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Cock-up

by Roy Brindley |  Published: Jul 01, 2007

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Sham (adj./n.) imitation; counterfeit
Mockery (n.) derision; travesty
Farce (n.) comedy of boisterous humour; absurd and futile proceeding

The choice of a key headline word has been agonising, so I've listed a few options to let you decide on the most fitting. In fact, hear me through before making judgement, as you may not deem even those listed above as appropriate.

Let's just imagine what it must be like to be seated at the final table of a major European tournament, like one of the largest ever staged.

With just four players left in contention and fortunes at stake, deal-making would surely be understandable, and a simple request to the organisers for a prize-money breakdown should not be too much to ask, right?

Here, problems could begin with officials miscalculating the remaining money in the prize fund by a mere €180,000, an error that might not be discovered until those top-four finishers had made their deals, gone home delighted, and received their cheques more than a week later.

Naturally, once the error is discovered, the players would be contacted by phone and advised that their cheques had been stopped because of the miscalculation.

Informed of the adjusted amounts they are set to receive - proportionate to the percentage amounts they were initially given - they all protest that they would not have agreed to the deal and would have chosen to play on.

One, from North America, could state that he had already banked his cheque, and claim that their stop on his cheque was a breach of the laws of his land.

The result: one hell of a mess, a sham, mockery, farce.

Am I being hypothetical? You decide, but I think you would agree that such incidents should never happen, yet similar occurrences are indeed happening at poker tournaments far and wide.

Simple miscalculations and mistakes can alter the entire complexion of a game, but all that was required to avoid the aforementioned chaos was not a mini-Einstein, but a pocket calculator.

But, alas, literally anyone can turn up with a deck of cards and declare himself to be a tournament director; it's a joke.

I mean, I've even seen cards hit the floor in a million-dollar TV event and the tournament director instruct the dealer to check that all 52 cards were in the deck only after the completion of the hand!

Recently, in the Dortmund European Poker Tour leg, organisers took it upon themselves to alter the blinds structure when eight people remained. This was grossly unfair, unscrupulous, to the ninth-place finisher, and was akin to informing a football manager that you are halving the height of the goals just after he has put the last of his subs on the field who are all 6 feet 6 inches tall.

Officialdom
What other sporting events can you name that have prize money in the tens of thousands, often in the millions, and yet have no governing body, no official stewarding and qualified referees? Certainly not horse racing, darts, and snooker, and their prize-money levels cannot hold the dimmest candle to poker.

In addition to a recognised licensing committee, horse racing, and my original love of greyhound racing, also have boards in place to deal with the likes of calendar congestion.

Sadly, however, when you are talking about 30 venues in 10 different countries, the majority of which are individually owned, cooperation and understanding between European cardrooms is understandably lacking.

I digress, that's not the subject that I intended to put fingers to keyboard; instead, albeit similarly, it's my concerns for poker as a spectacle and an unregulated multimillion-pound industry.

On the box
Like it or love it, our beloved game is now in the biggest shop window of them all, TV screens. With what, though? An almost constant mishmash of games and events with dramatically contrasting quality, content, and style.

Consider this: Televised snooker rose to prominence during the early '80s partly due to colour televisions becoming an affordable household commodity. Furthermore, producers liked it because it was cheap to film and almost instantly attracted good viewing figures.

In the main, the game was novel, it boasted flamboyant characters, and it could be played, to varying degrees, by all those watching; hopefully, attributes that sound familiar.

Not surprisingly, snooker had a unified governing body, with qualified officials overseeing ranking and televised tournaments and fast-track entry into the well-spaced major events for the top-ranked players. It also boasted attractive added prize money from, the now frowned upon, cigarette companies that acted as sponsors.

Furthermore, the game was snooker with 15 red balls and six coloured balls, not forgetting the white. It was the best of nine, 11, 17, 19, 25, or 35 frames with no ifs and no buts.

Let's compare that to televised poker. At any one time during the next few months, you are likely to find, on some obscure satellite channel, one of 20 individual events that could date back to 1999.

Now, generally with these things, not only are the public blissfully unaware of the importance of the event they may find themselves watching, but also its age, relevance, and even what type of game it is.

Yes, it's poker, but what variety - limit, pot-limit, no-limit, heads-up, shootout, freezeout? Heavens above, ESPN has even recorded the final of a H.O.R.S.E. event, and how many even established players know what that stands for?

Already fragmented and without direction, this plethora of televised tournaments, which seem to have appeared overnight like crop circles in Wiltshire, are not, for my money, offering any long-term benefits to poker apart from awareness.

Naturally, in an ideal world, poker could angle itself into the dizzy heights that snooker once held. Am I the only one to recall more than a third of the UK's population watching a titanic world championship final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor at some ungodly hour in 1985?

OK, so the world has changed a lot since and no channel of any description will attain those figures for a single sporting event again. Furthermore, cigarette companies are no longer allowed to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for their logos to be displayed at, and names to be associated with, sporting events.

But we have an equal with online poker sites, and an absolute correlation between their product and the happenings unfolding before the armchair audience.

Are we, the players, to blame for letting the tail wag the dog? Well, there is clearly little unity between the players who choose to call themselves professionals and those who could realistically make a stand, the big names, the true professionals.

So, the host of sponsors and promoters, with only their own interests at heart, continue to act as organisers, stewards, promoters, and competitive suppliers of these countless unrecognised - in terms of a clear governing body - presentations.

How big does the next cock-up have to be before things change? And how would the Monopolies & Mergers Commission view this unhealthy and potentially corrupt situation?

Think on some, because next time, the big mistake could be costing you money.

Roy is the winner of an unparalleled 15 European Ranking tournaments, and his near misses are equally as impressive. Visit him at RoyTheBoy.net.