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Pro Blogs: The Game of the Future by Alec Torelli

Alec Torelli Blog Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of PokerNews. Alec Torelli's latest blog focuses on ways to change the public's perception of the poker industry and players. As discussed in Part 1, poker needs to be rebranded. But dressing well is just the beginning. In order to effectively implement change, we are going to need help from the rest of the world. The Problem: The Stereotype More on Perception First impressions are huge. The reason poker players are perceived as degenerate gamblers is we act like it. We show up to televised...

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make that 3 posts abcd im sure the forth is much the same glad to have you insite :-) I think i read on G4 or somewhere there may be a internet poker move in the works with justine timberlake and ben assflack?! I just like poker i have and watch rounders all the time even bought espn's poker series tilt that i loved wished it woulda came back. I also want to see the documentary that came out recently (sorry cant think of the name). i watch negreanus weekly rant religiously. I play on carbon poker alot but am afraid to put any kind of money on for fear of another black fri. as for what you should do next alec i was surprised to not see anything for black fri but keep doing what your doing.

23  

awesome story, idiot

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I don't think it's possible to predict the effects a movie or book will have on poker's popularity. I mean.. It might even backfire. As Samuel Goldwyn warned: "Movies are made to entertain. If you want to send a message, call Western Union."

But the basic proven theme is already available. The Hustler 1961. Fast Eddie. Degen extraordinaire... drugs.. alcoholism.. broken bones.. pain.. suicide.. deception.. death threats .. A minimal amount of actual pool playing.. and yet it made quite a positive impact on that game for a while. Wikipedia has a page on it.

You're an able writer, Alec. Plus you already have some media contacts, inner knowledge of the game and access to players who have access to other players. Why don't you give it a shot? Talk a couple of the old schoolers into partially financing the effort. Promise to put their names in the credits in great big letters. Producer: Executive Producer. Associate Producer..

21  

Joe, Chewy, Fan, your guys feedback is awesome and you raise some good points. The idea about exposing the harsh truths of poker would, in a way, make it even more appealing. The "rags to riches" idea is great. I think a well put together screenplay, book or particularly TV show can have the positive impact the industry needs.
Much appreciated all. Let me know if there's something you'd like to see from me content wise either here or via email.

20  

The swarms of lowly fish fund the tournaments' massive prize pools. They also drop the money in the casino pits, so the casinos are willing to move slot machines and hold the tournaments. If there's a tournament sponsor, the fish are the ones who buy Redbull or beef jerky..
Bottom line is that the fish pay for everything and if it weren't for them (I include myself in this group) there wouldn't be any B+M tournaments. I haven't thought about online, but it no doubt boils down to the same situation.

I get the feeling that if the well established, top players could somehow separate themselves from us fish, they would do so in a heartbeat. They would form some kinda "professional" league that excludes us.. call it "elite".. or something like that. Only problem is that they will then need big money sponsorship, or else the prize pool evaporates and .. well.. becomes quicksand? Ahem..

No, I'm not trying to start a class war between players. All I am saying is if you ask me to accept rules or follow some code of conduct, convince me that I will somehow benefit from it.
I sure didn't start playing poker because it was a restrictive, regulated activity. I was attracted by it's LACK of rules... for it's mildly antisocial, counter-cultural qualities.

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yeah you cant delibratly change public perception you have to act. You cant just go out and say hey this is who we are we are good/bad people you have to show what color stripes you have. i like exposure i want to see more poker on tv even tho sometimes poker is boring. i like the dialog between people the commradery. I love how most game (even tho your out to get the other guy) are civil on most accounts. I wish there could be more sponsors that could bring that to us and for that we need a better public perception. its not gonna happen over night but im crossing my fingers that it will happen. Unfortunately right/wrong with what the doj did to the poker industry we lost a few good sponsors. I dont wanna name drop but sites like pokerstars wont sponsor anything in the u.s. if they cant do business here. :-( we also need sponsors that can keep their end of the bargain. Lets just as a community do what we can to limit the black eyes. Pleeeeeeeeeeeease. lol

18  

Guys like Haxton and Galfond are sharp but too sharp. They alienate a lot of recreational players. Dwan was great though, when he first got big I swear there were so many young Durrr looking dudes giving sick action at the tables and just generally playing like bosses.

17  

Not all tournaments are 100% funded. But to be recognized as a top-tier tournament, there must be substantial added money, like 50% and upwards, and there must be some number of "top" rated players involved (among other things). Standards regarding tournament and player ratings vary within the relatively small... but worldwide,...and very competitive industry. Numerous industry groups and organizations are constantly fighting for an advantage and dominance. Check out billiards digest dot com if interested.

"...since certain people are cashing on their image."
Um.. yeah. Just enter some WSOP event and you are forced to sign away all your rights. But if you win and suddenly get an image that's worth money, you have something to negotiate with.
Actually, I don't care about top echelon players' minor gripes and worries. They can afford to take care of themselves. It's the huge majority below them which I care about because that's the group I belong to.

If I am asked to do something to help the poker image, I want it to lead to changes that will benefit my large group in some way. If the subject is a dress code, fine. I usually dress neat anyway, but imposing that suggestion (or rule) on us should offer some return benefit aimed at us. (btw, billiards went thorough this dress code thing right down to the size and placement of sponsor company logos long ago).

If our supposed benefit of cleaning things up will be increased public acceptance, or gain outside-industry sponsorship, then again, I have to ask HOW those can possibly benefit us, the large majority of players. Or, will we be just fish who were persuaded to contribute to the pockets of the top players in a new way? Where's the money going? What is our motivation?

As I've already expressed, I don't believe we can deliberately change public perception, nor do I think poker will ever gain more acceptance than it has already. There will never come the day when responsible parents encourage the kids to skip school and go to the casino or pool hall. Boom times are completely accidental. If there were a formula for increasing popularity every sport would be using it.

16  

i support online poker to the hilt it was sucessful for most involved but that a completely diff topic for another day.

i dont know much about pro pool but you say you do and i take your word for it. You say that a "sponsor" fronts the total amount of the prise pool for a torney and ill have to believe you are telling me the truth i dont know that this is true in bowling i dont think its 100% but im sure they contribute to it. From what ive read about poker torneys is its completely the opposite. Yeah they have multimillion dollar prise pools but that is 100% put up by the player. From what i hear no sponsor contributes to the prise pool of a poker torney. That is a sore subject with certain pros cuz they feel they should be getting a piece of that pie since certain people are cashing on their image.

As you have stated and exampled a dress code isnt in affect and may not help but will it hurt?

Like the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop, the world may never know!!

15  

and1chewy..
Can the game be grown by any amount deliberate effort?

You know bowling. I was in the very closely related billiard industry for a few decades. Pool suffers the same social stigma as poker. Massive efforts to clean up the game's image in order to attract outside sponsors and gain general public acceptance generally failed, and continues to do so.
Billiards has enjoyed the occasional popularity "boom" but they've been flukes, having nothing to do with an improved image of the game. Instead, the catalyst might be a popular Hollywood movie, or a building boom when lots of billiard equipment is installed in homes. Then some amount of television exposure follows, pool hall business dramatically improves for a while, etc..
Billiards needs sponsorship. A World Championship billiard tournament total prize pool might be $250,000.. that's the total pool.. and 100% provided by some sponsor.

Otoh, poker already has the richest prizes of any sport or game I can think of, and commonly provides $$$ multimillion first place money without sponsors. All I need for a shot at it is a small entry fee. So, who needs sponsors? Who needs public acceptance? Why should I care what the public thinks about me? Abide by a dress code? If a player is only in it for the money, things are pretty good the way they stand.
----
Of course, there are plenty of other viewpoints. If I liked to play online in my jammies, I would want legalization, and efforts towards increasing public support would seem well spent.
Not being a political animal , I wouldn't know what actually influences the politicians votes but, in my experience, public support is not necessarily required. I think they normally get together in the back room of some pool hall, play a little poker, looking for tells, pulling bluffs, slow playing big political hands.. ultimately making the best deals they can for themselves, and coincidentally determine our fate.

14  

I love your perspective on the media it its of so true. Its like why are scantly clad woman plastered all over advertising in mags? Cuz sex sells. Same with the news people don't wanna hear about someone doing better than they are they don't even wanna hear about people doing just as well you wanna hear about someone worse off than you cuz itmakes you feel better about being you. We love tragedy its sad but true. When you hear tires stretching on the road we wait for the big bang and are disappointed when it doesn't come. I recall when jamie gold won the main event eight after on espn it want congrats jamie on your accomplishment no it was wsop winner jamie gold is being sued...... cuz it sells.
Pro poker in many cases reminds me of pro bowling outside of the scene most people don't know who these people are. hence sponsorship is hard to come by outside of that realm.pro bowlers like many pro poker players front their own travel expences and entry fees with very little sponsorships to help. They get very little consideration outside their sport they get sponsors from companies like dexter storm or roto grip who outside of the bowling community even know or care who they are? The question remains as to what we can do to increase interest in the brand and I think that is what alec is alluding to. Tho I agree with a lot of what your saying mr. Schmo. :-)

13  

"The Media..The media in poker is ruining poker’s reputation"
Shoot the messenger? The media is not responsible for what poker players do. While news certainly helps shape public opinion, a Press which follows an agenda and deliberately neglects to report anything "unsavory" is dangerously dysfunctional and/or just a propaganda tool. Think twice before wishing it on yourself or anyone else..

As for business sponsorship..
The people who benefit from the participation of Cadillac or Rolex are top, popular players who might gain personal sponsorship and financial backing. All expenses paid around the globe is opportunity for the rich to get richer.
Meanwhile, the other 99.999% of players who can attend only a few events in a year, and struggle to pay entry fees, travel expenses and related overhead won't benefit or enjoy any part of the sponsor-pie.

