Editors' preface: PokerNews welcomes the New Year by asking a number of industry experts to share their views on the past, present and – most importantly – the future of poker. Throughout this series, these experts' opinions serve to outline the shape of the modern poker world and provide an indication of what 2009 and beyond might hold. PokerNews also notes that these experts' opinions do not necessarily represent the views of PokerNews.
Contributing to today's question are: Matthew Parvis, Editor-in-Chief of Bluff Magazine; Jeffrey Pollack, World Series of Poker Commissioner; Pauly "Dr. Pauly" McGuire, the author of the Tao of Poker blog and columnist for Bluff Magazine; Matthew Savage, noted tournament director and manager of the Commerce Casino poker room; and famed high-stakes cash and tournament player Barry Greenstein, a member of Team PokerStars Pro.
Today's question: What group within the poker world do you believe to be most affected by the global financial crisis?
Dr. Pauly: The immediate answer would be the average, everyday player because it's the average Joes that are really going to get hit the hardest. These are the types of people who have the potential of losing their jobs or getting reduced work schedules and that kind of stuff, so they're going to have less "fool around" money and that's kind of the bread and butter of the online poker industry and poker in general. It's those guys that work 40 to 50 hours a week. They have the wife, the two kids, the car and the mortgage and are living at the end of a cul-de-sac. They're the ones that have the Moneymaker dream and they bought into that whole [idea], everything that we believe is poker and everything's great about chasing that whole dream. Those are the guys that are going to have to put that dream on hold a little while until the financial situations improve and they have more in disposable income at their fingertips to waste on poker. That's the immediate concern. A lot of the pros are going to get impacted by it too, because if there's a lot less fish and beginning players dumping money into poker, they're just going to have to feed off of themselves, so there's going to be less guppies for the piranhas to gobble up, so they're going to start eating each other. It's a little bit of a domino effect. It's going to start from the bottom, but as all the bottom feeders are disappears, so it's going to start affecting those on top.
Barry Greenstein: Well, definitely, it mainly affects the live players because for live players to have games, they play with recreational players who go out for a night out and instead of to a movie or whatever, they go to a club or maybe they even go to someone else's house. It affects them because just how we're calling them recreational players, we know that recreation gets cut back when the economy is bad, but overall, when you include the internet, the UIGEA still has had a more damaging affect than the financial crisis because people are still going to play games and do their things they enjoy. If the UIGEA allowed them to put 50 bucks on the internet, we'd still see people doing that.
Matt Savage: Major tournaments at the highest level will be most affected and we are already seeing the affects of it with numbers down. I do think there can be some much needed consolidation that will help.
Jeffrey Pollack: I don't think the degree to which firms or people are affected by this economic downturn is a competitive sport. I think that everyone is obviously affected, from casinos to players, and no one really knows how much worse it's going to get before it gets better and when it will get better. The global economic downturn is an equal opportunity experience in terms of affecting everyone.
Matthew Parvis: First of all, everyone is going to be affected by this if it really does trickle down. I honestly believe that – this is a tough one to figure out who is going to be the most affected. I don't think the casinos are going to be that harshly affected because they still have the gamblers who are not concerned with poker. I don't think the large online poker rooms are going to be that affected. I think they're still going to have a player base. I almost think that it's the tournament pros that are going to see the biggest impact in a way, because there's just not enough amateurs out there that are putting their money in to play as big as the guys are playing.
Ten-thousand-dollar buy-ins, that's a lot of money. It always has been a lot of money and in order to sustain on the tournament circuit, especially with the amount of tournaments that are going on worldwide right now, you need to have at least one major win or final table to sustain yourself — and I don't think that, just from a "numbers" point of view, if you look at all of the top tournament professionals, not all of them are going to have a win in a calendar year. Not all of them are going to have a final table in the calendar year and while that doesn't mean that they're not a quality player, but I think that we're starting to see this economy affect the tournaments and our numbers are slightly down. I think that the Bellagio has seen a pretty big decrease in their tournament series in just the past quarter.