The Epic Poker League was a failed attempt at a professional poker league that managed to host three tournaments before Federated Sports & Gaming, Inc. (its parent company) filed bankruptcy at the end of February 2012. Shortly after declaring bankruptcy, it was reported that the company had liabilities totaling more than $7.8 million. As some may recall, I was one of the writers recruited to contribute to the EPL blog which launched in early August 2011, which perhaps explains my interest in writing about it today, several months after its demise.
The EPL and the accompanying blog were introduced with much fanfare and excitement. “Global Poker Community Has a New Resource: EpicPoker.com” went the press release from FS&G almost exactly one year ago today. The website would combine live tourney reports and other content, including lots of video, profiles of EPL players, poker news, reports on the new Global Poker Index rating system, and regular columns appearing in a blog.
Michael Craig (The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King) had recently left his long-running gig writing for the Full Tilt Poker blog, and he was tapped to serve as Editor-in-Chief for the EPL site. He was the one who eventually called on me, Jessica Welman, Jennifer Newell, Mark Gahagan, Fred Bevill, John Vorhaus, AlCantHang, and others to contribute. I wrote a post here including the new assignment with some other “New Adventures” in which I found myself involved at the time.
Michael and I talked and emailed a few times trying to decide how I might contribute to the EPL blog, eventually settling on my doing a new version of the old “Poker & Pop Culture” column I did for PokerNews from 2008-2009. Here’s a post from a while back in which I compiled links to those PN columns, which included fun topics like Mark Twain, the “Dogs Playing Poker” paintings, Amarillo Slim’s appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, W.C. Fields, Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” poker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and so on.
Besides being fun to write, those kinds of pieces tended to provide something a little off the beaten path when it came to poker-related writing. It actually took Michael and me a bit of discussion to get there, but in the end it was an obvious niche for me to fill for the EPL blog. I also kind of liked the column title I came up with for the column -- “Community Cards” -- which highlighted how I’d be discussing poker in the larger “community” or culture.
For six months I produced my column about once a week. I also contributed a couple of other items to the EPL blog along the way (i.e., a couple of columns discussing ESPN’s coverage of the 2011 November Nine). Looking back I see I ultimately penned 26 different “Community Cards” pieces. Some are better than others, but there are a few in there of which I’m fairly proud.
Here’s a list of column titles and dates of publication, just to give an idea of the kinds of topics I chose:
Poker and Late Night Television (7/17/11)
Celebs in the Spotlight at the WSOP Main Event (8/18/11)
Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man Plays Poker (8/23/11)
Poker in A Streetcar Named Desire (8/30/11)
Poker in the World of Degrassi (9/13/11)
Politicians Talking Poker (9/20/11)
The Congressman Who Wrote a Poker Book (9/27/11)
An Expose: Strip Poker in the U.S. (10/4/11)
How They Do It In Hollywood (10/11/11)
An Anthropologist at the Table (10/18/11)
Poker in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (10/25/11)
Poker and the Boy Scouts (11/1/11)
The Not-So-Small Poker World (11/8/11)
Poker and “The Gambler” (11/15/11)
Poker and Paul Newman (11/22/11)
Poker as a Sport (11/29/11)
The Poker Brat Delivers a Hellmuth-to-Helmet Talk (12/7/11)
TV Shows and Poker (12/23/11)
A 100-Year-Old Poker Movie: A Cure for Pokeritis (1/3/12)
Al Alvarez on “The American Game” (1/10/12)
Bret Harte’s “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” (1/17/12)
Poker Meets Politics in Havana (2/1/12)
Poker-Like Plotting at Super Bowl XLVI (2/7/12)
Casanova, Lover and Gambler (2/14/12)
The Pull of Poker in HBO’s Luck (2/21/12)
Jeremy Lin, Poker, and the Desire to Be Surprised (2/28/12)
I mentioned back in March how I saw a kind of grim humor in that last column, insofar that those of us churning out content for the EPL blog were all somewhat surprised when the plug was suddenly pulled just one day after that piece appeared.
I was paid each month for my efforts. The rate was decent, and payments always came in a timely fashion. As it happened FS&G’s declaration of bankruptcy came just as I sent my last invoice (for the February pieces). That meant I got included among the long, long list of the company’s creditors, since like many others I am owed money, too.
