Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

The Silly Season

by Jesse May |  Published: Nov 01, 2005


If I'm not mistaken, we've just been through the first off-season in the history of poker. On the professional golf tour, there is a time of the year called the "silly season." It's the month when players who have spent nine months on the road realize there's a place they call home. It's the month when those who have had a tough year lick their wounds and regroup for another round, and those who have garnered fortune and fame cash in a little extra. It's a time when there's a bunch of money given away for those who have it already, and the rest tend to their rose gardens. And in the poker world, the silly season is the time of the year when poker goes to the Internet.

There was a time when it was accepted for professional poker players to shy away from the Internet, for grizzled rounders to claim, "I can't win there," "The game is different," or, "I threw my computer in the swimming pool." Show me a professional player who refuses to play on the Internet these days and I'll show you a dinosaur. Aspiring professionals must be able to consistently beat Internet games or they have no chance on the big stage today.

That's the game of poker in 2005, and ever since Scott Fischman told me that he practices for major live tournaments by playing $5 multitables on the Internet, my eyes have been opened anew. Of course, the money being played for online is now big enough so as to make many live tournaments listless. Sunday nights in Europe are for the Internet, and with at least four major sites having their biggest tournaments of the week that day, millionaires are made without ever leaving home.

Now that fall is here, the professional poker tours start up again in earnest. And the World Poker Tour quietly shattered eardrums and expectations with the landmark announcement that players are now allowed to wear sponsor logos in WPT tournaments. This has reverberations all the way to European shores, as the WPT is not only the highest-rated poker show in America, but in Europe, as well. The market value of your average European pro has just increased by a factor of X times a dump truck, and the next few months may see an explosion of new sponsor contracts. What is it worth to wear a logo in a televised tournament? That's the question on poker players' lips, replacing the previously popular question, "How much do you get for ninth place?"

Over here in Europe, players will be dividing their time between the multitable EPT events and a plethora of single-table made-for-television formats. The EPT had a great first season last year, highlighted by tournament organization and structures that are among the most player-friendly in the poker world. The second season looks even better for the player, with sturdy buy-ins of €4,000 at some of the top venues in Europe. Sponsors, however, may look elsewhere, as EPT season one unfortunately had limited value for anyone wearing a logo other than the EPT tour sponsor itself.

Ever since Robert Gardner introduced Late Night Poker to the world in 1999, there have been nearly as many variations on the one-table televised format as there are people who claim to have invented televised poker. Somewhere between a chess match and a dice game, the one-table formats persist because they are convenient for television and birthday cake for sponsors. The UK television market in particular has been saturated with events that compete between themselves for professional players to swell the fields, and the upcoming year is no different.

Some events offer value in terms of added money, like the Ladbrokes Poker Million. Some events offer value in terms of fields populated with Internet qualifiers, like the Pacific Poker Open. And others offer value by allowing logos to be worn, like the William Hill Grand Prix. Unfortunately for the spectator, however, one issue not being addressed is how to put more play into these events. The poker audience is now sophisticated enough to demand skill when they watch poker, with structures that reward skill first and foremost. And the future of televised poker may depend on its ability to deliver just that.