Could heads-up matches be one way to utilise purpose-built poker studios

Could heads-up matches be one way to utilise purpose-built poker studios

After it became apparent that the World Poker Tour plans to move all made for TV final tables to the Las Vegas Esports Arena at the Luxor, Lee Davy opines on the possibility of using the facility for heads-up matches.

Could heads-up matches be one way to utilise purpose-built poker studiosI am a big fan of Lean Principles.

I learned about them after reading The Machine That Changed The World: How Lean Production Revolutionised the Global Car Wars. 

It was a tale of how Toyota managed to adopt a new set of business practices and philosophy to become more efficient than Ford. The book was a game changer with manufacturing services all over the globe utilising the same principles, and then service organisations duly followed.

There are many facets to Lean Principles, but it suffices to say that the purpose is to create more value for the customer while reducing waste along the supply chain.

Waste, or Muda as the Japanese say, falls into one of seven categories:

1. Overproduction
2. Waiting
3. Transporting
4. Inappropriate Processing
5. Unnecessary Inventory
6. Unnecessary Motion
7. Defects

Waste falls into two categories:

Non Value Added

Waste that can be removed immediately with no adverse effects on the supply chain.

Value Added 

Waste that is currently adding value to the supply chain, and if immediately removed would have an adverse reaction to the supply chain.

Let’s pick on the World Poker Tour (WPT).

Moving your TV and live stream broadcast equipment around the world produces five of the above forms of waste, but until their partners, Allied Esports designed a purpose built studio at the Luxor all of these forms of waste were value added because they were a necessity to bring in revenue.

That changed this past week.

The World Poker Tour Plan to Move Final Tables to Las Vegas Esports Arena 

Earlier in the week, poker newsstands began reporting that the WPT had announced plans to switch made for TV final table broadcasts to Las Vegas. The move would mean a delay for the players as events would cease before the final table. Players would then have to travel to Las Vegas to compete in the final.

I covered one angle of this tale when I said the move was a smart one for the WPT because they will reduce costs by streamlining their processes. Thinking in lean terms, they are removing waste to make the supply chain more efficient.

But I failed to acknowledge the part the players play in the supply chain.

Cost Reduction Alone Isn’t Lean 

I was fortunate enough to attend a Lean Principles training course when I worked in the rail industry. My Managing Director signed off on the training because he believed I would return and take my axe to the operating expenditure budget. It’s is the wrong way to think about Lean, but an all too common one.

If you put cost reduction as your primary focus, then you are not deploying Lean Principles. You need to focus on value first, and to do this, you must assess what value looks like from the perspective of the player.

This is where Adam Pliska and the team may have made a miscalculation. Pliska spoke up about the joy that a player would experience during a final table at the Las Vegas Esports Arena, but the feedback on social media seems to indicate, that for a grinder, the decision by the WPT to place the waste into the lives of the players (travelling back and for to Sin City) may backfire. It seems the players would prefer convenience over glory.

My personal view is we have to give this a shot and see how it develops. The WPT will be saving a chunk of change by streamlining their processes. Maybe they could use this money to make the final table experience memorable enough to overcome inconvenience. After all, how often do people make the final table of a WPT Main Event (Darren Elias excepted)?

It happens in other sports.

If you’re a football fan in the UK, your dream is to one day go to Wembley. Yes, it’s a bit odd for two teams and a hundred thousand people to trek from the North to the South if that’s the way the final turns out, but everyone looks forward to the experience.

An appearance in a Wembley Final is costly for the fans (not so much for the players), but the rarity of the occasion + the razzmatazz of the event make it a bucket list activity.

Can the WPT pull the same trick for poker?

I think this is a resounding ‘yes’ if you are an amateur, but I’m not so sure if you’re a hardened grinder that doesn’t live in Las Vegas.

It will be interesting to see how the WPT reacts to the social media pressure.

Heads-Up Anyone 

Another way the WPT could make use of the studio time is to create a series of made for TV shows that don’t incur too much of a burden on the grinders, saves money for the WPT, makes use of the new arena, and creates a fantastic spectacle for the players and the fans.

One thought I had was made for TV heads-up bouts.

I had the thought when I was writing about the recent World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOPC) in New Orleans. Going into the event, Maurice Hawkins and Valentin Vornicu were neck and neck at the top of the All-Time Gold Ring list with ten apiece when Vornicu won back-to-back games to move to 12. Hawkins responded by winning the High Roller to claw the deficit back to one.

I thought, wouldn’t it be cool, to see these two square off heads-up.

Poker Night in America (PNIA) showed that made for TV heads-up matches could work when they aired the Cate Hall v Mike Dentale Grudge Match. If you choose the right two people, focus on the storylines and narratives, and create the right pre-production hype then you have something worthy of watching.

How about the top two in the Global Poker Index (GPI), Stephen Chidwick facing off against Adrian Mateos?

Daniel Negreanu v Erik Seidel?

Daniel Negreanu v Doug Polk?

Joey Ingram v Philip Nagy?

Liv Boeree v Igor Kurganov?

Chris Moorman v Niklas Asted?

Steffen Sontheimer v Phil Hellmuth?

Admittedly, the game may have to change. Poker can be dull after all. But with a few tweaks, I think it would be a decent concept to put bums on seats in an all-purpose arena that at this rate doesn’t seem to fit the purpose of poker.