Wednesday, March 23, 2005

the ace of spades brought to you by pfizer

for those of you who don't know over spring break i went to europe to play a few poker tournaments. the bigger one was a 10,000 euro buy-in tournament, which is actually a bigger buy-in than the world series of poker that you see on tv.

i only say this because i realized that corporate sponsorship is becoming an increasingly larger influence in (especially televised) poker. of course, there's the cliche about "the poker explosion" right now. whenever something is getting really popular, you can bet that corporations are going to come knocking wanting a piece.

half the players are more were wearing some poker site gear. a guy i met there, noah boeken, a young dutch player who recently won a tournament in copenhagen, told me he got a deal from everest poker to wear their shirt for 4000 euros, with a bonus for making the televised final table. and he took it, even though of course he has never played on many many other players had similar deals, i'm sure. (some were required by pokerstars to wear pokerstars gear by virtue of qualifying on the site).

of course i felt like i was just throwing away money by not wearing one of these shirts. so i walked up to the everest poker marketing guy and our conversation went something like this:

me: how much will you pay me to wear your shirt?
poker marketing guy: well, we only pay players in the tournament to wear our shirts.
me: . . . i am playing in the tournament.
pmg: really? i'm sorry, who are you?
me: alex jacob
pmg: (silent stare)
me: yahtzem on pokerstars
pmg: (silent stare)
me: Y-A-H-.. nevermind, can i just have a shirt?
pmg: well, they are pretty nice shirts.
me: fine, i'll give you 20 euro for one.
pmg: no, i don't think we want that negative advertising. in fact we'll pay you 4000 euros not to wear our shirt.
me: but i was doing that for free already-- nevermind i'll take it.

anyway, i think this is only going to get bigger. eventually i think most every player in every major televised tournament will have some kind of poker site gear on. it will be like tennis. and why restrict advertising to just poker sites? how much should heineken pay for you to conspicuously swig their beer at the final TV table? how much should oakley pay for you to wear their sunglasses? and you know how a vodka company might pay a hot girl to go to bars and have guys buy her their brand? could something similar happen in poker? might they pay you to simply talk about a certain site at a poker table?

it's getting kind of out of hand. the next thing you know a guy will show up at the final table in a ridiculous pink bunny suit advertising for

oh, wait. that's already happened.

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