Thursday, January 27, 2005

I Pity the Fool

YTD: +$6684.38

Andy Ward, in his usual perceptive style, is having a dig at people who are sponsored in his recent blog entry, although his allusion might be a bit obscure for non-Brits. I agree with his sentiments but very much disagree with his outcomes - if you can get a sponsorship deal then as the curious gambling phrase goes, "fill your boots!" Because these times cannot last.

To explain my thinking, you will have to traverse back with me to the times of the Great Dot-com Explosion. These too were times of great wealth and little sense. I was fortunate, or maybe not, to be involved in a Dot-Bomb at the time. Many times I would meet with very intelligent people with great ideas, wonderful original ideas, but when asked "How do you make money?" they would come over all queasy and blank-eyed (incidentally my favorite answer was "monetize eyeballs"...that brings back the memories.) Internet poker and the sponsorship it brings is very reminiscent of this situation, well without the very intelligent people and ideas bit.

What in very simple terms do the sponsors get from their players? What has The Hendon Mob brought Prima that has justified its tremendous outlay? I don't know what their deal is, who pays RFB and other exes; nor do I know THM except by reputation and rumour. But its fairly clear that if THM were to have even a reasonably bad year, it would be very hard to justify that cost in terms of promotion and gained revenue from new players. In fact I think of myself as being very internet savvy, and to be frank I don't see what they are doing to bring revenue to Prima at all. Their site is mostly abandoned by them; they don't seem to be doing much promotion in terms of playing online; their results in events have mostly been in ones where there has been no logos anyway. The truth is that they are being sponsored because that is what Internet Poker Sites Do, not because of any real, tangible marketing $ to revenue benefit. And if the value of THM is questionable, what about Jac Arama?

What do you think would have happened to Ram and Barney in the recent Atlantic City events, as depicted in their diary, if poker sites were run by professional business people? Or Roy the Boy after admitting he avoided the people he was supposed to be promoting? They would be sacked of course. I am not guessing that these sites are run by the clueless. I know. By a chain of circumstance I happened to know the casino/poker room manager of a very substantial Poker site. He had no experience whatsoever in poker or casinos or gambling or leisure or even entertainment marketing. In fact he had been a junior marketing guy for a consumer goods firm. Excellent

Fill your boots whilst you can.

16 comments:

chaos said...

Hi Dave,

THM getting probably the best deal around is rather remarkable. They are not young and trendy and 'attractive' to the masses, nor are they revered as great writers or authorities in the game. Furthermore, only one of them is regarded is regarded as a top tournament player: it is very strange. They have their web site and hence the eyes of thousands which would have appealed to prima. However, I doubt if it's growing. Consequently it's hard to believe that THM readers aren't saturated. So where will the value be for Prima?

How long can the Mob image last? They gained their popularity through LNP, when poker was more of a cult and they were younger. If they lose momentum then it's is hard to see how they can regain it.

As for sponsorship I don't see it dissappearing, rather the opposite at least until internet sites have to worry about profit margins, i.e. reduced rake. Until then they will throw money at anyone. There will come a time when poker sites will have to start thinking about value adding, when it comes to their sponsorship. I suspect they will be far better offer paying good a dozen good writers 80k a year to write about poker as well as those who write about trip reports.

I agree with you that it is a bubble, but the differnce is these guys are already making so much money that sponsorship is insignificant. Only when rake comes down will this change, but nothing is afoot now it seems.

Milkybarkid said...

I would be extremely interested in what deals the sponsored pro's actually get. Rumor has it that the Devilfish has a deal with Ultimate Bet that gives him over £100000 to play on their site plus free entry into any tournament that he wants. However, alot of the sponsored pro's are now paid a salary and have to write articles for the site that sponsors them (e.g. Dave Colclough Bet 365).

Ultimately I can see that being the way forward. The thing that intrigues me is that cloak of secrecy that surrounds the deals that the sponsored pro's get. Perhaps they aren't quite as lucrative as we are made to believe. William Hill for example sponsors three players who regularly play on the UK Festival circuit. Having played with all 3 for significant periods I can say that two are no better than average local card room player. Sure they may have got a couple of decent results but given the number of tournaments they play and the part that luck plays in your results this is expected if you enter enough of them.

Andy_Ward said...

Hi Dave,

All my posts last week were unusually aggressive for some reason. Must be a dietary thing I reckon :-)

If you can get a deal then yes, fill your boots to overflowing. There are basically two things that rattle my cage on the subject :

1) that people seem to want to be corporate professionals and hard-living Wild West gamblers at the same time, or rather switch back and forward as and when it suits them.

2) the unquestioned assumption that this sponsorship is "good for poker". In fact it does nothing at all for non-sponsored players. Except when Jac Arama sits next to you in a rebuy tournament I suppose. Although that always was a good situation :-)

Maybe it is all about taking money off the suckers, whether at the tables or in the boardroom. But I still think playing for 100% of yourself is cooler.

Andy.

Big Dave D said...

