Ten years ago, people who never previously cared about poker in the slightest found themselves watching the game on television. They were wowed by the hole card camera, it gave them a new level insight into what the players were doing at the table, and poker benefited greatly. A decade on, the game’s popularity is in slow decline – flat, in a best-case scenario – and another innovation like the hole-cam would be welcome at this point. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any more technological breakthroughs that would elevate the game in the same way. Short of a wave of new players coming in thanks to online poker, the number one thing that would help the game of poker to keep rolling right along is some serious media attention. That means it’s time to start thinking up new ways to get the world’s attention. Here are a few to get the conversation started.
Social Media Championship of Poker (or SocMCoP)
Poker is a social game at its core, so it’s no wonder that social media has become so integrated into the poker community. Traveling players from around the world keep up with one another online, and celebrity players have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. Poker rooms and tours could leverage this network by sponsoring a Social Media Poker Championship that would play out like any other poker tournament with one key exception: when a player gets knocked out, enough retweets or shares from his followers can earn him the right to re-buy regardless of which stage of the tournament is being played out.
Deep-pocketed celebrities who play the WSOP Main Event and bust on Day 1 every time would be able to stay at the tables with the poker pros they idolize until they’re ready cry uncle. Hashtag activists could hook up with billionaires to buy themselves seats at the table and promote their favorite causes. And with the combined bankroll and social media following he has, Daniel Negreanu could theoretically continue re-buying until he’d won the tournament.
If you think this sounds like a bastardization of the game, just consider for a moment its massive crossover appeal: TV producers love the “all-in moment,” poker rooms and tournament organizers love the finely-grained advertising data they can get from heavy social media use, and more than anything else, poker players love when outside money enters their economy. There aren’t a lot of win-win-win situations in poker, but this would be one.
Naked Championship of Poker (or NakedCoP)
There’s no hiding anything in the Naked Championship of Poker. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a regular poker tournament, played in the buff. The only other difference from a regular poker game is that it’s played at a clear table, creating all sorts of new opportunities for picking up tells. If this sounds like a stretch, don’t forget that there have been plenty of poker players who have appeared nude away from the tables in the past.
Plenty of women would call for a boycott of this clearly sexist event, but any female willing to break ranks and play in the Naked Championship of Poker would have a massive edge over the field. Think of it as the Reverse Ladies Event Effect: where men who play in Ladies Events are targeted from the moment they take their seats, a woman in the Naked Championship would have most of the rest of the table tripping over themselves to keep her in the tournament, if for no other reason than to save themselves from the possibility of dropping their gaze when one of the old-timers is at the table and getting a glimpse of what the future holds for their junk.
TV rights would be an issue, but there would be no shortage of media coverage and the Internet would offer a venue for broadcasting to whatever sort of audience the event might be able to draw. If you think it’s gross, just remember that almost anything you can think of is a turn-on to somebody out there. Stop pushing your values on the people who want to watch naked poker, you sexual imperialist!
Racial Championship of Poker (or RacialCoP)
In the final chapter of Al Alvarez’s seminal volume, The Biggest Game In Town, the author describes a bet on the 1981 WSOP Main Event between Gabe Kaplan and Doyle Brunson. At stake was who would have the better results, the Jews or the Texans. They had to sweat the bet until Gene Fisher of El Paso was knocked out in third place, leaving Perry Green and Stu Ungar to battle for the championship and Kaplan to figure out what to spend Texas Dolly’s money on.
We can tap into this slice of the game’s history with a simple concept: the Racial Championship of Poker. Every race gets its own poker tournament to determine its champion, and then each of those champions play in a single freezeout tournament to determine which race has the best poker players. Regular TV would probably still ignore the event because white people would be busy either pretending not to see race or foaming at the mouth about the event in a way that would really turn advertisers off. But every race-centric network in existence would jump at the chance not only to air their own special tournament but to produce their own ancillary programming. BET could have a reality show every year about the poor saps who would lose to Phil Ivey. Univision could create a telenovela about the winner of each year’s Latino tournament.
There would have to be some ground rules, of course. First, like athletes with dual citizenship, multiracial players can only play in one race’s tournament, but it’s their choice which one to enter. Second, Texans would have to be considered a race of their own to keep with poker history. Third, if Men “The Master” Nguyen ends up winning the Asians’ tournament, a mandatory investigation into chip-dumping and soft play will be launched. No matter who wins the Racial Championship of Poker, everyone else will likely be pissed off at the result – so we can make it an annual event. Considering we’ll never get to hold Racial Draft, this tournament would be the next best thing.