The Business of Poker: Transition Time
I played baseball from the age of 6 to the age of 22. One of my last coaches had a term and a concept for nearly everything in the game. Only later did I realize that a lot of this coach's 'dugout philosophy' had worn off on me, and stuck.
One of my coach's favorites was the concept of transition time, which usually happens in the 6th and 7th innings. Transition time is the period where the game takes shape, and it starts to dawn on the winners that they will probably win, and the losers start to realize that they will probably lose. Or, both teams realize it's going to be a dogfight to the end, and hunker down for the final few innings.
We are in an interesting time in the world of poker. I think we have hit transition time, where this business, and this 'sport,' needs to begin to figure out where it is going, and what is (and, more importantly, what is not) working.
Clearly, televised poker has hit its peak, at least in the US. Ratings are down, and the glut of poker programming in the US in the last two years has taken its toll.
Just as clearly, the live poker tournament business has not slowed downnot one bit. I don't get surprised much by numbers in tournaments anymore, but the fact that Borgata and Commerce each had over 1,100 entrants to the first tournament of their recent series (Borgata Winter Open and LA Poker Classic) indicates to me that the live tournament poker world is very healthy indeed.
Speaking of health, the boom continues unabated on the internet. Players are joining online card rooms at a frantic pace, and to this day, new online card rooms continue to pop up.
Mind you, I think there will still be winners in the TV poker world (maybe some we haven't even heard of yet) and there will be some losers in the online space (maybe some we will never hear of). But the point is, with the first signs of poker's incredible boom slowing to a manageable pace, we are entering transition time.
To my coach, the key to handling transition time in baseball is your attitude. If it looks like you are going to lose, relax. A team that is losing is probably not going to come back if they are tense about losing. If you are winning, don't let up. Keeping your focus is right in line with keeping your lead in the game. If it's going to be a dogfight down the stretch, increase your intensity. Oftentimes, it's the team that wants it the most that winds up taking home the prize. Remind yourself how much you want to win, and... more times than not, you will.
Over the next 8 months or so, we're going to see how everyone in this business handles transition time. Long-term winners (other than those already established) will probably begin to emerge as the WSOP comes to a close and the associated media buzz begins to die down.
To me, this can be one of the most exciting times in poker's growth. In the gold rush phase, everyone is out there, grabbing 'land,' in many cases rather indiscriminately. When the pace is as mercurial as it has been, it's easy for those in the poker business to kid themselves about whether they are winning or losing the game.
Now is when it gets interesting. Poker has spent the last year settling into its new place in the world, and now it's time to take the right attitude. Look up at the scoreboard, figure out where you are at, and take the proper approach. The sky is still the limit.