Last night, I had a dream. In my dream, there was a Genie in the corner who said he would grant me three wishes for the poker world in 2006. Without hesitation, I informed the Genie that wish # 1 would be my wire-to-wire victory in the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event. To my dismay, the Genie informed me I would have to make wishes that would benefit the poker world as a whole...not just my game.
Undaunted, I put some thought to this, and came up with the following.
Wish # 1 - The players find a way to unite.
Many of the challenges we face in the world of poker with the growth of poker over the last couple years can be solved, or overcome if the players can find a way to unite. This isn't the first time you have read this, or even the first time you have read this in this column.
A united players association can do everything from bringing unification to the touring 'schedule', to consistent TV logo rules, to better sponsor opportunities for every facet of the business - not just for players. A lot of these 'challenges' in the new world order do come back to the players. A strong, unified association would instantly shift the balance of power in the poker world. If properly managed, a players association could re-write the way business is done in the post gold rush world of big time poker.
The creation of such an organization is a bit more challenging in the poker world. Granted, you will always have your 'core' top players who have earned their respect over the course of many years. But, one of the beautiful things about poker is you will also have a new glut of 'stars' in the game. The staying power of each new star will only be shown over time. The challenge for any players association will be to figure out how to integrate these new stars into the decision making process, while not letting the balance of power fall too much to the new. Oh, let's not forget to mention the task of getting poker players to agree on anything is next to impossible.
I hear whispers of a new entity in this arena in 2006 - I wish everyone involved the best of luck.
Wish # 2 - Online Poker finds its Place in the US
OK, so this falls more under the category of fantasy than wish for 2006. But, can't a young boy from Redondo Beach dream?
The USA is losing a big battle here. Every day that passes, we lose more opportunity, and taxes, as more jobs and industry go 'off shore'.
This isn't the same as the controversy, and subsequent witch hunt that surrounded music downloading. On some level, you can get the vast majority of people to agree that stealing is wrong. Over time, this issue has defined itself, and most people feel that getting something you traditionally have had to pay for free of charge is wrong. This took a few years, but now it has settled into a generally accepted way of the internet.
But - poker and gaming are different. You will not get a vast majority, or even any majority to say poker, or gaming are 'wrong'. This is why defining gaming on the internet is going to be a much bigger challenge. Whenever the US government decides to begin to form its opinion and policy on gaming on the internet, it will face a public that will be deeply divided over the issue. What makes this issue more complex is the added factor of this being a 'rights' issue. The issue is not only is gaming right or wrong, but do people have the right to spend their disposable income on the internet the way they choose - even if their choice is to gamble it away. Oh, yeah...and if a guy in Cleveland is playing poker on a site licensed in Malta, with a payment processor in Costa Rica, and servers in Canada...who gets the tax money?
Although I think we are years away from any real resolution on this issue, the sleeping giant that is the US Government may be starting to awake. In the later part of 2005, we finally heard whispers of this issue making its way on to the government's radar, and I get the feeling this issue will start to really raise its head in 2006.
I wish for a prompt solution to this matter. I already know this wish will not come true.
Wish # 3 - Broadcast outlets agree on consistent policies.
I wish content providers could come to an agreement on universally acceptable logo and sponsorship rules.
Some of this will fall under wish # 1, as the players should (and do) have a great deal of say into what sponsors can get out of an affiliation with them. But, to really form the game of poker into a 'sport' (I still can't bring myself to call it a sport) that can compete with the major TV sports, sponsors have to know what they are getting for their investment into players. Once they know exactly what they can get out of player sponsorship, they can look further into things like event sponsorship, to further help build their brand within the game.
To an extent, certain potential sponsors are simply never going to be able to come to the plate with respect to sponsorship of poker, as some in their stockholder constituency would not approve.
But if broadcast outlets can agree on a specific set of criteria, and stay consistent with them, it will help potential sponsors to determine value. Here's the irony - if the broadcast outlets can set these rules up - guess who gets the 'title' sponsorship, and other ancillary revenues? The broadcast outlet themselves.
Three simple wishes for the poker world. Let's hope the Genie is listening.