Over the past five-plus months I’ve received mailings regarding the ongoing case approximately 1-2 times a week. I usually skim them, vaguely noting whatever new motion is being filed, then add them to the stack of papers over in the corner of a bookcase that is now a couple of hundred pages deep.
One motion from early July caught my eye, causing me to linger a little longer than usual. That’s because it included an attached “Exhibit A” listing “The Rejected Agreements” -- a long list in which my own name appeared.
The multi-part motion was FS&G asking permission to reject all of the executory contracts listed. There’s a sentence in the motion explaining that “The Debtors, in their business judgment, have determined that the Rejected Agreements are burdensome and of no further value to the estate as the costs associated with the contracts exceed the benefits” (see left, highlight added).
Some of you might remember my friend and writing colleague Jen Newell (also one of the creditors) referring to that statement over Twitter about a month ago. She noted how crummy that sounded -- i.e., to be referred to as “burdensome and of no further value” -- even though the statement is about the contracts, not the people.
If this motion is granted, all of the contracts will be rejected which means neither party will have any obligation or liability under the contract going forward. That doesn’t mean (yet) that I won’t get paid what I’m still owed, but that appears to be the most likely scenario as my claim is part of the unsecured claims of the bankruptcy estate.
It would have been nice to get that last check. It’s not a lot (although it is more than my current Full Tilt Poker balance). But it isn’t like losing out on a few hundy at the end ultimately matters that greatly to me going forward.
The experience of working with Michael and being part of a team of talented poker writers was a good one. And as I say above I was proud of having produced some decent analyses of certain films and exploring other topics in which poker and pop culture collided. By the way, I’ve since taken that “Pop Poker” idea over to PokerListings. Last week the latest entry went up, a new discussion of the 1966 film Kaleidoscope.
That said, I was taken aback a little a week or so ago when I noticed the entire EPL site is now offline. That’s right... all of those columns, videos, live reports, everything. Gone. So is the FS&G site. I believe the EPL Facebook and Twitter accounts have been deleted, too.
I still have copies of all of my columns, of course. When that motion to reject my agreement with FS&G is ultimately granted, I’ll probably repost a few of the better ones here on Hard-Boiled Poker. I wait because until then FS&G (or, I guess, Pinnacle Entertainment, who acquired FS&G via auction in June) does technically still own those columns, even if they are no longer being posted anywhere.
Those who’ve followed the whole debacle closely might recall the guys at Wicked Chops Poker talking about this provision regarding intellectual property being a kind of deal-breaker for them when it came to their potentially getting involved with EPL. In my contract it says (in a fairly unremarkable way) that when a column I send in gets approved for publication, it then belongs solely to FS&G -- “all ownership, intellectual property and proprietary rights to an Approved Submission shall be transferred fro Author to FSG upon Approval, and FSG shall thereafter be the sole owner of all rights to the Approved Submission, including, but not limited to, all copyrights.”
For me, this was meaningful but not too huge of a deal -- as a freelance writer, I have to be willing sometimes to allow those who publish my work to claim ownership of it, or I’m going to have a hard time finding gigs. However, for Wicked Chops the stakes were considerably higher in this regard (I think), potentially covering branding and other “intellectual property” they’d spent years accumulating. As it turned out, FS&G’s behind-the-scenes purchase of all of those “wicked” URLs certainly indicated some sort of early plan to usurp the brand in a big way.
Again, my personal involvement with EPL was pretty tangential, and ultimately I’m not greatly affected one way or the other by its comprehensive failure. But many did get burned badly, and the image of poker as a whole took yet another significant hit thanks to the blundering management and poor choices made by those running the show at FS&G.
Still, I share in everyone’s disappointment. And for me, the website and blog getting scrubbed away is probably the biggest bummer. I suppose those who ran the EPL would like it if the whole experiment could be deleted away so easily, but there are many who’ll remember it.
Interested in reading more about the Epic Poker League? Try Wikipedia, Wicked Chops Poker, PokerNews, CardPlayer, PokerListings, Bluff Magazine, and “An Epic Short Story” by Matt Glantz.