Thursday, September 06, 2012

No PPT For You!

Partouche Poker TourAm waking today to somewhat dramatic news from the Partouche Poker Tour. After a day’s worth of simmering from players regarding the apparent failure of the PPT to honor a guarantee for this year’s PPT Main Event, the tour’s CEO Patrick Partouche has announced there will be no more PPTs going forward.

News of yesterday’s controversy filtered over the intertubes via forum postings, tweets, and eventually a few articles.

While certain details are disputed, the PPT had apparently been advertising a €5 million guarantee for this year’s Main Event for some time, with print ads, website banners, and statements in interviews suggesting as much.

Ultimately 573 players entered the €8,500 buy-in tournament, with some re-entries as well. When it was announced the top 57 finishers would be dividing prize money totaling €4,264,580, many players vented their displeasure that there would not be an overlay and the supposed “guarantee” wouldn’t be honored.

Lots of back-and-forthing (or tête-à-tête-ing) ensued, much of it sounding as though it involved PPT officials characterizing the “guarantee” as merely an “estimate.” One player, Peter Jetten, even tweeted that “One of the head Partouche people told me ‘this was not a guarantee but a marketing trick.’”

Posters in a thread on the Two Plus Two forum helped document what appeared to have been changes to website banners occurring after the final prize pool had been announced, taken by most as further attempts to remove evidence of earlier claims of the guarantee.

Duhamel is surprisedThere was much speculation about what might happen next, including some entertaining ideas of the PPT switching course and honoring the guarantee. But I don’t believe I saw anyone anticipating PPT CEO Patrick Partouche announcing that the PPT would be shutting down altogether at the conclusion of this week’s Main Event, meaning Season 5 would be its last. A tweet from Jonathan Duhamel expressing his surprise is indicative of many of the reactions I’m seeing in my timeline.

Benjo is at the PPT reporting for Winamax, and he was there jotting down notes as Partouche made his announcement. In his report on the announcement, Benjo quotes Partouche describing the past success of the tour, his dismay at suggestions that his family was dishonest in any fashion, and delivering the message that this would be “la dernière édition du Partouche Poker Tour.”

Partouche also added some complaints about young ego-driven players fueled by a need for recognition while noting further that “la cagnotte de 5 millions d'euros n'a jamais été garantie où que ce soit dans notre communication” -- i.e., the PPT had never made a €5 million guarantee part of its promotion of the Main Event.

The PPT started in 2008 and over five seasons had grown into a well-known and (for some players and media) a well-liked stop on the professional tournament circuit. A few controversies have arisen at Partouche over the years, most notably the disqualification of the German player Ali Tekintamgac from the Main Event final table two years ago following cheating accusations. One gets the sense those earlier incidents helped provide significant context for this week’s conflict between players and tournament organizers, causing some to be less patient with the PPT than they might have been otherwise.

From afar it certainly sounds as though a promise was broken, or at the very least many were misled. Of course, here in the U.S. we’re up to our necks in a presidential campaign at the moment, with “guarantees” being delivered left and right. And unfortunately many of us instinctively understand such promises to be mostly “marketing tricks,” evidence of the ever-widening divide between image and reality in politics.

We like to think that in poker, the meaning of one’s “word” has a special significance. Talk of tournament “guarantees” -- in any language -- is generally understood to mean exactly what it sounds like it means. And in the majority of cases, it does.

To pursue the comparison further, entities like the PPT or other organizations might be said to create their own private realms over which they preside. And players “vote” or at least make known their positions regarding those organizations in various ways, including by putting up buy-ins and in some cases broadcasting their pleasure or annoyance with how the events were governed.

That said, these entities are hardly to be thought of as democracies. Patrick Partouche’s announcement shows that.

(EDIT [added 12:40 p.m.]: A video of Patrick Partouche making the announcement has been posted on YouTube. The first four-and-a-half minutes are in French at which point he switches to English.)

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