Have we gotten this poker-pro sponsorship thing all wrong?
Are we sponsoring the wrong people?
And are we using these people to attract the wrong sort of clientele?
I think we are.
More High-Risk Takers Needed
I have a strong view that the reason we're not seeing the consistent flow of numbers that the game once enjoyed is because everyone is running out of money.
You need money to play this game and that was never better demonstrated than when Daniel Negreanu suggested a format for poker to be included as an Olympic sport and created a prize pool.
Can you imagine Michael Phelps turning down the chance to swim for his country because there's not enough money available to the winner?
The reason people are running out of money is because the recreational player mass we are attracting is not in the stratum of high-risk takers. Instead, we are attracting low risk takers.
Players who won’t use their credit cards, won’t lie to their wives, won’t beg, steal and borrow, and won’t take the Children’s Book Club money.
So why does this happen?
One of the reasons is the "goody-two-shoes" approach in recent years to the appointments of professionally sponsored poker players. And even when someone makes the cut who is willing to cause a bit of controversy, the lines are missing from the script.
Why Are We Afraid of Controversy?
There is a school of thought that controversy damages the brand of a respected poker organization but we have to get real here.
We might kid ourselves that we're in the genre of entertainment but in truth when you walk into the library of life we are filed somewhere between sex, deceit and debauchery.
We are more Wolf of Wall Street than Three Little Pigs. So what exactly are we afraid of?
I’m not talking about allowing everyone to run amok by cheating, stealing and rule breaking. I'm talking about introducing characters into the game that will make your toenails curl.
The type whose words cause scarring of the mind. The ones who make you cringe and laugh in equal volume.
Paddy Power are a case in point. The Irish funsters have a position known as Head of Mischief and its Global Marketing Director, Christian Woolfenden, recently told the press that: ‘We’re disappointed if we don’t get any complaints.”
It recently decided to sponsor former NBA legend Dennis Rodman’s controversial trip to North Korea, sent Rodman around the Vatican in a Popemobile to promote the quest for a black pope, and opened a market for murder when it allowed punters to bet on the outcome of the Oscar Pistorious trial.
Grown-Ups Who Like a Bit of Mischief
Shock, horror, disaster!
The profits must be plummeting, the sky must be falling and the company must be falling off the edge of a cliff.
Not on your nelly.
This company is on the up and up. It's the most innovative gang on the street corner and, slowly but surely, its competitors are starting to stand next to them in the corridors of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as they wait to have their bums smacked.
Because people who gamble at Paddy Power are grown-ups who like a bit of mischief. They are risk takers.
The type of people who sit next to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) chucking in their weekly wages because they have a dream to do this rather than empty people’s bins for a living.
Paddy Power understand (a) who the audience is and (b) the type of audience it wants to attract.
The Irish troublemakers want to attract troublemakers. People who will do whatever it takes to find a few pennies to have a bet, and the poker industry should be the same.
The Naughty School of Poker
I want someone to rise up against the established poker organizations and create a new brand, and I want its mission statement to be naughty not nice.
I want to see the likes of Luke "Full_Flush" Schwartz, Tony G, Dave "The Devilfish" Ulliot, Roberto Romanello, Kim Shannon, Mike "The Mouth" Matusow and Matthew Marafioti hired as sponsored pros.
I want their roles and responsibility statements to enable them to push the game to its limits, supported by the brand itself also creating even more innovative ways to create mischief, mayhem and madness.
It’s time to start re-evaluating who we want sitting at our tables. The swots or the vagabonds?