Hey Chaos, good to see you back. Another factor is of course corporate governance. Most of these websites are either outside the bounds of legitimate markets, and/or privately owned, or comparatively small parts of bigger established businesses that clearly dont understand or think about what is going on. Ultimately that will change and then, even with the daft amounts of money being made, people will start looking harder at the books. Its also interesting that the biggest and the best, Stars, Party and UB, don't have any overt sponsorship. In fact UB have an online guy, KrazyKanuck, as one of their "Team". Now this makes far more sense to me than a bunch of mediocore "pros".

Big Dave D said...

Milky, Im sure a large part of the secrecy is tax avoidance. One of the things that pissed off Chaos, and rightly so, was the raising of the drawbridge when the tax issue arose on THM.

dd

Big Dave D said...

Andy,

I guess its the hypocracy of pretending its a "sport", that gets my guess. The personal habits, ethics and behaviours of a lot of the sponsored players, if the rumour mill is only half right, leave a lot to be desired. Personally I dont give a fuck if people cheat, are alcoholics or coke freaks. I learned in the Wild West style...christ in the game I played "cards speak" was not considered sporting practice. 80-90% of old-school B&M players are shits. Draping a pink icing of "sport" and "sponsorship" over the top doesnt stop it from being a shit cake.

Must be my diet too :)

dd

Anonymous said...

From Peter B

I agree Dave. Fill yer boots while you can. I think that a lot of the reasonably good players who have come into the game since, say, 2002, are falling victim to blue-sky thinking, rose-tinted spectacle views, dotcom mania — call it what you will. This spreads through corporations as well as players.

The fact is, at the moment everyone and his wife wants a poker internet site because it looksl ike easy money. And it is, if you get to critical mass. And how do you get to critical mass? You differentiate yourself. Well, that's what all the marketing people are saying in the board meetings.

Now, marketing people like to spend money and then talk about intangible ROIs, etc. That is what is happening at the moment. It's because of this that Stan James is offering us money and I, for a start, am happy to take it. Then again, writing 1,000 words is probably easier for me than winning the money at 8 or better, whereas for you it's possibly the other way round :-)

If you have been around a while, or if you are a "personality", or if you can string a sentence together; indeed, if you have any attribute that might drive people to a particular online site, then the corporates are faling over themselves to give you money.

Let the good times roll, but they won't last for ever in either the fish-for-the-fishing or corporates-for-the-sucking stakes....

PS: You are right -- 90% of live players of the old school (in the UK) are shits. I bless the development of online poker, I bless the Travel Channel, I bless ESPN and, most of all, I bless Chris Moneymaker.


Pete

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you say, broadly speaking, about the nebulous value of 'sponsored' players. Today I watched a documentary about a load of 'high stakes' players - the probably ironically named Poker Kings - and it wasn't very flattering. Quite how an internet site makes money from an association with people who are mostly fairly unappealing and so obviously on the take is beyond me.

But then I look at THM forum and am just amazed by the number of cheerleaders who dig for info about their 'favourite' players' progress in whatever comp, or leap to the defense of people they've never met just because they are 'name' pros. Incredible. Perhaps these people do genuinely sign up to a website because Willie Tann or whoever plays on it.


Cartman

Anonymous said...

hey Dave,

I hope you don't mind me asking you this. Have you played with this guy "HEAT" much in the Stars PLO games? He was driving me absolutely crazy this weekend. I think he plays terribly and should go broke, but he was hitting so many sick hands, it totally drove me on tilt. I have almost never been so anxious to "target" a player as this guy. I know I'm playing badly just to beat him, so I am going to quit the game and go back to limit hold 'em, lol. But what's your take on HEAT?

-Roswell

chaos said...

On a slightly different note, I am surprised that these sites don't invest heavily in education. Not simply just to access the writers to the thousands of ignorant on-line players, but also to pay psychologists to research the on-line phenomena and work out why people play bad and why they play well and, importantly, in conclusion,n do about it. Ultimately, if the poker sites can improve the way bad players play, they will make considerably more money. Apart from the odd account suspension, their seems little evidence of the poker rooms trying to reduce the SD of their poker-playing population's skill set.

Perhaps though, given their profit margins, they are less inclined to bring players in from the cold, encourage a community. But, I'd be surprised if they are that strategic.

chaos

Big Dave D said...

Pete and Cartman

Agree 100%...tg for the internet, down with THM!

dd

Big Dave D said...

Chaos,

I hadnt thought of it from this perspective, but of course u are right. I am also sure that the sites themeselves havent thought of it either. Too busy giving Jac Arama buyins :-(

dd

Big Dave D said...

Roswell,

I've played with HEAT a lot. I understand that he is a B&M toruney player and he plays PLO just like it. He buys in short and ram and jams, although actually his standards are not actually that loose preflop, its just that he 99% of the time jams it in on the flop too. SO u play him like any short stack maniac, gamble less preflop and maybe more on the flop.

gl

Dave

Anonymous said...

Fuck me I have read it all now...I have compared The slimebarkids tourney record with the three William Hill pro's. It took me 12 seconds.

Earn your stripes first big mouth.

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