To spell it out a bit, this here presser informs its audience that Harrah’s “has executed a non-binding letter of intent to form a digital publishing alliance with Bluff Media LLC for online and radio coverage of all World Series of Poker-branded events on a global basis.” Some folks remembering the various ways CardPlayer came up short with its coverage last summer are suggesting this to be good news, but I’m nonplussed. Kind of like choosing between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, as far as I can tell.
The whole idea of an “exclusive content provider” is lamentable, in my view. I realize the necessity, of course. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been going back through some of the old Beyond the Table podcasts -- good stuff, by the way. Back in early July, Dan Michalski (of Pokerati) was calling in from the Rio and spoke about CardPlayer’s exclusivity deal. On the 7/5/06 episode, Michalski mentioned how in the past (i.e., Before Moneymaker), the WSOP didn’t need to restrict media access because there wasn’t such a demand for information. Today, of course, things have changed considerably.
Michalski’s comments demonstrate the tension that is necessarily produced when the WSOP attempts to enlist a single media outlet as a way to exert control over how the event gets reported to the rest of the world. “I think poker has gotten to a point where it’s big enough now that it can’t keep its clean and pretty image,” says Michalski. “I’m not saying it’s a dirty game, but c’mon . . . if we think that it’s a lily-white, super-family friendly game . . . the negative stories always come out, because [poker] is so big . . . . Poker is just big enough that there’s no way you can keep it all clean the way CardPlayer Media has tried to keep it for the last several years.”
I fully expect we’ll see a similar tension emerge this summer, with Bluff necessarily assuming CardPlayer’s place as the target of criticism on blogs, forums, and other non-“official” media covering the WSOP.
One other thought occurs to me reading through Harrah’s presser, namely, the depressingly litigious atmosphere surrounding poker these days. To be fair, this release isn’t merely announcing the deal between Harrah’s and Bluff, but also serves as an advertisement to those who may be interested in investing in either company. As such, a lengthy disclaimer is appended to the announcement -- a disclaimer about twice as long as the announcement itself -- that denies both parties any liability should any of its optimistic statements about the partnership prove inaccurate.
For example, Jeffrey Pollack, the WSOP commissioner, says in the release that “this alliance will help us connect with our players and fans in new and exciting ways.” Similarly does Eddy Kleid, co-president of Bluff Media, think that “the consolidation of digital-publishing rights under this agreement will lead to a more cohesive, integrative and compelling product for fans around the globe.” Reading further, we learn that both of these quotes are examples of “forward-looking statements” and thus should be understood in a particular way. According to the release, one “can identify these statements by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts.” Such statements “contain words such as ‘may,’ ‘will,’ ‘project,’ ‘might,’ ‘expect,’ ‘believe,’ ‘anticipate,’ ‘intend,’ ‘could,’ ‘would,’ ‘estimate,’ ‘continue’ or ‘pursue’” or variations thereof. As such, “Investors are cautioned that forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance or results and involve risks and uncertainties that cannot be predicted or quantified and, consequently, the actual performance of Harrah’s may differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements.” There follows a long, long list of various “risks and uncertainties” that includes just about everything one could imagine might affect how “compelling” their respective “product[s]” turn out to be.
Forgive me if I react with cynicism here. Again, I understand the necessity of such a disclaimer, but it is starting to feel like it has become necessary for every bit of poker news these days to come accompanied with such soul-crushing, legalistic ass-covering. Damned if such a disclaimer doesn’t prove once and for all that there ain’t a thing under the sun that can’t be described as a “game based on chance.”
Speaking of “forward-looking statements,” I think this here release might provide us a clue for why Jamie Gold thought he had a case versus Crispin Leyser. Clearly that voice mail message he left for Leyser a few hours before the final table was incomplete. Gold must’ve continued talking after the tape ran out . . . .
“I promise you -- you can keep this recording on my word -- there’s no possible way you’re not going to get your half . . . after taxes. You’ve trusted me the whole way, you can trust me a little bit more. I promise you there’s no way anybody will go anywhere with your money . . . . [Tape runs out; Gold continues.] Like I said, you can keep this recording, which as you know contains forward-looking statements. You can identify those statements by the fact that they don’t relate strictly to historical or current facts, and they aren’t guarantees of future performance or results and involve risks and uncertainties . . . .”
Labels: *the rumble