Had the iPod for my run yesterday and listened to the first part of this week’s Two Plus Two Pokercast (the 3/3/09 episode). Good as always, although the show is so long it would take me about 15 miles to listen to the entire thing. Since I am still only running two miles at a time, I only heard the beginning, and so have yet to get to the interviews.
One of the items discussed by the hosts, Mike Johnson and Adam Schwartz, there in the first part of the show concerned the player Mike “SowersUNCC” Sowers. Referring to the recently-concluded L.A. Poker Classic (a World Poker Tour event), Johnson noted that when they reached the Main Event’s final table, Sowers (who would finish third) “shows up with a UB patch on.”
That led Johnson to speculate whether or not the WPT “would be right or justified in making a decision where they say, ‘You know, for the good of poker, for our reputation, we will not allow UB advertising, patches, or logos at our final table because you [i.e., UltimateBet] have admitted to stealing millions of dollars from poker players over the years and we don’t want anything to do with you [UB].’”
Johnson went on to say that “there were certain things they would not allow at a final table.” Schwartz wondered if someone would be allowed to wear a Swank Poker label on one’s forehead. Swank Poker is that small online poker site that apparently had incorporated some “adult” content into its client software at some point, though looking at the site it appears they may have been forced by someone (not sure whom) to stop doing that. They also may be changing their name, too, to Red Cherry Poker.
In any event, Johnson said “probably not” in response to the question about Swank. Johnson then asked “Could you wear a swastika?” Not such a helpful analogy, really. But we get it. There are obviously certain kinds of patches the WPT just wouldn’t allow.
I was curious to hear what the hosts would conclude regarding the question. After a bit more discussion, they agreed that if it were not for the celebrity and influence of Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke, the WPT would ban UB logos without hesitation. “If they weren’t sponsored by UB, I would bet that that would have happened already,” said Schwartz. “I think Phil has too much power in the industry now, where they are not ready to say that to him.”
Of course, up until quite recently, the WPT didn’t allow any logos at final tables. Starting with the Gold Strike World Poker Open (in January 2008), new rules for “pre-approved logos” were put in place. One can view those rules on the WPT site.
Reading through, it all seems pretty clear. Nothing on the forehead. Just one patch on the left breast pocket, no more than six square inches. Nothing advertising any illegal activity is allowed. Nor does the WPT allow any ad for “pornography [which would nix the Swank ad, I suppose], firearms, tobacco, personal hygiene, sexual aids, or hard liquor.” Finally, the WPT, the network airing the shows, and the hosting casino all “reserve the right to restrict logo wear for any reason whatsoever at their sole discretion.”
So clearly the WPT would certainly be “right or justified” to forbid UB logos if it wished to so, given that they reserve such a right for themselves in their player sponsorship rules. The WPT does not forbid UB logos, of course. Indeed, one sees Ultimatebet.net included on the list of “pre-approved sponsors” at the bottom of the page.
What do I think? Well, for one, I don’t really believe Hellmuth and Duke have much to do with the WPT’s decision on this matter one way or the other. If they wanted to forbid players from wearing a UB patch, they could easily do so. Hellmuth blacked out the “UB” on his hockey jersey for Day 6 of the WSOP Main Event last summer when he was requested to do so -- I think because the logo was too large. I’m sure he’d do so again, if he made a final table and the WPT told him he had to.
However, I don’t think it would make much sense for the WPT to single out UltimateBet in this way. Obviously I’m no fan of UB, and don’t care much to see the site continue to be promoted by players (and other entities). But the decision to promote this or that site is up to the individual player, and I don’t really think the sites players choose to represent reflect one way or the other on the WPT or whatever other venue they happen to appear in which they wear their logos.
An interesting question, I guess. Of course, we poker fans have other stuff on our minds today, as the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship gets underway. And it looks like Mike Sexton and Phil Hellmuth are squaring off in the first round.
Maybe they can talk about the logo thing between hands, if it is really an issue. Wouldn’t think it would come up, though. ’Bout as likely Hellmuth getting shipped a pot in which he held a worse hand, probably.
Here is that there bracket: