miss., where they could take in two events, followed by a trip to Atlantic City and on to Germany.

It would cut down tremendously on travel costs if the different, competing poker tours would schedule geographically close events in succession.

Fewer travel costs equals more profit when a player actually does make the money or win a tournament.

The other guaranteed cash benefit comes from the increased exposure poker players will get if they can participate in more major tournaments. Just as it pays to be a popular athlete in just about any sports league, it pays to be a well-known player on the circuit.

The only way to get there is to build a name on the major circuits. If a player does well at major events, he gets more TV time and more media coverage. That leads to recognition from the general public and the more popular a player is, the more likely he's going to get endorsement deals.

Increased legitimacy

Even if players are getting more exposure, the game of poker is still working to shake off its shady past. The game has come quite a way in the eyes of the public, going from shady, illegal backroom games to a worldwide phenomenon, but it's not like General Mills is beating down the door of any poker players to endorse Wheaties.

The World Poker Association hopes to bring the game to that last level where it is considered a completely legitimate pastime. It has drafted an ethical code that all its members are asked to adhere to.

The code includes general provisions relating to following the rules and the laws vis-à-vis poker, as well as provisions for relationships among players, the relationship between players and dealers, player and tournament or game management relationships, and how players should behave away from the table.

"The Ethics Committee devoted many hours to the development of language that integrates standards of sportsmanship as well as integrity into the WPA's Code of Ethics," said Wendeen Eolis, now Chairman and CEO of the WPA Board of Directors, when the Code of Ethics was released.

It is the WPA's mission to promote professionalism in poker worldwide and support the highest standards of ethical conduct in tournament poker activities. Members of the organization believe they need to unite to affect the future of tournament poker to protect the players, promote the game and unite all related tournament poker entities.

The idea is that by having players dedicate themselves to following a high set of ethical standards, it will elevate the game of poker as well. The general public will see how the game and the players have transformed.

Golf doesn't have quite the same sordid past that poker does. There aren't a whole lot of stories of golfers being killed during a game like there are for poker, but the two have a similar disorganized past.

Golf started out as just a fun hobby, a simple activity to pass the time. It became a "sport" after the PGA was formed and the players banded together to bring more attention to the game. Their organized tournaments, and a code of ethics created in the 1930s, helped lend more legitimacy to the game and helped build a fan base for the game to make it the spectator sport it is today.

Learning just one set of rules

One of the other goals the WPA has it to create a uniform set of rules for all tournaments. As has been discussed previously, different casinos and different poker tours have different sets of rules.

There are differences in tournament structures, differences in payout structures, differences in etiquette and more. It's amazing that players don't have crib sheets just to keep track of these vagaries when they travel from tournament to tournament.

A unified set of rules would eliminate that problem. Players would always know what's expected of them and what they're getting into.

"Tournament organizers and casinos are sitting up and taking notice as the WPA makes headway in its mission to become the guiding force in setting standards, rules and procedures that reflect professionalism and promote poker as a respected sport," said the WPA in a press release.

The WPA worked with the World Series of Poker this year to set up a mega-satellite to the WSOP Main Event that conforms to the rules they're trying to promote. The poker operations director at the Venetian also expressed interest in hosting a WPA mega-satellite during its Deep Stack Tournament this summer.

This is just the beginning for the game of poker, however. The game is still growing and there are new markets opening up for the game all over the world both online and live, but an overall organizing structure for the game and its players can take it even further.

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