Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Place of Patches

Was reading through a few WSOP-related pieces yesterday including some concerning the Main Event and final table, and I found myself thinking briefly about how online poker sponsorships have receded considerably from being part of the story of the WSOP.

I suppose it was looking at pics of the November Nine and how inconspicuous, really, the patching of the last nine players seemed to be that got me thinking about how little we’ve been paying attention to the subject, especially when compared to the pre-Black Friday era.

Of the final nine, Mark Newhouse had an Ivey Poker patch (recently acquired, I believe), Sylvain Loosli had the Winamax logo on the front of his hoody, J.C. Tran had one for, and Jay Farber was wearing a couple of 888 patches on that last day. Meanwhile I don’t believe the other five players were sporting any logos, although I imagine by November all nine will probably have some sort of sponsorship.

I remember doing a quick circuit of the tables during Day 2 of Event No. 59, the $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw event that concluded just before the Main Event got started. There were about 75 players left at the time and during my tour of the tables I consciously looked for patches just to get an estimation of how many I saw. I even jotted down the sponsors, although I didn’t keep track of the list.

I saw about a dozen patches overall, although not all of them were poker-related. In other words, there was an average of about one patch per six-handed table in the 2-7 tournament, although as I think about it the average was probably skewed a bit high thanks to fact that that particular event had attracted a number of well-known players.

For example, Tom Schneider had his LoudMouth Poker patch and matching crazy cap and shorts; he’d go out shy of the cash in this event after winning two bracelets earlier in the Series. Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi (who’d finish 16th) had three or four of them, I recall, including one for the Mizrachi Dealer Academy and another for the Turlock Poker Room in Turlock, California. Team PokerStars Pros Naoya Kihara and Daniel Negreanu were still in, too, and of course they were both patched up. Kihara would squeak into the money to finish 28th while Negreanu went on to finish runner-up.

Eventual winner Eli Elezra had a patch advertising a site called Attack Poker, one with which I’m not too familiar but which sponsored a few players here and there during the 2013 WSOP, including Black Friday indictee Chad Elie, the payment processor who only recently was released from prison and who Attack Poker signed and put into the Main Event. (By the way, for more news regarding Elie and his ongoing legal battles, see Haley Hintze’s latest articles for Flushdraw.)

Like I say, though, all of these patches and sponsorships were well off most folks’ radar for much of the Series and the Main Event. The only time I remember sponsorship even becoming a topic of conversation was on the final day (Day 7). Jackie Glazier had gone out in 31st the day before as the highest-finishing woman in this year’s Main Event, and throughout her run had been wearing an Ivey Poker patch as one of that site’s many signed pros. The next day, however, 888 poker had signed Glazier and thus she had on their logo when doing an interview with Kara Scott for the later ESPN telecast.

If you pick up Dr. Pauly’s Lost Vegas (covering the WSOP from 2005 to 2008) or even watch the BET RAISE FOLD documentary which I was discussing some on Monday, you see how prominent the idea of a sponsorship once was in poker, something almost akin to getting called up to the big leagues in baseball in the way it provided concrete financial assurance as well as a kind of symbolic stamp of approval for one’s talents (deserved or otherwise).

In some cases and with a few sites it is still obviously a big deal to get sponsored, but it is hardly a goal for most tournament players at present. Still, it was kind of interesting to see a few players during that next-to-last-day of the Main Event (when they played down from 68 to 27) be handed patches as they’d picked up a small bonus for having gotten that far. And to remember how much more prevalent such a scene was not that long ago.

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