The Poker Boom

I was born in 1985. That being said, really, I represent the age of poker. Sure, you get the people who are older who of course have there grumbling on the good old days in which poker was much more of an elitist taste that required a lot more than a computer and credit card to indulge. But with the happenings that have occurred in the last few years, we are dealing with a whole new game. Poker has changed, and I needn’t be around ten years ago to realize that. It’s funny, you just listen to the pro’s who have delved into the old and the new, and they will be the first to tell you that it has transformed into some sort of conglomerate. Some kind of machine that continues to grow, maneuver it’s way into every corner of the world. I am not really sure if we should all be discouraged by this, seeing how I was never there in the mid-80’s in which the field was designed and procured by professionals and professionals alone. But I have a feeling that it is good for it, of course, to a certain extent. I have a few things to touch on.
Let me come right out and say I have never been to Las Vegas. That usually is a good benchmark on gauging someone’s talent and know-how of the sport. However, in my brief stint as an amateur hobbyist of poker, I can tell you that the landscape of the poker world is pretty exciting. I can sit here, nestled in the northwest of the country, and go no further than a mile away to get in a game almost 24 hours of the day. What that allows is the ability to really hone your game and find exactly where you are in the world. Now, of course, like I said earlier I have not played poker outside my little circle, but I must reiterate the excitement of knowing that this is no longer the wild west. I have heard stories out of the mouth of Doyle Brunson in which he describes scenes where he use to have to travel far distances in order to get involved in a game, and when he arrived at the location they would have to fear the guys standing on the roofs with shotguns. Also, the many times they would clean house, situs idn poker to turn around and get robbed. So it made the allure of playing the game a lot less enticing when your excitement is coupled with the fear of your life being at stake. When I say the landscape of poker has changed, and I replay some of Doyle’s experiences, than I think about mine, it is a rather clear statement.

We all have dreams. Seeing that first prize at the largest poker tournament in the world, of course the WSOP main event, is the largest prize awarded in any sport anywhere in the world makes that dream drift in and out of your head like an annoying song. And the fact, knowing that the prize is being constantly claimed by individuals who are just really average people with no such advantage whatsoever makes the dream all the more real.

The fascination really occurs by the truly mind-boggling appearances that poker makes on TV, radio, casino’s, magazine’s, and the newly acquired playground of the internet. The mushroom effect that poker has officially enveloped every market that it could possibly conquer. It is extremely hard to ignore, being a person who enjoys poker, this remarkable marketing system that has been put in place. The other day I was watching ESPN 2, there was the WSOP. I flipped over to FSN, there was Poker Superstars. I turn it over to the Travel channel, yeah that’s right, WPT. And lastly I find my way to CNBC, I say to myself, you have got to be shitting me, NBC Heads-up Championship. I could not believe it, four different channels, no affiliation, all broadcasting No-Limit Poker at the same time. And obviously we are not just dealing with TV, just one example.

I can just imagine the great depression of poker. It has to be coming. I see the Dow Jones Industrial average absolutely barreling towards 14,000, I see record fields of tournament poker, and I think to myself, RECESSION. Or maybe I yell empathically. Either way I smell it. Prediction: The WSOP main event gathers less than the nearly 9000 who participated last year. A decline without a doubt. With the newly passed “illegal to gamble on the internet if you are from the US” law, I smell dissention. A disgust for the way the government is treating it. Also, a decline for the simple fact that the internet was one of the major factors the main event saw such a record field. Remember, a good portion of that field did not pony up ten large to play. There was satellites and sponsor exemptions that accounted for a sizeable portion. With that fraction eliminated from the field I have a hard to seeing another record field. Now does this really translate into doom for the poker world. Obviously not. But the point here is that the very thing that created such a monster out of poker, the advent of online poker, fastened with the marketing that is in place, brought forth a game that generated a buzz like never before. When you eliminate these online prodigies, and therefore have to scale back on the marketing scheme it makes for a smaller crowd. The smaller the crowd, the less lucrative the prize pool. The less the prize pool, the purging of the buzz. As soon as the buzz dies, and the smoke clears, I think we come back to the elitist sport that was once the norm essentially return to it’s former state. Is it possible? I’m really not sure. I’ve never sat foot in the desert. Never been to the strip. Never seen a pro, nor played with one. And by-God I have never paid more than one hundred dollars to enter into a tournament. So really, I am not the expert here. However, I have what everybody else has, and that is the power of the media on my side. And if indications are correct, I see the downswing abound.

So we know where poker in the US came from. Essentially, we know where it has been. So I guess my question, where is this phenomenon headed? I mean I have my own inclinations. Like I said earlier, I felt a recession. But I am one person who would be sad to see it downtrodden. What will keep this sport on the path to growth? Could it possibly rival the enthusiasm that the likes of the NFL has created? This summer, I suspect, when it is all said and done, we shall have our answer. Next stop, the World Series of Poker 2007.

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