Thursday, March 01, 2012

Epic Limbo

The Bunny of DisappointmentWas set to pen something today regarding what I thought was a well-managed feature in the Village Voice from earlier in the week regarding the plight of full-time American online poker players who’ve found themselves seeking new life paths following Black Friday.

The article by Chris Parker, titled “Online Poker Kings Cashed Out,” stumbles over a few particulars regarding Black Friday and its aftermath, but does a neat job overall profiling several U.S. players who were significantly affected by the shutdown. Probably the most interesting aspect of the article is how most of those to whom Parker spoke don’t really fit the stereotype for online grinders -- i.e., just one is a young (early 20s), unattached male for whom poker replaced college.

There is some discussion in the article, too, about the way Black Friday affected non-players, too, with references to book sellers and those involved with the business of televised poker. No mention in there of the so-called “poker media” and how writers, publishers, website owners, and others were also affected, but the point is nonetheless made that “the feds blew up an entire industry” when they unsealed the indictment and civil complaint last April.

Federated Sports + GamingSpeaking of the poker media, you no doubt heard yesterday’s news regarding Federated Sports + Gaming, owners of the Epic Poker League, having filed for bankruptcy. That was the news that has sidetracked me from the plan to discuss Parker’s Village Voice in more detail -- let me recommend that article, though, as a relatively good look-in from the mainstream upon our little, struggling poker world.

I’ve mentioned here several times how I’ve been able to contribute to the Epic Poker blog over the last six months or so with a weekly column in which I’ve discussed poker and popular culture, “Community Cards.” Has been great fun to do so, and as others have said with regard to working with the EPL folks I’ve nothing but good things to say about the experience.

Like the league itself, the future of the EPL blog is a bit up in the air at present. While things don’t appear especially rosy right now, the league hasn’t already folded as some of the talk yesterday seemed to suggest. Hard to resist the pull of that “Epic Fail” phrase, though. Heck, I’ve actually got an Epic Fail app on my iPhone that calls up photos from the hilarious website.

In a bit of goofy, grim irony, my last post went up late Tuesday night -- just before the announcement from FS+G -- and was titled “Jeremy Lin, Poker, and the Desire to Be Surprised.”

If you look back at my other CC columns, this last one is a bit more tangential than most when it comes to drawing a connection between poker and popular culture. To be honest I can think of at least a dozen others I like better or would sooner point to as evidence of what the column was about. Can’t help but grin, though, at my having picked up on Chuck Klosterman’s idea that we like surprises -- in fact crave them since so much of our lives seem to be plotted out for us these days.

Epic Poker LeagueIt was a slight surprise yesterday to hear that FS+G was declaring bankruptcy, although in truth it wasn’t as though the news dropped from the sky like some sort of unexpected bolt of lightning. I think most observers more or less knew the experiment to start a professional poker league with high buy-in events and huge overlays in this uncertain, post-Black Friday world was on shaky ground from the get-go. And the postponement of the fourth Main Event and $1 million freeroll finale (originally scheduled for mid-February) had only increased speculation that the league was far from thriving.

As FS+G Executive Chairman Jeffrey Pollack mentioned in his letter yesterday announcing the Chapter 11 filing, the EPL still plans to stage its fourth tournament series and the championship. Obviously, a failure to stage those events would be grievous given how all who participated in the first three tournament series did so with an expectation of the $1 million freeroll as an additional, potential overlay for them should they qualify for it. Not to mention inspire us all to look back with askance at that disciplinary action delivered by the EPL Standards and Conduct Committee last August against David “Chino” Rheem over his failure to honor his financial obligations.

So once again, we find ourselves in wait-and-see mode, hoping we don't see yet another poker-related story -- like the ones told in that Village Voice feature -- end in disappointment.

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