"The Problem: The Public’s Perception"
The historical, generally negative public perception of gambling in general, and poker and it's players specifically, is not accurate. The lifestyle's reality is worse than outsiders imagine. It's very much a social, financial and personal minefield littered with rotting corpses. No one escapes unscathed.

Here we return to the media's "influence". Why are they anxious to publish all the negative stuff? Because it sells, and media is just a business trying to sell something.

The public has an insatiable appetite for bad news because it makes them feel blessed by comparison.
Thus, if the objective is to engender public interest in poker, putting lipstick on the poker-pig would be counterproductive. Instead, embrace and publicize the very dangerous realities of the game. Rags to riches. Prince to pauper and back to prince again. From penthouse to the gutter in one short day. Personal tragedy and triumphs. Fear and suspense. Reality TV unleashed.

Either force feed the public some bs about a bunch of total degens being normal and boring, or give them the ugly truth which they coincidentally thirst for. Seems like an easy choice.

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absolutly i dont think its a coinsidence that the poker brand has gone south and the players can only make it better. show up, take time out for fans and charities and be presentable when you do so. Maybe we can get back to the former glory like so many player and sponsers would like to see. I dont think that the maker of stacked the video game wants to put daniel negreanu on the cover full beard messy haired in his bath robe. If we want it we have to make it happen for ourselve and not wait around for the hand out, very few things happen without hard work.

11  

Chewy,
Well put. The event organizers: WSOP, EPT and WPT should mandate this and really think long term when it comes to this. How the sport is portrayed on TV affects them greatly and they should do everything they can to enforce the highest level of professionalism.

10  

i agree with your idea that dressing better will help the image alec i was just making the point that nba players didnt do it on their own. The up and coming players in the nba dont know any better but back when say allen iverson was breaking into the league (and pardon how i put this) you couldnt get the ghetto out of him without someone telling them he needed to. Maybe thats what poker needs is someone to tell them this is what you need to do and instill it into the up and coming players. Maybe its the internet age when everyone was used to multi-tabling in there pajamas but that age isnt now hence my agreement that the "player" needs to grow up and take responsiblity for their career. I am a firm believer that whether you are the 5 star chef at pf changs Laugh to the slub flipping burgers at micky d's you should respect what you are doing. If you dont respect what you are doing how can you expect anyone else to respect what you are doing.

9  

Agree or disagree, I appreciate both of your responses and insight. Debate makes it interesting and thank you for taking the time to write.

8  

Chewy,
Perhaps it's a catch 22, but who stands to gain more, the players or the sponsors? Since we are the ones that shouldwant the change, it is up to us to take the first step toward making it.
With regard to the NBA, that may be true, but my point is, did it help or hurt their image? It's a freeroll, dressing and acting professional cannot hurt.

Conan,
Sure people dress nice in chess. But chess isn't marketable, flashy, cool or sexy. It's not played by James Bond in movies. It's not the third most googled word in the world. And companies aren't making billions of dollars off it's existence. Poker has all the ingredients to be mainstream. It's only a matter of time. How long depends on us.

7  

conan, i believe wsop institutes rules as they seem they become necessary i.e. the havad khan rule. I also believe they have put i stop to some of the sponsorship branding ( not allowing players to wear thing that sport the names of their sponsors). Think they also put and end to the famous prop bet dress ups, santa claus and the easter bunny are no longer welcome at the wsop. Sometimes is seems as tho the wsop looks out for them and not the "sport" and unfortunatly poker players do the same at the expense of what it makes people think of the "sport". i think all mr. torelli is trying to say is its gonna take 5 min longer in the morning to wear something a lil nicer to the tables than sweat pants and a jersey.

6  

Chess players dress well, three piece suits even; I don't exactly see Gatorade or Nike knocking down their doors, even though that "sport" is without the taint of gambling and degeneracy. Staying "hydrated at the table"? Give me a break. Do you think for a second the WSOP wouldn't make (more of) a dress code if they thought it meant they could monetize sponsors above and beyond Jack Links Beef Jerky? Frankly, Mr. Torelli, your reach exceeds your grasp of the situation. I'm reminded of a Mad Men episode I recently watched (season 3, episode 4) where a 1960's era millionaire's scion decides he wants to make Jai alai the next baseball, the next America's pastime, and is willing to put a cool million bucks towards promoting it. Such a thing possibly really happened, and how did it work out? Some things, if you'll pardon the pun, just ain't in the cards.

5  

I love your theory that poker players need to create a better image for themselves but your comparison to the nba is off base the truth of the matter with the nba is they used to show up to post game interviews wearing jerseys and jeans hanging down to their knees til david stern instituted a dress policy that required them to dress more casual. I also think there is an effort to create rivalries I believe I remember watching something this summer with the us playing europe in a bunch of mixed game things. Its a catch 22 we need to be better at how we act to get sponsorships but we need sponsorships to get more exposure what do we do?

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