There is never a shortage of hot button issues (discussions/debates/arguments) in the poker world, and this was certainly the case at the inaugural American Poker Conference that took place in Los Angeles in late February as part of Alex Dreyfus’s American Poker Awards celebration.
During the conference a lot of topics were bandied about, and with so many important, intelligent, and influential people in attendance there was certainly a lot of terrific insight and food for thought.
Here are three topics discussed at the APC that I hope the poker industry took note of and will continue to discuss and perhaps act on in the future.
Stop catering to pros
One of the themes of the APC, particularly during the final panel (which was made up primarily of poker pros), was how to make poker fun and inviting for casual players. One of the solutions offered up was to stop catering to professional players, something I’ve been advocating for years, and something I believe is an issue both live and online.
Here is what some of the APC panelists had to say on the topic:
Think about it like a home game, says @JasonSomerville. If you invited someone to your house and sat there silent with a hoodie and …— Chris Grove (@OPReport) February 28, 2015
… sunglasses and beat them for all their money, do you think they would come back to your house? Of course not. #APC15— Chris Grove (@OPReport) February 28, 2015
The good news is, the first step on the road to recovery is to admit you have a problem, which the poker community seems to be realizing. The bad news is the next step is figuring out how to solve it, and I don’t think we have come to that point quite yet.
Realize poker is still a niche activity
For those of us who live inside the vacuum of the poker industry it can often seem like poker is everywhere, and everybody plays the game. The truth of the matter is, outside of the core poker community very few people have any clue that there is even a poker community, and while many people play poker on occasion, it’s a pretty small percentage that take the game seriously.
People love to play poker. However, for most people their love of the game ends as soon as they stand up from the table.
So what he have to understand is these people don’t do is follow the industry closely, and most people you encounter in a home game wouldn’t know if online poker was legal or illegal in New Jersey; what happened on Black Friday or that Full Tilt Poker subsequently owed U.S. players $150 million for several years; or even who Russ Hamilton is.
As Chris Torina stated at the APC:
"When we start accepting as an industry that we're NOT mainstream" @ChrisTorina argues, that's when the industry can actually move …— Chris Grove (@OPReport) February 27, 2015
These are wise words.
When we assume more power and clout than we actually have, what happens is we lose sight of ways to grow, and we fail to see competitors (DFS, social gaming, sports betting) on the horizon.
When we admit that most people that enjoy playing poker are not overly fond of and/or interested in the minutiae of the industry, or the day-to-day goings on of professional players, we can then determine what it is they love about the game and figure out how to make the game more appealing to these so-called casual players.
Stop treating the WSOP like a sacred cow
Finally, we need to understand that not all competition is bad.
If we don’t push the WSOP to compete, and just submit those six weeks to them they will not have the same pressure to improve. Complacency from the WSOP isn’t good for anyone.
I’m not saying we should challenge the WSOP Main Event with a $10K Championship event in Europe, but as long as the competition is focused on a different demographic, it should make everyone try harder.
Take for instance the numerous changes the WSOP implemented this year, and I would be willing wager that a big reason for this overhaul was the real competition they dealt with from the WPT500 at Aria during last year’s WSOP tournament.
The $500 buy-in tournament across town at Aria didn’t have a discernible impact on the tournament’s numbers, but I’m sure the WSOP noticed the 3,599 entrants in the tournament, and wondered aloud how they could get a couple hundred of those players to come to the Rio instead – and voila, we have two WSOP bracelet events on the 2015 schedule with buy-ins of under $1,000.
I’m not saying the WPT and other tours should run a major series opposite the Main Event to steal their thunder (the success of the WSOP almost certainly has a major trickledown effect for all poker tournaments), but they should definitely be goosing the WSOP to make sure everyone is working as hard as possible to get better.
And I think the executives in charge of poker tours are starting to see this as well:
Mastrud: "We always had the mindset that you shouldn't schedule against the WSOP" – last summer changed her mind #APC15— Chris Grove (@OPReport) February 27, 2015